by Julie Koppman
on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 at 5:53pm.
The Characteristics & History of Shotgun Houses
Often found in the French Quarter, Bywater and Uptown, shotgun houses are ubiquitous across New Orleans and are most recognizable for their narrow width and long, rectangular shape. A single shotgun is usually no more than 12 feet wide, and the layout is such that one room is directly behind the other. Originally built with high ceilings to help cool the house, a lack of hallways also helped with cross-ventilation. Double shotgun houses were built so that two sides shared a center wall, which meant more homes and more families could fit into a neighborhood. Sometimes, a shotgun home would have a partial second floor called a camelback (or “hump”), as an inexpensive way to add more space, since most cities taxed these homes as single-story houses.
Shotgun houses are historically wood-framed structures with wood siding. And in New Orleans, they’re usually raised two to three feet off the ground. They tend to be close to the street, with either a small front yard or flush with the sidewalk, as is often seen in the French Quarter and Bywater.
Their History in New Orleans
One widely held theory is that the shotgun home style can be traced from Africa to Haiti, with Haitian migrants influencing home design in New Orleans. In fact, it was the most popular style of house across the South in the U.S. from the 1860s to the 1920s but fell out of favor as a symbol of poverty in the mid-20th century. Efforts by historic preservationists, especially in New Orleans, led to the style’s resurgence in popularity and the renovation of many original structures.
Shotgun Homes Today
While looking at double shotgun homes across the city today, you’ll find all kinds of clever renovations and layouts that aim to make the most of the historical design, while updating it to today’s standards. One popular and cost-efficient renovation involves leaving much of the center wall in place, while opening it up in various places, with one side of the house often consisting of living, dining and kitchen areas, and bedrooms and bathrooms on the other. Some set aside a small portion of the overall square footage to create a 1-bedroom rental unit to generate income, while the rest of the home makes up the larger, owner’s unit.
Others choose to remove the center wall entirely and renovate a home down to the studs, in order to open up the full width of the house to accommodate larger living spaces and open kitchens. Sometimes brick fireplaces are kept in place, while the surrounding walls are removed. And often, camelbacks are added where there were none before, for additional bedrooms and square footage that appeals to today’s buyers. From modest to lavish, shotgun home renovations in New Orleans run the entire gamut and offer something special for everyone.
Here are a few of our favorite shotgun home listings: