Big Easy’s shotgun: cross-ventilated narrow houses stay cool

Since the 1830s shotgun houses (AKA shotgun shacks, shotgun cottages, shotgun huts, “long houses”) have been popular in New Orleans. Usually no more than 12 feet wide, these “long houses” are long and skinny with rooms lined up in a straight line such that if you fired a shot through the front wall it could exit the back door without touching a wall.

In 19th century New Orleans, shotgun cottages were a common home for century immigrant workers. They could be easily and cheaply constructed by inexperienced builders since their simple roofs don’t require gables. They are also ideal for hot climates; by opening the back and front doors, a breeze will flow through the home unobstructed.

We visited Lillian and her 400-square-feet in the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans (home to many 19th century Irish, Italian and German immigrants). She gives us a tour and talks about the possible West African origins of the architectural style and the different variations of shotgun home: “double-barrel” (two shotguns with a shared wall) and “camelback” (a shotgun with a second floor at the rear).

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