Building on History: Call It A Son of a Shotgun

"It's quicker for developers to rip an old house down," says Brett Zamore, 34, who renovated a house built in the shotgun style--first used by African-American settlers in the early 1800s--for his Rice University grad-school thesis. "But houses like the shotgun have strengths and character" as well as the potential, he says, to be prototypes for responsible modern living--and for rebuilding hurricane-hit communities on the Gulf Coast.

The shotgun is smart. Take its ventilation. The house, perched above the ground on concrete-block piers, has doors in the front and back, windows in all rooms and wood-sheathed walls with no insulation. In...

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