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Taken by Ray Baker of Roving Photography

The first shotgun houses in the United States appeared in New Orleans soon after the arrival of free black Haitian refugees to the city in early 1809.

Typically one room wide and three or four rooms deep, the shotgun is probably a variation on the “caille,” a structure derived from African architecture and commonly found in southern Haiti. This architectural style grew in popularity in the United States during the 19th century and was very popular in hot urban areas, particularly in the South, since its length allowed for excellent airflow while its narrow frontage increased the number of plots that could be fitted along a street. By the 1870’s much cheaper rental housing assumed the shotgun form.

By the twentieth century hundreds of thousands of shotgun houses could be found throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, West Virginia and Louisiana. Although a hallway or second story was added to some urban versions of the shotgun, the structure used by most rural residents closely paralleled the house with large shared spaces that originally appeared in New Orleans.

Shotgun houses were commonplace in South Louisiana, and it has been suggested that the term shotgun is a corruption of the West African “shogun,” which means “God’s House.” In Louisiana popular culture, however, the name has been attributed to the fact that one could shoot a shotgun from the front door all the way through the back when all of the interior doors were aligned to one side of the house.

The Cajun Village Cottages date back to around 1900. Originally built for workers near the historic area of downtown Baton Rouge known as Spanish Town, the Acadian-style shotgun houses were saved in 1997 and moved to their peaceful home in Sorrento, Louisiana.