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Architectural Style Guide

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This guide is intended as an introduction to American domestic architectural styles beginning with First Period colonial architecture through the Colonial Revival architecture of the early twentieth century. The guide focuses on common stylistic trends of New England and is therefore not inclusive of all American architecture. Click on a stylistic period listed below for a brief synopsis, list of defining features, and images of examples.

Coming Soon: Additional content for twentieth-century architectural styles including Arts and Crafts bungalows, mid-century Modern, and post-war ranches.

First Period (Post-medieval English): 1600-1700

Georgian: 1700-1780

Federal (Adam): 1780-1820

Greek Revival: 1825-1860

Gothic Revival: 1840-1880

Italianate: 1840-1885

Second Empire: 1855-1885

Stick: 1860-1890

Queen Anne: 1880-1910

Shingle: 1880-1900

Colonial Revival: 1880-1955

First Period (Post-Medieval English): 1600-1700

Built during the first generation of settlement by English colonists, First Period architecture owes much of its appearance to building traditions from Europe. It could be argued that houses from this period are without style; they were not designed by architects. Yet several common elements mark these structures and two distinct traditions developed (northern and southern) with corresponding similarities of form and appearance. Each of these traditions took advantage of materials at hand as well as architectural features suited to their respective climates.

In New England, colonists departed from traditional European wattle and daub (woven lattice of wooden strips covered with a material made with some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung, and straw), constructing wood-frame homes covered with weatherboard, clapboard, or shingles. This was a direct result of the prevalence of local timber. In addition, New England First Period homes were typically two stories tall with steeply pitched roofs, essential for shedding heavy snow loads. Central chimneys were also standard, being the most efficient way to heat these buildings during cold New England winters. Today, surviving examples have almost all been restored to their early appearance and thus retain very little original material.

Geographic Range:
First Period architecture is limited to those areas of the country settled before 1700. Connecticut and coastal regions of Massachusetts contain the highest number of First Period structures, although other examples can be found moving inland along major waterways such as the Hudson River.

Typical Features:

  • Steeply pitched roof (usually of wood shingles) with little or no rake or eave overhang
  • Side-gabled entrance
  • Massive central chimney (in the north); paired chimneys (in the south); stone end chimneys (Rhode Island)
  • Small casement windows with leaded diamond panes
  • Second-floor wall overhang, sometimes decorated with brackets or pendants
  • Batten Doors
  • Asymmetrical door and window openings

Interior Features:

  • One-room-deep linear plan
  • L-shaped staircases around central chimney

Gallery of First Period examples

Visit Historic New England's first period houses: Arnold House, Boardman House, Browne House, Clemence-Irons House, Coffin House, Jackson House and Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm.

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Georgian: 1700-1780

The dominant style for domestic construction in the United States from 1700-1780, Georgian architecture grew out of the Italian Renaissance in Europe. Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), an Italian architect, devised a set of design principles based on the Classical proportions of Roman ruins. His famous work, The Four Books of Architecture (1570), which emphasized classicism, order, and symmetry regardless of function, influenced English architects such as Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren. In turn, these principles were brought to the colonies, gaining popularity beginning around 1700 principally through architectural pattern books.

Georgian architecture gets its name from the succession of English kings named George (beginning in 1715). In the United States the style included innumerable variations on a simple English theme: a symmetrical, two-story house with center-entry façade, combined with the two-room-deep center-passage floor plan. By the end of the seventeenth century, the upper classes in the colonies began to embrace the European concept of gentility, displaying their elevated taste and station by maintaining codes of dress, speech, and behavior. This status was also aptly displayed by the orderly symmetry of Georgian architecture, a legacy that survives today.

Geographic Range:
Georgian houses are most commonly found along the eastern seaboard, where English influence was concentrated. Today, most examples survive in seacoast communities that did not continue to grow rapidly during the nineteenth century such as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Newport, Rhode Island.

Typical Features:

  • Symmetry, centered façade entry with windows aligned horizontally and vertically
  • One or two-story box, two rooms deep
  • Commonly side-gabled and sometimes with a gambrel or hipped roof
  • Raised foundation
  • Paneled front doors, capped with a decorative crown (entablature); often supported by decorative pilasters; and with a rectangular transom above (later high-style examples may have fanlight transoms)
  • Cornice emphasized by decorative moldings, commonly dentils
  • Double-hung sash windows with small lights (nine or twelve panes) separated by thick wooden muntins
  • Five-bay façade (less commonly three or seven)
  • Center chimneys are found in examples before 1750; later examples have paired chimneys
  • Wood-frame with shingle or clapboard walls (upper windows touch cornice in most two-story examples)

