Large farm for breeding and raising cattle, sheep, or horses. Ranching originated in South America and Mexico in early colonial times, when Spanish settlers introduced cattle and horses and tended them on the pampas. It was an itinerant form of livestock farming: herds were tended on open range, and biannual roundups were held for branding calves and driving mature animals to market. Itinerant ranching reached its peak in the 1880s. By the early 20th century, overstocking, quarantine laws, railroad competition, and barbed-wire fences had put an end to cattle drives and open-range farming. Ranching today is nearly all sedentary, but huge ranches still exist.
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Ranch-style houses (also American Ranch, California Ranch, Rambler or Rancher) is an American domestic architectural style (although also found in Canada, Australia and New Zealand). First built in the 1920s, the ranch style was extremely popular in the United States from the 1940s to the 1970s, as new suburbs were built for the Greatest Generation and later the Silent Generation.
The style is often associated with tract housing built during this period, particularly in the western United States, which experienced a population explosion during this period with a corresponding demand for housing.
The ranch house is noted for its long, low to the ground profile, and minimal use of exterior and interior decoration. The houses fuse modernist ideas and styles with notions of the American Western period working ranches to create a very informal and casual living style. Their popularity waned in the late 20th century as neo-eclectic house styles, a return to using historical and traditional decoration, became popular. However, in recent years the ranch house has been undergoing a revitalization of interest.
Preservationist movements have begun in some ranch house neighborhoods as well as renewed interest in the style from a younger generation who did not grow up in ranch-style houses. This renewed interest in the ranch house style has been compared to that which other house styles such as the Bungalow and Queen Anne experienced in the 20th century, initial dominance of the market, replacement as the desired housing style, decay and disinterest coupled with lots of teardowns, then renewed interest and gentrification of the surviving homes.
Livability was addressed by the addition of open floor plans instead of the small and divided up rooms of previous house styles. In a modern ranch house each of the major rooms was intended to flow into the next. Large windows were added to bring in outside light and nature. Garages were attached to the home instead of the separate building they had been in previous house styles such as the bungalow. Sliding glass doors opened to patios, usually covered, in the back of the home, a direct fusion of the Spanish Colonial Rancherias and Modernism. As land was inexpensive and plentiful in this time period the Ranch Houses were long and rambling over their large lots.
Unpretentious character was addressed by the simple, lean, lines of the houses themselves. Ranch Houses, with their low roof lines and simple rustic trim, were intended to maintain a casual feel and not dominate their neighborhoods. Entry was not into a grand foyer, with an elaborate two story staircase winding down and soaring cathedral ceiling, but instead into a simple ante-chamber, if that, which was disarming and pedestrian. Interiors were designed for ease of movement and a "homeish" feel, often with wood paneling, textured ceilings for noise control, and occasional exposed wood beams in main living areas.
American tastes in architecture began to change in the late 1960s, a move away from Googie and Modernism and Ranch Homes towards more formal and traditional styles. Builders of Ranch Houses also began to simplify and cheapen construction of the homes to cut costs, eventually reducing the style down to a very bland and uninteresting house with little of the charm and drama of the early versions. By the late 1970s the ranch house was no longer the home of choice and had been eclipsed by the Neo-Eclectic styles of the late 20th century. These Neo-Eclectic homes typically continue many of the lifestyle interior features of the Ranch House, such as open floor plans, attached garages, eat in kitchens, and built in patios, though their exterior styling typically owes more to Northern Europe or Italy or 18th and 19th century homes styles than the Ranch House. Neo-Eclectic houses also have a significant level of formality in their design, both externally and internally, the exact opposite of the typical Ranch Style House. Additionally the increase in land prices has meant a corresponding increase in the number of two story homes being built, and a shrinking of the size of the average lot, both trends which inhibit the traditional ranch house style.
Beginning in the late 1990s a revival of interest in the ranch style house occurred in United States. The renewed interest in the design is mainly focused on existing homes and neighborhoods, not new construction. Younger house buyers find that ranch houses are affordable entry level homes in many markets, and the single story living of the house attracts older buyers looking for a house they can navigate easily as they age. The houses' uniquely American heritage, being an indigenous design, has furthered interest as well. The houses simplicity and unpretentious nature, in marked contrast to the more dramatic and formal nature of neo-eclectic houses, makes them appealing for some buyers. The more distinctive ranch houses, such as modernist Eichlers or Cliff May designs, as well as custom homes with a full complement of the style's features, are in particular demand in many markets. Many neighborhoods featuring ranch-style houses are now well-established, with large trees and often with owner modifications that give these sometimes redundant styles significant character. As these homes were mainly built in the time frame of 1945 to 1970 they are modern in their infrastructure, their heating/cooling systems, wiring, plumbing, windows, doors, and other systems can be easily repaired and upgraded.
The ranch house style was adapted for commercial use during the time of the style's popularity. As the concept of a "drive in" shopping center was being created and popularized the ranch style was a perfect style to fit into the large tracts of ranch homes being built. Commercial ranch buildings, such as supermarkets and strip malls, typically follow the residential style with simple rustic trim, stucco or board and batten siding, exposed brick and shake roofs, and large windows.
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