A HISTORY OF THE RANCH HOUSE. Witold Rybcyzinski sketched a brief history of how Americans fell in and out of love with the ranch house in this article in Slate. I am always interested in changes that have occurred in in my lifetime, and the rise and fall of the ranch house coincided with my youth. Rybcyzynski describes how the ranch house, invented in the early 1930’s, had increased in popularity until ranches constituted 90% of new houses in 1950 (when I was 8). These were the new houses that I saw being built and that many of my friends lived in. The split level house, a relative of the ranch, became popular as well and ranches or split levels accounted for 80% of new houses in 1970.
Rybcyzinski argues that “Today the suburban ranch house is considered the epitome of conservative taste, but at the time it represented a radical departure from tradition.” He says that new houses now feature “pitched roofs, gables, dormers, bay windows, keystones, shutters, porches, and paneled doors”—a return to “a long domestic tradition that extends to colonial New England and Virginia. In that history, the brief fling with the rancher was an anomaly.”