The Cahaba Homestead Village remains today a fine and rare example of New Deal-era contribution to the canon of American architecture and suburban development.
Built with classical design principles and proportions and colonial revival features, roofs are of side-gable and hip gable design, including dormer windows in some cases; and a variety of front entrances featuring pedimented porticos, front porches, and side porches.
These massed-garden cottage homes were built with the best local materials available and no economy of labor. Original exteriors include brick, shingle, and red-wood siding (shipped in to expedite construction), and metal roofs (made in Birmingham) to last a lifetime. The lots ranging from 1/3 to 1/2 acre were large enough to allow for semi-subsistence farming and for future additions to the homes. Sheds in back of the homes were built to shelter an automobile, the home’s coal supply, chickens, and a cow. Some original sheds still reveal the partitions for these purposes.
The green spaces and designated park land within the Cahaba Homestead Village reflect the “Garden City” ideal that influenced urban development in the early 20th Century and which is seeing a revival today. These areas include The Mall, Rock Park and Civitan Park.
When this village was constructed between 1936 and 1938, it consisted of 287 homes. You can see the original plans for those homes here.
After many sets of house plans were drawn, it was decided to use variations of only a few plans. By inverting the plans, making minor changes, changing colors and placing each type of house at various intervals throughout the Cahaba Project, it was possible to create a unique housing development, one of the nicest in the country. For example, there were five floor plans for the one-story homes and each had an A and B version, and A and B “Reverse” (or mirror image) versions as seen in this electrical layout blueprint for home model “5B Reverse.” Varying the five original floor plans in this way maintained harmony while relieving monotony throughout the neighborhood.
Electrical layout blueprints can be found at Heritage Hall.
All of the following photos were taken at the Trussville Historical Museum. Of these photos, Trussville Historical Board member Jane Alexander said, “I did the display in the Museum because people would ask questions about what was original to the house. There is a cute letter to renters early on asking them to stop making changes to the houses, and this was before any were sold to individuals in 1947.”
Local architect James Sransky has extensive experience with Cahaba Project homes. In 2021, he discussed Cahaba Project architecture with a group of residents on The Mall. Watch his presentation below.