Peak Popularity ~ 1850 - 1890

By the middle of the 19th century, American were starting to react to the impact of the industrial revolution.  There was an overall feeling of optimism that pervaded the air.  For the first time, there was huge opportunity for education, and exposure to fine arts, music, and drama and for leisure activity.  American cities were becoming cultural centers and rural life seemed less attractive.  Looking back at this period we can see that almost all academic fields formed in the 1880's Modern history, psychology, and Natural sciences date from the 1880's.  The Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, along with many symphonies and ballets. The American Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institute, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art were all forming as well.  Many universities were expanding, and new universities were founded in the Midwest.  Printing technology improved dramatically after the end of the Civil War, making magazines, newspapers, and dime novels commonplace for the masses.

As a result of this explosion of knowledge and the arts, many people were exposed to knowledge that their parents never imagined.  Businessmen of this period strived to be familiar with the most respected artists of the Renaissance.  The wealthy might take a tour, visiting Italy, Greece, France, and England, seeing great works of art.  Even white collar workers might have a chromolithograph or photograph of fine art framed on his wall.

How did the people of this time see themselves and their homes?  What kind of home would express this exuberant acceptance of "modern" life?  Something Renaissance.  And so was born American Italianate Architecture.

This was also a period of a rising middle class.  This triggered all sorts of insecurities from both the upper class, and the new middle class.  Thus, status was something that everyone wanted to express.  Builders wanted to build as high and bracketed as possible in order to let everyone know how important they were.  The Campaniles and Cupolas became an integral part of these homes.  Cupolas are mostly useless and usually kept sealed off to conserve heat, but were a must for anybody who was anybody in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

Defining Features

  • Campanile - Soaring off center tower - This was a feature in the earlier Italianate homes.  Later, these became Cupolas, but still added the signature look to the home. 
  • Cupola - This was modeled after the topmost extension of a Campanile
  • Simple, boxier profile
  • Deep bracketed eaves
  • Round headed windows
  • Asymmetrical arrangement of windows and doors
  • Loggia - Usually found on larger homes
  • Belvedere - Again, usually reserved for larger homes.
  • Pergola - Common - most often in the rear, near or in the gardens



Fact:  The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a "Campanile"



A Classic Italianate Villa with a "Cupola" - Painting by Harry Devlin


Italianate with a "Campanile"




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