Shotgun houses were commonly built in developing African American neighborhoods after the Civil War. They generally have a gabled front porch and two or more rooms laid out in a straight line with rooms directly connected. It was said a bullet shot from the front door would pass through the house and exit through the back door, but the name may have come from “togun,” the Yoruba word meaning “house” or “gathering place.” Although small, inexpensively built, and generally lacking amenities; shotgun houses use limited space ingeniously and represent a unique African American contribution to United States architecture.
Most shotgun houses were built on brick piers, were heated by a fireplace, did not include indoor plumbing, and often did not have side wall windows. Their narrow width allowed many to be built on smaller land plots. Their proximity to neighboring houses maximized socializing because residents often sat on the front porch and chatted with neighbors and passersby. Shotgun houses first appeared in the early 19th century and peaked in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century.