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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Dog Trots

The dogtrot, also known as a breezeway house, dog-run, or possum-trot, is a style of house that was common throughout the Southeastern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most theories place its origins in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Some scholars believe the style developed in the post-Revolution frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee. Others note its presence as far east as the Piedmont of the Carolinas from an early period. A dogtrot house historically consisted of two log cabins connected by a breezeway or "dogtrot", all under a common roof. Typically one cabin was used for cooking and dining while the other was used as a private living space, such as a bedroom. - Wikipedia My great grandmother, Lillian Vianna Conner Reese said her father, a farmer and carpenter, built them a dog-trot house. She said she never understood why he did that because you had to go through the elements to get from side of the house to the other. I think one of the main reasons they would have done it was it gave a covered outdoor living space. Back in the days before air conditioning, it gets HOT in the South. People built in practical ways to keep cool. They would have "sleeping porches" where you could pull your bed out on these porches to catch any cooling breeze. They built with high ceilings because heat rises. They put transoms on doors that allowed for privacy and yet gave you some ventilation. Often houses would have large windows that went to the floor so they could be opened to catch any air movement. Almost all houses would have porches. They needed the outdoor living space for shade and air. It became the place to sit and visit on Sunday afternoons; the place they would do chores like peeling peaches, snapping beans, shucking corn; as the coolest place to sleep in the summer. It was very practical. These were the days before air conditioning and screens. So I imagine the dog trot house was another innovation for the hot weather. Of course, now we have air conditioning and we need to keep the air conditioned air inside so we don't open windows or live on the porch like we used to. But I wanted to show you what the dog trot house looked like. I wonder which one most resembles the one my great grandmother grew up in.

On this one, you will notice that someone eventually tried enclosing part of the dog trot on this old log cabin. This happened a lot as things changed. Once screens were available people began to change. Screened in porches and adding screens to windows became important. It was awhile before air conditioning became affordable to most people. But once it became more affordable and normal and we knew what was available most homes have it. But having air conditioning meant we closed our homes up to keep it cool. This is when we began using insulation, energy efficient windows and doors, not using porches/decks/patios as much. It's too hot outside so we stay inside. It was more conducive to your lifestyle to enclose those porches, and, in this case, the dog trots to make indoor rooms.

Modern or modernized dogtrot houses.


Serious said...

Your story on dog trots is very interesting. Thanks!

Hopeful Q-Mom said...

I love the idea of sitting on our porches and shooting the breeze with our neighbors. Modern conveniences have robbed us of a wonderful community opportunity.

Running on empty said...

Great to read this. In Australia they were called breezeways and were found more often up North, which is tropical.

Anonymous said...

We live in a 1912 dog trot in Alabama that was converted to a ‘normal’ floorplan. I love seeing the history and original designs of these homes - I yearn for the days gone by, when life was simpler! thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

My Mother has a painting of a DogTrot home from Kentucky. We dont know who painted it. Its believed it belong to my mothers Grandma, so sometime between 1890 to 1920.
A photo on your site reminds me of this photo.
I would love to send you a photo of the painting to look at.

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