Eagles Nest Architecture Series: Territorial, Reviving a Style from the American West

Present by: Eagles Nest Architectural Committee

Of the unique blended architectural styles that evolved early in US history, the territorial home from the west is often overlooked, but it is very well suited for a southwestern ranch themed community such as Eagles Nest in Arizona. Territorial architecture was developed in the Southwestern United States, primarily in New Mexico, in the late 1800s and early 1900s after New Mexico stopped being a territory and joined as a state.  It developed as a blend of Anglo-American architectural ideas with local regional materials and techniques used by the native Indians and Mexican settlers that were better suited for the environment.

Territorial Style

Territorial style home in Scottsdale by Clint Miller, AIA

Traditional territorial-style homes are characterized by simple rectangular structures with Pueblo-style flat roofs; vigas, which are wooden beams that support the ceiling whose ends are often exposed on the exterior, sun-baked brick with smooth stucco, plaster or adobe walls, trim that is made of brick on certain parts of the home and wood on other parts, brick coping on parapets, and other distinctive rustic features typical of the old West.

A territorial style home usually has more wood showing on the exterior than a traditional Pueblo style home. Turned wood posts, called portales, add support to territorial porches. Unlike the characteristically unadorned, simple windows of Pueblo style adobe homes, territorial windows often have more elaborate wooden trim surrounding multiple divided small panes, which were easier to import. The wood trim of the doors and windows might be painted in a territorial style home. The front door might be painted a bold color to set it off. It was not uncommon to surround entry doors with small windows as sidelights and transoms.

Territorial Style

Because the style was a blend of other early Southwest regional styles, it is often misidentified and confused with other earlier Southwest styles, such as Pueblo, that also utilize vigas and flat roofs. The key differences for an authentic territorial style are brick coping at the top of the parapets and milled woodwork details, such as pedimented lintels on the window frames, common in territorial architecture, are normally missing in the simpler Pueblo-style structures.

True territorial-style architecture is difficult to find. The traditions and features found in the authentic elements of this style home evoke the American west and are very well suited as an appropriate architectural style for Eagles Nest.