A ROOF OVER ONE’S HEAD
People everywhere must have shelter from the elements and other natural enemies. Sometimes they need only a little protection from the sun or rain whereas in other places, they may need to escape from bitter cold or ferocious animals. Nomadic people – those who move from place to place – need housing they can carry with them easily while other groups create and settle into very elaborate homes. The homes in which people live tell us a lot about their cultures.
The style of a home depends a great deal on climate and on the materials that are available for building. In places where there are many trees, most homes are built of wood. In other places, mud, sticks, or straw are used while in the frozen north, the ice itself becomes the building material. Even the poor must have shelter and many clever homes have been built from the most meager and unusual materials. Where it is cold and windy, windows and doors may be small or doubled, like our storm windows and doors. In climates that are mild, houses with large openings may give the illusion that people live outdoors instead of inside.
Life styles – the way people live – also have an effect on their houses. In cultures where people like to share their living quarters with others, they build large houses, then decide if they want some privacy, or to live communally (as a community)in one big space. If people are superstitious, they may use special colors, decorations, or building designs in the hopes that they may influence their luck.
American homes are some of the biggest and best in the world. Many have a garage for one or two cars, a big, modern kitchen, a living room, and a playroom for the children. Upstairs there are two bathrooms and three or four bedrooms.
The poorest people live in “public housing” apartments. These apartments are not like rich American homes.
Americans like to think the United States is a young country, but really it has a long and interesting history.
NATIVE AMERICAN HOMES
Tall, round tents stand in a circle. They are “tepees.” Outside the biggest sits the Big Chief. He wears a beautiful feather headdress on his head. He holds the pipe of peace in his hand. The picture comes from a “cowboy and Indian” movie.
In the old days, the Native Americans on the Plains followed the buffalo. They had to move their homes quickly and easily. The women made the tepees. First they cut buffalo skins and cleaned them.
Then they sewed them together. The camp moved often. Then the women took the tepees down and put them up again.
Many tepees had beautiful paintings on them. They showed animals and the sun, the moon, and the stars. The paintings usually had religious meanings. There was a fireplace inside the tepee. The smoke went out through a hole in the roof.
In the Northwest of the United States, they built big wooden houses for seven or eight families. The houses had “totem poles” outside. The door to the house was a hole in the totem pole.
In the hot, dry Southwest of the U.S., the Native American villages are called “pueblos.” The pueblos were built in high places, on rocky cliffs. The people did not want their enemies to come near. Old pueblo houses did not have doors in the walls. People climbed up ladders to the roof. The “door” was a hole in the roof. Enemies could not easily come in that way.
Native Americans made pueblo houses from stone, wood, and “adobe” – dry mud bricks. Adobe houses are strong and clean. They are warm in winter and cool in summer.
COLONIAL STYLES IN THE NORTHEAST
Three hundred years ago, when the Europeans came to northeastern America, they lived in simple huts. But later, they built houses in the styles of their home countries. The Dutch built tall, narrow houses along the Hudson River. The French on the St. Lawrence River put windows in the roofs of their houses, and made fine, wooden shutters. The English built houses with warm, red-colored brick, or white painted wood.
The largest number of new Americans were English. So the first towns of Virginia and New England copied English towns. The houses were square, and they had beautiful long windows.
PLANTATIONS IN THE SOUTH
In the “deep South” of the U.S. the weather is warm and the land is green. The Europeans came there in the seventeenth century. They found deep forests and wide rivers. They found hundreds of beautiful flowering trees and flowers. But they brought one very important plant with them: cotton. They cut down the forests and planted cotton—miles and miles of cotton.
The cotton planters soon grew rich. They built big, beautiful houses. These “plantation” houses had large rooms with high ceilings. They had tall pillars in front, and big trees grew near the houses. They were cool in the hot summer months. The planters bought beautiful paintings and furniture for their homes. They lived very comfortably.
The first farmers in America were poor. But they worked hard, and slowly some of them grew richer. They built bigger and better farmhouses. They bought comfortable furniture. They built houses in interesting styles.
Mobile homes are big, but they can travel. Trucks take them from the factory to the trailer park. In the trailer park, the mobile home stands on concrete. Water and electricity is there already. There are thousands of trailer parks in the U.S. You will ‘ find two or three near most towns.
The first Russian houses (the peasant’s house was called “izba”; the houses for rich people were called “terem” or “polaty”) were built of wood. The Russians used only pine-trees and larch-trees for building their houses. They didn’t use nails for building the houses. The most important article of each Russian house was a stove. The stove was used for a lot of things: cooking food, baking bread, heating the house, sleeping (because there was a special place over the fire-chamber for sleeping). The “Russian” stove was a large structure, from floor to ceiling, and was the centre of home life. In every house there was a “red corner” with icons and with a table near it. The windows facing the street were always richly decorated with carvings. Every house had a richly decorated porch. The porch of the house showed the hospitality of the owner and his wealth. There was a tradition: several generations of a family lived together.
