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51. Baxter Residence, 1907 51. Baxter Residence, 1907
2450 25th St.

Baxter Residence, 1907

Front view

Window detail

4-square on 7th + Marine

American Foursquare
Sears Modern Home

This structure of merit originally resided at 1140 7th St. It is an intact example of American Foursquare style. The American Foursquare or the Prairie Box was a post-Victorian architectural style that was popular from 1895-1930. Its boxy shape provided roomy interiors for homes on small city lots. Unlike the Bungalow and Craftsman styles, the Foursquare plan did not flow between interior and exterior living and entertaining areas - it encouraged a comfortable confinement

The American Foursquare House is one of the most popular styles that emerged from the suburban development in the late 1800's into the 1930's. Popularized by pattern books and Sears Roebuck & Company mail order kits, the Foursquare is found in nearly every part of the United States. Its strong square massing, usually with four square rooms above 3 square rooms and an entrance hall with stairs tucked unobtrusively to the side on the first floor made it economical and practical to build. The cubical shape made the most of every buildable inch, taking full advantage of small building lots and small budgets. It became the most house for the lowest cost with a dignified appearance. The versatility of the Foursquare, usually built without the benefit of an architect, lent itself to endless variations and finish details by individual buyers.

The rules of the American Foursquare were relatively few:

• The typical house was either 30x30 feet, or 30x36 feet, for deeper lots.

• Over the basement there were two and a half stories, with four (more or less equally-sized) rooms on each full floor.

• Under a hipped roof, the attic was quite livable due to at least one requisite dormer, with up to two more on the sides, but never on the rear.

• The porch spanned the entire, or nearly so, front of the house.

• The front door was offset, unless the four-room plan was nudged to the sides in favor of a central hall.

• Exterior walls were plain, with the only encouraged outdoor creativity released on the windows and porch.

From this typical but flexible starting point, architects had the freedom to do as they wished. Many Foursquares are trimmed with tiled roofs, cornice-line brackets, or other details drawn from Craftsman, Italian Renaissance, or Mission architecture. Later Foursquares often had the same type of interiors as Bungalows with open floor plans, lots of built-ins, and fireplaces.

Building materials (and whole houses) were mainly, inexpensive, and mass-produced by Sears Roebuck, Alladin, William Radford, and the Chicago Housewrecking Company, not to mention many local companies' own styles.

The Foursquare is what most people think of as "the all-American family home" on Main Street, U.S.A. When the Depression struck, construction of every sort stopped. By the time it began again, the "classic box house" had largely expired its design life.