Louisville is widely-known for its unique and interesting housing. In fact, two specific styles of homes are so well represented in the city that we have achieved national recognition: the Victorian home and the Shotgun home. The shotgun home is thought to make up roughly 10% of all houses in Louisville, giving them a prominent place in our architectural culture.
The shotgun home is easily recognized by its distinctive design. Key components of the design are a narrow, rectangular footprint and a single door with one or two tall windows in the front. Many of the homes have very small front yards with the home close to the street or sidewalk. A gabled roof is also common, though some shotgun homes will have a flat roof to keep out the weather.
Inside, you will find the rooms aligned front to back in the home with a living area in the front, followed by two to three bedrooms and a kitchen in the rear of the home. Depending how the home was originally designed, a bathroom or two will be found among the other rooms.
The rooms in a shotgun home are accessed by walking through one room to the other, typically with all doors aligned down the left or right side of the home. Occasionally, a separate hallway will exist down one side or the other of the home that will provide access to the various rooms.
There is actually significant debate about the origin of the name of "shotgun" homes. Theories abound. Some say the word was actually a misunderstanding between different languages dating back to the 1800's. Others suggest it relates to the types of materials used to build the homes (i.e.—old crates for shotgun shells). Still others believe the term comes from the realization that projectiles from a shotgun fired through the front door could travel the length of the home without hitting anything, because of the aligned doorways. One has to wonder how this was discovered.
This being Kentucky, I prefer this latter theory as a redneck Occam's Razor. A shotgun fired through the front door very likely would be able to travel the length of a shotgun home without hitting anything!
Throughout Louisville, you will find excellent examples of shotgun homes. In the Germantown, Portland and Butchertown neighborhoods, the shotgun home represents a significant portion of all homes with each neighborhood features slightly different versions of the style.
In Butchertown, it is not unusual to find shotgun homes made out of brick with very distinctive architectural flourishes. The homes in Germantown tend to be wood sided and not as ornate as their Butchertown counterparts, but they are just as functional.
Louisvillians pride themselves on personalizing their homes to their unique tastes, and the shotgun home has proven to be a worthy canvas to showcase our city's character. Take a drive to see for yourself the incredible variations on the shotgun theme that populate our historic neighborhoods.
The shotgun home is interwoven into the fabric of Louisville and will remain an excellent choice for housing into the foreseeable future. The simple, functional design has appealed to homeowners for over a century with no end in sight. Take pride in one of our city's unique and endearing characteristics, and enjoy the eclectic charm of a shotgun home.
Joe Hayden is the Owner/Manager of the Joe Hayden Real Estate Team—Your Louisville Real Estate Experts!
Image courtesy: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, KY,56-LOUVI,13- (Accessed from Wikipedia.)