Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/601

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

A stride toward the house is taken when the branches are replaced by a regular woodwork, with doors and windows; the envelope being still sometimes canvas, which is soon replaced by corrugated iron. The Brazilian country house where Darwin lodged sixty years ago was built of upright posts with interwoven boughs. Another line of development starts from the trunk of the tree. The early American colonists made bark wigwams. The Australian pastoralist "erected a temporary house, generally of large sheets of bark, in the first instance." In countries where the winter is more severe or the bark less substantial, the backwoodsman builds, as the early colonist built, a rude cabin of round logs. Then the logs are hewn, or they are split or sawn into planks, and built into the weatherboard houses still common in the rural parts of Australia, and general even in New Zealand towns. In their earliest stages they are still without a floor and are roofed with thatch or shingle. Towns often thus remain like early Sydney, "a mere assemblage of paltry erections intermediate between the hut and the house." The architecture is of the simplest. A "butt" and a "ben," with a "lean-to," form the prevailing type. As the family grows or its wealth increases, new portions are added, till many colonial houses look for all the world as if they had "come out in penny numbers." Even with a few stately structures—luxurious mansions, extensive government offices, Gothic parliamentary buildings—a wooden city has an indefinable meanness of appearance. It is improved out of existence by the dread agency of fire. Like Charles's London, New Orleans and many another colonial town have thus had an Augustan renewal. Houses are now built of brick, stone, or concrete; tile, slate, and iron replaced thatch and shingle; two stories were ventured on; chimneys were smaller but safer. They became susceptible of architecture: Spanish features were introduced into those of New Orleans; the more northern colonies copied the English country house, with modifications to suit the hotter or colder climate; and in New South Wales a taste for mansion-building came into vogue along with splendid equipages, liveried servants, and pedigrees. Such houses were at first arranged in all degrees of irregularity and confusion. The street is a modern invention. The cows returning from pasture laid out Boston, and the bullock teams climbing up from the harbor charted Sydney. Towns in manufactured colonies, as Savannah, Augusta, most South American cities, Christchurch and Invercargill in New Zealand, were planned before settlement and have their streets at right angles.

A hundred years ago Talleyrand, exiled in the United States, described the journey from one of these cities to the interior as successively exhibiting all past stages of the human habitation from the