shotgun-houseWhen traveling through New Orleans, you will often find very narrow homes, called shotgun houses, lining the streets. Shotgun homes typically have a gable-entrance, are 1-room wide, and 2 to 3-rooms deep. Historically, they had stucco walls, thatched roofs, shuttered windows, and porches. These homes derived their name because a bullet could be shot from the front door through the back door without hitting a single wall.

Haitian islanders brought the architecture of the shotgun home to New Orleans in the early 19th century. Shotgun homes offer a combination of West African and West Indian indigenous architecture. These homes spread throughout the South and apartments were designed to resemble a similar architecture, known as “railroad apartments”. Railroad apartments are known to be narrow, as narrow as a railroad car to be precise.

The narrowness of the shotgun home had an important purpose though. The design allowed for excellent cross-ventilation. Deep in the South, before air conditioning was invented, it was very, very hot and shotgun homes allowed nice breezes to enter through the front door and flow through the house to the back door. The kitchen was located at the back of the house to consolidate the heat from the stove and oven as well.

Shotgun House Floorplan

Shotgun House Floorplan








Through the years, historic shotgun homes have faced a variety of challenges. At one point, they were considered “out-of-style” and torn down. Now, the few remaining shotgun homes are typically cherished for their unique character. Another challenge is their lack of privacy since you must walk through one room to get to another. Back in the 19th century, the Haitian islanders did not mind having little privacy but most current buyers want seclusion. So when these buyers purchase the homes, they typically renovate them to include hallways.

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