Blogger's Note: Shotgun houses have become intertwined with Louisiana architecture, and more specifically, New Orleans neighborhoods; so where did this thrifty and nifty building style begin?
From the Nola.com article Shotgun geography: the history behind the famous New Orleans elongated house:
"Tradition holds that the name 'shotgun' derives from the
notion of firing bird shot through the front door and out the rear
without touching a wall. The term itself postdates the shotgun's
late-19th-century heyday, not appearing in print until the early 20th
According to some theories, cultures that produced
shotgun houses (and other residences without hallways, such as Creole
cottages) tended to be more gregarious, or at least unwilling to
sacrifice valuable living space for the purpose of occasional passage.
that valued privacy, on the other hand, were willing to make this
trade-off. When they arrived in New Orleans in the early 19th century,
for example, privacy-conscious peoples of Anglo-Saxon descent brought
with them the American center-hall cottage and side-hall townhouse, in
preference over local Creole designs.
In the 1930s, LSU geographer
Fred B. Kniffen studied shotguns as part of his field research on
Louisiana folk housing. He and other researchers proposed a number of
hypotheses explaining the origin and distribution of this distinctive
One theory, popular with tour guides and amateur
house-watchers, holds that shotgun houses were designed in New Orleans
in response to a real estate tax based on frontage rather than square
footage, motivating narrow structures. There's one major problem with
this theory. No one can seem to find that tax code.
Whatever their origins, shotgun singles and doubles came
to dominate the turn-of-the-century housing stock of New Orleans'
working-class neighborhoods. Yet they were also erected as
owned-occupied homes in wealthier areas, including the Garden District.
Orleans shotguns in particular exhibited numerous variations: with hip,
gable or apron roofs; with "camelbacks" to increase living space; with
grand classical facades or elaborate Victorian gingerbread. The variety
can be explained as a strategy to address market demand with a
multitude of options in terms of space needs, fiscal constraints and
In recent decades, however, New Orleanians have come to
appreciate the sturdy construction and exuberant embellishment of their
shotgun housing stock, and now value them as a key element of the