A saltbox house is a gable roofed residential structure that is typically two stories in the front and one in the rear. It is a traditional New England style of home, originally timber framed, which takes its name from its resemblance to a wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept.
The structure’s unequal sides and long, low rear roof line are its most distinctive features. A flat front and central chimney are also recognizable traits.
The roof style is also known as a catslide roof – any roof that, in part, in the same plane, extends down below the main eave height, providing greater area under the roof.
Original hand-riven oak clapboards are still in place on some the earliest New England saltboxes, such as the Comfort Starr House and Ephraim Hawley House. Once part of their exteriors, they are preserved in place in attics that were created when shed-roofed additions were added onto the homes.
Characteristic of most early New England colonial houses, saltboxes were timber-framed. Also known as post-and-beam construction, the technique joins large pieces of wood with mortise-and-tenon joints, wooden pegs, braces, or trusses. Metal nails were sparingly used, as they were an expensive commodity at the time. The exterior of a saltbox was often finished with clapboard or other wooden siding. The Josiah Day House in West Springfield, Massachusetts, is constructed of brick.