|Long, low, and simultaneously modest and chest-thumping:|
The Rancher bespoke American values of the 1950s.
America was riding high in the 1950s. The country had recently returned from trouncing the Axis, despite a late entrance into a war whose odds were far from certain. The economy had been launched out of the Depression, first on the strength of wartime contracts, and then by a pent-up postwar demand for consumer goods. As a result, U.S. industry was now far and away the mightiest on earth. And America’s faith in democracy, so shaken by the Depression years, had been restored to granitic solidity by its great triumphs both overseas and at home.
What better time for a home style that managed to convey all this and more?
|Extremely elaborate examples, nowadays|
referred to as "Storybook Ranchers",
featured diamond-pane windows, knee
braces, and other over-the-top rustic details.
|Dutch front doors, shown here with the|
ubiquitous crossbuck motif, were a red-hot
fad during the Rancher era.
The Rancher is a breeze to identify. It’s the first popular style to flaunt an attached double garage, for those two cars Herbert Hoover had promised us decades earlier. But the Rancher’s garage made up for its late showing by being impossible to overlook: it projected well forward of the house, with the huge door itself becoming a broad billboard often tricked out in moldings or x-shaped crossbuck motifs, all underlined by a vast swath of concrete driveway.
| Rancher loor plans—not to mention front elevations such as|
this one—were stretched out to outlandish proportions.
The classic Rancher exterior typically had rough-sawn vertical board-and-batt siding (batts being narrow wood strips that covered the gap between boards), or else rustic horizontal lap siding. Later mass-produced versions used stucco on the majority of the house, reserving the more costly siding for accents on the facade and gables.
|Eventually, things settled down to your basic stucco Rancher,|
perhaps with a few features such as the wood wainscoting
and false dovecote in the gable of this tract-built example.
Functionally, there's little to criticize in a Rancher. The floor plan is straightforward, with rooms methodically strung along each side of a long hall--much like a stretched-out bungalow turned crosswise. The style’s main structural problems stem from the fashion of making the houses ever longer, lower and closer to the ground. Often the effort was too successful--yielding a ranch-size meal for termites and dry rot.