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What Houses Used to Look Like 100 Years Ago

Fashion is cyclical, but some things in homes never go out of style.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Turn of the Century Interior Design Takes Off

Interior design was in the middle of a transition period 100 years ago as the U.S. entered into the Roaring ’20s where there became more of an emphasis on interior design. This home in upstate New York showcases a little of the mashing of styles. This home highlights rustic features with perhaps some Colonial Revival furniture. Discover the six most popular architectural styles in the U.S.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Arts and Crafts

This writing desk from 1916 seems to follow similar furniture from the Arts and Crafts period of American furniture while other features like the chair appear closer to the Victorian period. The patterned wood walls are somewhat unique and the chintz pattern chair is something that gained popularity a few decades later. Check out the traditional home decor ideas that are still cool.

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New York Public Library

Dining Room

This dining room scene set in Olean, New York, which is located in western New York, showcases a little bit of several styles, beginning with the dining room table, which looks similar to Victorian-styled furniture. The cane seat chairs are an interesting addition and were popular choices in homes since the Industrial Revolution made it easier to mass produce them. Check out a project that repurposed an old cane seat chair into something new.

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Library of Congress

Sagamore Hill

Teddy Roosevelt had the Queen Anne style home built in Oyster Bay, New York. Electricity was installed in 1918 to the three-story, wood-framed building. Roosevelt hung several big game trophies around the home as you can see here. Workers completed a massive $10 million rehab back in 2015 to the house. When the house was built in the 1890s, wallpaper was generally restricted in bedrooms because of toxic coloring agents but later the walls began to be wallpapered, beginning in 1919.

The pine woodwork of the house was stained or shellacked while some of the flooring was cork tile.

The mantelpiece in the Trophy Room is in the Classical Revival style but the majority of the home is in the Queen Anne style. Check out some great old Queen Anne style homes that could look just as great restored. 

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Library of Congress

Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, N.Y.

The library in Teddy Roosevelt’s home is said to be second only to the Trophy Room in terms of publicity it has received. It’s Queen Anne in style and includes original mahogany woodwork and stained-glass windows. The brick fireplace is surrounded by terra-cotta tiles while the walls have picture molding. Check out these tips for better bathroom tiling.

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Library of Congress

Franklin McFadden home, Radnor Valley Farm, Rosemont, Pennsylvania

This Colonial Revival home outside of Philadelphia featured terraced gardens. The period 100 years ago is sometimes referred to as the Eclectic movement in American architecture where buildings were designed to be more precise versions of earlier styles, like in this case, a colonial home. The columns indicated a bit of Greek Revival in the home as well. The Colonial Revival started to fade away by the 1960s. See what’s starting to come back in with exterior colors.

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National Archives

Radio Operators Residence, Norfolk, Virginia

This picture shows the building of a radio operators’ residence at the U.S. Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s a glimpse into construction at that time and a look at how Navy personnel lived while serving. Meet some DIYers who served and their interesting DIY work.

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National Archives

Four Family Quarters Porch Scene

The Panama Canal first got used in 1914 but in constructing it, the homes where those involved in the construction were documented. Many of the homes the U.S. inherited from a failed French bid to build the canal were uninhabitable and hundreds of homes were constructed. The U.S. Army engineers carried out the design work. Clubhouses, managed by the YMCA were built, along with several other facilities, like baseball fields, to help prevent workers from wanting to leave. Just imagine if any of these backyard entertainment spaces were available back then.

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National Archives

Interior of Four Family Quarters, Balboa, Canal Zone

The interiors of the homes in the Canal Zone weren’t ornately decorated but you can see the plate rail in the background as well as some decorative swag in the foreground. Get to know all kinds of trim for your next remodel project.

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National Archives

Hotel Aspinwall, Taboga Island

The French built Hotel Aspinwall to house workers while they attempted to build the Panama Canal. Later, when U.S. workers flocked to the area for work on the canal, they stayed in the building. Later, in 1915 it became a vacation resort for employees and their families. The building, which has French Colonial characteristics, has since disappeared. Find out how you can make your home feel like a luxe hotel.

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Library of Congress

European Homes

Over in war-torn Europe, refugees returned to their homes ravaged by the war. This simple brick structure was a fairly common sight. This picture captured the Smith Unit of the American Red Cross in the Somme region of France. When Americans returned from fighting in World War I, many ideas from French architecture also came to the U.S. The White House became one place influenced by French design when Jaqueline Kennedy began work on remodeling the White House.

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Library of Congress

William Morris Wallpaper

The wallpaper in this home resembles the ultra-popular William Morris wallpaper. The photo captures the family of composer Sidney Hormer, his wife, Louise Dilworth Hormer, a contralto opera singer, along with their children. Notice the beautiful hand-carved dining room table the family sits at. If you’ve got a beautiful piece of furniture in need of some touch-up work, check out how to refinish furniture.

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Library of Congress

Teddy Roosevelt’s Mother’s Birthplace

Teddy Roosevelt’s mother grew up at Bullock Hall, Roswell, Georgia — a Greek Revival home built in 1839. Not every presidential home is something to drool over. Here are the incredibly bland presidential homes.

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New York Public Library

Bungalows Emerge

Bungalows started to pop up after the turn of the century and this Adirondack home has elements of an early bungalow. Bungalows emerged as the working class sought their own homes while others looked for summer getaways. Check out 10 over-water bungalows that make it feel like you’re living in paradise.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Log Cabin

What’s interesting about this cabin in the Adirondacks is that the bark remains from the pine trees used to build the house. Leaving the bark on can cause a host of problems if not done correctly, but it does offer a unique look. If you think this cabin is amazing, then you need to see these 16 incredible cabins.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Stone Fireplace

A vacation home in New York kept things rustic back in the 1910s with a stone fireplace, along with vertical wood paneling, which was common with rustic homes. If you’ve always wanted the look of a fireplace but not the hassle of installing one, then take a look at these faux fireplaces that are as close to the real thing.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Simple Elegance

This turn of the century home still features hallmarks of the period with its Arts and Crafts furniture and border wallpaper. The woman in the photo is sitting next to a great Arts and Crafts table where a terrific lamp rests. These days you can do all sorts of creative things with lighting, like with this elegant cove lighting idea.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Rustic Cabin Look

This cozy cabin incorporates natural elements for a rustic look and uses knotty pine for the wall paneling. Check out what we did with knotty pine in this project.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Rumford Fireplace

This picture captures a Rumford fireplace, which is characterized as a shallow fireplace that reflects heat into a room. Behind the fireplace is some beadboard paneling. These fool-proof fire-starting methods will get a fire going in your fireplace every time.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Cabin Construction

Teddy Roosevelt, prior to becoming president, spent time in North Dakota where he lived in a place called the Maltese Cross Cabin. Builders used ponderosa pine logs and wooden floors to construct this dovetail square log cabin. This picture captures what it looked like when it traveled for the World’s Fair. Back when Roosevelt lived in it, there wasn’t a buck hanging on the outside. Here’s how you can take better care of your taxidermied items.

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New York Public Library Digital Collections

Adirondack Style

From the desk in the foreground to the headboards in the bedroom, Adirondack style is evident in this home from 1918. There’s a wicker chair for the desk as well with some beadboard walls in the bedroom. See why beadboard is an attractive option to hide a hideous ceiling.