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Homestead House

Similar to a “shotgun house” (so named because it is said that one can fire a shotgun through the front door and the shot will exit out the back door without ever touching a wall), Mitchelville homes were prototypically long and narrow with a gable-ended entrance, one room wide, and two or three rooms deep. Studies by folklorists and cultural geographers make strong arguments for African beginnings of the homestead house as a blend of West African architectural styles with West Indian indigenous architectural styles and is believed to have originated in the 1700s. From West Africa to the Caribbean to the Gulf Coast of the Southeastern United States, this folk architectural style evolved into the homestead house. Most fascinating of all, the name of the house type, “Shotgun,” may be an altered form of “togun,” the African Yoruba word for “house.” The homestead house was typically used as low-cost housing for the low-income workers of the South. Many are still in use today, and some have been restored to a level of importance that did not exist when they were first built.

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