Popularity ~ 1820 - 1850
early 19th century, there was good deal of hostility toward England
after the burning of Washington in the war of 1812, which had
substantially hurt American pride. Though architectural
imports from England continued, they had to be Greek. To make
matters even more emotional, the Greeks were fighting a desperate
war for independence from the Turks, and Americans were sympathetic.
Revival style became an intricate part of everyday life. Women
wore their hair up in Greek style. Houses and buildings were erected
as little temples in small frontier towns. Visitors to our
young nation were amazed - and amused to find Greek temples in
clearings where only months before Indians had lived.
The visitors were also entertained by the fact that our little
temple houses were made of wood instead of the traditional marble.
Towns themselves were named Athens, Syracuse, Troy, and Rome.
Everything from silverware to furniture were all inspired with Greek
design. So what is with all this Greek stuff? Because
Greeks invented democracy. For the first time American
democracy was looked upon desirably. However, to Americans of
this period, democracy was a Greek concept and the rule of the
common man was democracy.
The Greek Revival house is
America's first Romantic configuration. The Federal houses
immediately preceding these Greek Revivals used Classical forms, but
only as restrained and delicate relief. The Federal style was
part of a long and sensible evolution that provided shelter with a
touch of style. The Greek Revivals were monuments to a mood.
Even with the all of the
anti-English sentiment pervading the day, the first Greek Revival
architecture was introduced to America by an English-born,
English-trained architect Benjamin Latrobe. In 1798 he
designed and supervised the building of the Bank of
Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. That building was the first in a
long line of public and domestic buildings whose style would come
close to creating a new national style, although not for another
thirty years later.
- Temple-front entryway -
door surrounded by rectangular transom and sidelights (never
rounded like federal).
- Almost always painted white
- To resemble the white marble greek temples they were
- Front and
back of the home are nearly identical - This applies
mainly to Greek Revival Mansions
supporting a Pediment - On common home these were
usually square. More elaborate homes, they were round.
Craftsmen of the period sometimes tacked strips of wood to
the columns to make the appear fluted.
decorative band between the pediment and the columns called an
type Dentil moldings along the eaves and pediment
- Flat or
low pitched roofs
seam metal roofs - usually painted red or green were used to help relieve the
weight of snow.
**There is a Greek building on the campus of Drew University
in Madison, New jersey
that has an ingenious mechanical bracing system for the roof
that allows it to settle under the pressure of heavy snow.
Pretty cool eh?
Simple farm houses were built to look like Greek
Temples by simply adding a pediment and some columns. The
passerby wouldn't even notice the false front covering the small
Classic Greek Revival with fluted columns
Exception to the rule
In Virginia and further south, the transition from
British-inspired architecture to the Greek Revival was a bit blurred
by the influences of designs by Thomas Jefferson. Jeffersonian
homes used Federal elements such as semicircular fanlights over
principal doorways. These structures also employed domes
rather than arches, which are not Greek, but Roman. While the
pediment, frieze, columns, and balustrades were painted white, the
body of the building was red brick. Mr. Jefferson's designs
were essentially Roman rather than Greek and were said to be
inspired to his exposure to ancient Roman buildings in southern
France during his time as the ambassador to that country in the
1780's. Monticello and similar buildings are samples of
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