Illustrated Architecture Dictionary ........... Styles of Architecture

American Foursquare Style
Alternate name: Prairie Box


Sometimes classified as a substyle of Arts & Crafts style

Usual features:

The Foursquare may be seen as a stripped-down version of a couple of late eighteenth- and mid-nineteenth-century forms, including the Georgian block and the square Italianate house.

The simplest Foursquares have two single windows on the second floor, while more elegant houses may have two double or triple windows, or even a third set of windows.

There may be a low, small dormer with a flat or pyramidal roof. As the style becomes more elaborate, the dormer arrangement moves from one or two to three sash within each of the dormers, and in some houses there may be dormers on all four sides of the main roof.

"Shirtwaist" Foursquares typically have a belt course below the windows of the second floor, separating the different materials used on the first and second floors (stone below and stucco above, for example).

The simple, square shape also made the Foursquare style especially practical for mail order house kits from Sears and other catalog companies.

Hannah Bachman, Craftsman Houses

Two stories high, the foursquare was set up on a raised basement with the first floor approached by steps and a porch usually running the full width of the first story.  With its pyramidal roof and an interior plan of four nearly equal-size rooms, it was also known as the American box, or the Midwest cube.

- Thomas J. Schlereth, Victorian American: Transformations in Everyday Life 1876-1915, 1991, p.96

Examples from Buffalo:

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