Believed to be uniquely New Orleans, shotgun houses are now thought to have their roots in Haiti, or even Africa. Still, forms of the one-room-wide homes, with a living room leading directly to bedrooms followed by a kitchen and bathroom, and no hallway, are more prevalent in New Orleans than anywhere else in the United States.
The homes were introduced in about 1830, and were popular in working class, often immigrant, neighborhoods until about the 1930s. Though the oft-repeated lore is that the homes are called “shotguns” because a shot fired from the front door would exit the rear door without hitting anything, the term didn’t appear until the early 20th century.
Forms of the shotgun house, including doubles and camelbacks, comprise 52 percent of Uptown’s housing stock, according to the Preservation Resource Center. The most basic form of the shotgun, built in rural areas and as fishing camps, had no ornamentation. But in New Orleans, the shotgun homes were decked out in Greek Revival, Eastlake, Italianate or whatever architectural style was popular at the time.
Shotgun homes fell out of fashion after World War II, but in the 1980s, the Preservation Resource Center and others began efforts to preserve the homes.