As the New Year Approaches, a Look Back at the ’20s

The New Year is a time to reflect on the past year and ponder what the future will bring. We also face the advent of a new decade. With our fondness for old homes–and basically old things in general–we can’t help ourselves but to start with the past. The more distant past, that is…

The Roaring Twenties

The first refrigerator to see widespread use was the General Electric Monitor Top refrigerator introduced in 1927.

The 1920s, or Roaring Twenties, was a time of economic prosperity.  Many Americans had extra money to spend and spend they did. On ready-to-wear clothes, and new home appliances and technologies like the electric refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner. These things, which we may take for granted today, forever changed how they lived their day-to-day lives.

An electric refrigerator? It allowed households to keep food longer and fresher than ever before.

In 1925, Maytag put out a very nice electric washing machine made of aluminum.

The washing machine and vacuum cleaner? They did a lot to reduce the drudgery of household work.

The Hoover Company introduced the beater bar in 1919, disposable filter bags in the 1920s and an upright vacuum cleaner in 1926.

We think that our modern world feels small because of how connected we are with our modern gadgets and internet. But this feeling of a shrunken world has been around for some time.

How was the world a smaller place even 100 years ago? For one, by the end of the decade, more than 12 million households had a radio. And, even then, cars made it easier than ever to get where you needed to go. Low prices and easy credit made cars an affordable luxury in the beginning of the decade but as 1930 loomed, they were heading towards becoming a necessity. An estimated 26 million cars were in use by 1929.

The good economy of the Roaring 20s also made home ownership more attainable and  innovations in home designs and materials meant lower home costs for buyers. What, you didn’t find an existing home to fit your needs? You could always order a pre-fab kit from a catalog by the Sears Company or The Aladdin Company (among others) for construction where you like. How Amazon-esque!

What types of homes were people buying in the 1920s? Among the most popular home styles were the Bungalow, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival.  These styles have withstood the test of time, remaining very desirable and easily fitting with today’s lifestyles. These styles also happen to be among our favorites here at Cincinnati Historic Homes. So if you aren’t too familiar with them, here’s a rundown of what you typically get with each:

Colonial Revival

Traditional architectural forms such as Colonial Revival appeared after the first centennial of the American Revolution in 1876. From about 1920 to the mid-century, this style was the most popular home style in America. Subtypes of the Colonial Revival style include Classical Revival, American Four Square, Dutch Colonial Revival, Garrison Colonial, and Cape Cod. Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, in the 1920s also helped expose this architectural style to a wider audience throughout the country.

Perhaps the style’s most notable element is its symmetrical front facade with centered doorway and evenly spaced windows. Additional exterior characteristics include:

  • An overall rectangular shape;
  • Commonly two stories;
  • Typically a medium pitch, side-gable roof with narrow eaves (Hipped roofs and dormers are sometimes also seen);
  • Multi-pane, double-hung windows with shutters;
  • An accented doorway with columns, pilasters, pedimen, or even a hood creating a covered porch. The door may be paneled or have a fanlight or transom, or sidelights;
  • Brick or wood clapboard siding;
  • Additional design elements such as classical columns, two-story pilasters, quoins at corners, dentil trim under eaves, or Palladian windows.

    A Colonial Revival.

Tudor Revival

In Cincinnati, this style was such a favorite up through the 1940s that some entire streets were lined with beautiful homes of this type. They were built in a variety of sizes from one-and-a-half story cottages to mansions. The style’s most iconic element is its half-timbering, a decorative treatment meant to represent exposed structural elements (the ornamental aspect to this detail is nearly exclusive to the U.S.). The spaces between the timbers are filled in with stone or brick, and usually stuccoed. Additional exterior characteristics include:

  • Steeply pitched roofs;
  • Arrangements of tall, narrow windows in bands, often casements;
  • Over-scaled chimneys with decorative brick or stone work and chimney pots;
  • Half-round or arched doors with decorative hardware;
  • Occasional bay windows;
  • Overhanging second floors.

    A Tudor Revival.

The Bungalow

Bungalows have remained immensely popular throughout the world for their simple and efficient use of space and sound construction. The standard Bungalow is square or rectangular in plan and one-and-a-half stories high.  Homes were often designed with things like a breakfast nook and a sleeping porch–a pleasant extra before the Air Conditioning Era. Breakfast nooks offered an alternative to a large formal dining room that took up a lot of space in a home. Common features include:

  • Low-pitched roof lines on a gabled or hipped roof;
  • Deeply overhanging eaves;
  • Exposed rafters or decorative brackets under the eaves;
  • A front porch or veranda beneath an extension of the main roof.

A Bungalow.


So, looking back 100 years, what did the 1920s bring? It brought a lot of change to a lot of people in how they lived their everyday lives. We know the 2020s will do the same for all of us!