“Ranch homes” – their history and distinguishing characteristics

ranch house
YES: This house plan is still available today — along with 84 other vintage house plans! See the story here.

Is my house a ranch house? A colonial? A colonial-ranch? A year into the blog, I’m pretty sure in understanding that my own house is a mix…but this holiday week I’ve been doing more research into the true academic terminology, if there is such a thing. To start, here’s a story from the National Park Service that lays out how the ranch home developed, and which gives us the clues to telling whether our homes are truly ranches – or not. Some of my key takeaways:

  • A ranch is defined by its livability, flexibility, and unpretentiousness. It has a low sloping stance and roofline and is designed to bring the outside in.
  • Yes, it has one story. But not all one-story houses are ranch homes.
  • Ranch-style, ranch bungalow, ranchette, rambler, California colonial, and even ranch burger — all synonyms for “ranch.” I also know there are further sub-categories: Such as ‘Cinderella ranch’ aka ‘Storybook ranch.’

One last point: I still would like to see the actual data proving that ranch homes were the dominant style throughout the 50s. I think that cape/colonial homes may truly have been their match – especially when you consider that many of these homes might be incorrectly called ranches just because they are on a single story.

Read on for a long story published by the National Park Service  —->

Click for PDF:

Ranch Houses Are Not All the Same
David Bricker
Architectural Historian
California Department of Transportation
San Bernardino, California

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