Poor people lived in small wooden houses, but rich people lived in big wooden houses, and later in stone houses, sometimes two-storied and large.
Do you know...
• To make tableware, people used different kinds of wood, clay, metal, roots, branches, rind and birch bark.
• The main utensils in a peasant’s house: samovars, plates and dishes made of clay, brass and wood; a spinning-wheel, a sewing-set, wooden rollers, boards for washing and pressing clothes (walky and rubely), splinter holders for lighting the house.
• People had “oberegi” in their houses, i. e. magic images and signs protecting the family from evil forces.
• In every Russian house there was a trunk where people kept their documents, holiday clothes and other valuables.
• In every Russian house there was “lulka”, i. e. a hanging cradle for a baby.
Do you know these words?
“troika” – (three) a Russian vehicle drawn by a specially trained team of three horses abreast. Up to 1860, “troika” was the main means of transportation in Russia
“tuesok” – a cylinder vessel made from a single piece of birch-bark
“posidelki” – a village party
“zhban” – a hooped wooden jug
“pryaniki” – people used a cake mould for baking these. They baked them from flour and honey and gave them as presents.
Match the questions to the answers
|1. Why did the Russians used to say “to
hew a house”?
2. What trees did the Russians use for building of their houses?
3. Did the Russians use nails building their houses?
4. What does the word “podpol” mean?
5. What does the word “seny” mean?
6. What was the most wide spread type of a peasant’s house in Russia?
7. What was the “Russian stove” made of?
8. What does the Russian proverb “To dance from the stove” mean?
9. What does the word “polaty” mean?
10. What does the word “svyetyolka” mean?
11. What did the window have for closing?
12. What is “ushat”?
13. What is “an icon-case (Kiot)”?
14. What does the word “chugunok” mean?
15. What does the word “dorozhki” mean?
|a. They built without a single nail
b. a cast-iron pot
c. it means a “light room”, a special room in the attic for unmarried daughters of the house owner
d. because their houses were built of wood
e. a corridor adjacent to the house, which connected it to the covered farmyard, where people kept their animals and various utensils
f. shutters for the night time
g. clay, brick
h. pine-tree, larch-tree
i. a deck made of boards under the ceiling for sleeping
j. a pantry
k. a wooden tub with eye handles for water
l. hand-woven rags
m. “to begin from the beginning”
n. it contains icons of Russian saints
o. It was “izba” with a four-wall “srube”
• Two men once built a snow igloo, the traditional shelter of the Eskimo, in a record 40 minutes. But the art of building an igloo may be dying out since new generations of Greenland Eskimos haven’t acquired the skills needed.
• Many houses in the South Sea Islands are built on stilts in order to keep the floors dry. During tropical storms, waves could wash through homes built on low ground and destroy them. Those on stilts have a better chance of surviving.
• On Tonga, an island in the Pacific, as each young man reaches the age of 16, he receives eight and one-quarter acres of farm land and a town site on which to build a house.
• Although a Bedouin man in Jordan may be wealthy enough to own a house, he prefers to live in a tent with his sons and let his wife and daughters use the house.
• When the building of a new house is completed in France, flowers are hung from the roof to announce that the job is done. Then the owner of the house buys wine or food for the crew who helped to build it.
• People on Samoa live out in the open. Their houses are round and completely open except for thick posts that hold up a thatched dome on top. Although they have no windows or doors, blinds can be lowered in case of a storm, but they are never used for privacy.
• In Amsterdam, Holland, houses built along the canals are so narrow, and the steps so steep, that movers cannot deliver large pieces of furniture to them in the traditional way. When the house is erected, a pulley is built into the top floor to lift large objects up and through the windows.
• In the Pelly Bay area north of Alaska, the Netsilik Eskimos value clear ice so much that they carry it from place to place to use as windows in new igloos. The transparent bluish ice forms when salt water freezes, then melts, and the salt settles to the bottom.
• Scrap metal salvaged from wrecked planes and abandoned jeeps on some South Pacific islands changed the basic house plan of some natives after World War II. Traditionally, cooking was done outside the house in a pit, so that the thatch, or grass, of the house, would not catch fire. With the scrap metal, however, some clever islanders added fireproof kitchens right onto their houses.
• The Boro Indians, who live in the jungle along the Amazon River in South America, build one huge house of tree branches, vines, and palm leaves, which houses everyone in the tribe. Each family has its own area inside the house, with hammocks for sleeping. The center of the house is kept free for meetings and dancing for all. When the roof leaks or some other problem arises, the Boro Indians move to a new clearing and build another house.
• The Kazak people build their houses, called yurts, from willow sticks tied together with leather strips in a crosswork pattern. When the Kazaks feel like moving on, they take the yurts apart, bundle up the sticks, pack them onto camels, and leave.
• Arabs in the Middle East paint the doors of their houses blue to ward off evil spirits.