The History of Ranch Style Homes

I'm not exactly sure why, but the city of West Des Moines has a fantastic housing resource: A Pattern Book for West Des Moines Neighborhoods. It has some landscaping dos and don'ts, histories on various styles of homes and more. It's worth downloading the pdf.

Here's what they have to say about ranch-style homes:
The Ranch style started in California in the 1930s and spread all across the country in the 1950s and 1960s. The style is loosely based on the long, low Spanish Colonial mission buildings of the Southwest. Like the Spanish buildings, Ranches are one story and have a long, narrow rectangular form. They are different, however, in their details and roof – here they borrow influences from the Prairie and Craftsman styles. There is often a low hip roof with wide overhangs – a hallmark of the Prairie style. Trim is very plain. The plan of the Ranch is more open than preceding traditional styles; for example, kitchen and dining are often open to one another and sometimes also to the living room. Picture windows are popular in Ranches, and a 1-or 2-car garage usually extends from one side of the house. Some Ranches have shallow gable roofs and vaguely Colonial details – an attempt to give the otherwise plain façade some character.

The Ranch’s popularity rose with the spread of the automobile. Whereas styles of the 19th century built high on narrow lots (because people had to travel by foot or horse to get to the nearest train), the Ranch was designed for the new automobile age. The car made it possible for people to spread out on a spacious suburban lot far from the workplace. The Ranch was meant to express this new American mobility with its sleek, straight lines and efficient yet open plan. It also did away with fussy details of the past, responding to the Modernist movement against traditional
decorative “waste”. There was an emphasis on casual modern living, sending residents out to their spacious backyards to grill on patios or decks.

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