Interior Features:

  • Central hall plan
  • High ceilings (10-11 feet) smoothly plastered, painted and decorated with molded or carved ornament (high-style)
  • Elaborate mantelpieces, paneling, stairways and arched openings copied from pattern books (high-style)

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Pedimented windows and dormers
  • Belt course between stories (masonry examples)
  • Quoins of stone or wood imitating stone
  • Roof balustrades (after 1750)
  • Centered front gable (pediment) or shallow projecting central gable (after 1750)
  • Two-story pilasters (after 1750)

Gallery of Georgian examples

Visit Historic New England's Georgian houses: the Codman Estate, Cogswell's Grant, Langdon House, and Quincy House.

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Federal (Adam): 1780-1820

Like the preceding Georgian period, domestic architecture in the Federal style typically came in the form of a simple box, two rooms deep, with doors and windows arranged in strict symmetry. However, creative floor plans with elliptical and round spaces were introduced during this period and the simple exterior box was often modified by projecting wings (particularly in high-style examples). In addition, there is a lightness and restrained delicacy to Federal architectural components in comparison to their heavier, more ponderous Georgian counterparts.

The Federal style is often described as a refinement of Georgian style drawing on contemporary European trends, in particular the work of Robert Adam (1728-1792), who traveled to the Mediterranean to study classical Roman and Greek monuments. His architecture was based on first-hand observation rather than interpreted through buildings of the Italian Renaissance. During this period, the first true architects appeared on the American scene. Among them was Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844) who is credited with bringing the Federal style to United States after his own European tour. Asher Benjamin’s (1773-1845) famous pattern books brought Bulfinch’s interpretations of the Adam style to thousands of American carpenters and house wrights. Other notable architects of the period include Benjamin H. Latrobe (Philadelphia and Virginia), Samuel McIntire (Salem, Massachusetts), and Alexander Parris (Maine).

Geographic Range:
Federal architecture was a sign of urban prosperity, reflecting the growing wealth of the new nation. Examples stretch from Maine to Georgia with the zenith in prosperous port cities on the eastern seaboard, particularly Boston, Salem, Newburyport, and Marblehead, Massachusetts; Newport, Providence, Warren, and Bristol, Rhode Island; Portland and Wiscasset, Maine; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Vernacular examples survive throughout settled areas of the nineteenth century and are least common on the westward edges of expansion and inland rural areas of northern New England that were still sparsely settled.

Typical Features:

  • Two-story, rectangular construction
  • Side gable or low-hipped roofs
  • Raised foundations
  • Semi-circular or elliptical fanlights over front entry 
  • Elaborate door surrounds with decorative crowns or small entry porches (often elliptical or semicircular) 
  • Cornice emphasized with decorative molding (usually modillions – refined dentils)
  • Double-hung sash windows (six over six) sash separated by thin wooden muntins 
  • Windows arranged in symmetrical rows, usually five-ranked (less commonly three or seven) 
  • Northern preference for wood frame, clapboard siding; southern examples used brick construction
  • Louvered shutters

Interiors:

  • Creative floor plans with elliptical, rounded rooms and domed or arched ceilings
  • Graceful decorative ornament carved in wood or cast in plaster applied to mantels, walls, ceilings, etc.
  • Curved open staircases that included classically decorated pediments and pilasters
  • Decorative motifs include: swags, garlands, urns, and classical geometric patterns (motifs also appear on exterior door surrounds, entry porches, over windows, along cornices or in paneled wall inserts)

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Flushboard siding (on front façade) meant to imitate stone
  • Palladian windows – often centered above main entry
  • Roof-line balustrades
  • Flat or keystone lintels above windows
  • Windows recessed into blind arches in brick examples
  • Triple-hung windows extending to floor at primary story with shorter windows at upper stories
  • Fanlights and sidelights incorporate delicate tracery in wood or lead
  • Town houses: iron railings and balconies; bowed or polygonal bays (particularly in Boston)
  • Three-story, hipped-roof, high-style examples common in Salem and Newburyport, Massachusetts, and coastal New England.

Gallery of Federal examples

Visit Historic New England's Federal houses: Barrett House, Hamilton House, Nickels-Sortwell House, First Harrison Gray Otis House, Phillips House, and Rundlet-May House.

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Greek Revival: 1825-1860

Increasing interest in classical buildings in both western Europe and the United States at the end of the eighteenth century first focused on Roman models. The Roman legacy can be seen in Early Classical Revival homes in the southern regions of the east coast, particularly Virginia. Increasingly, however, archaeological investigations of the early nineteenth century focused on Greece (as the mother of Rome) and shifted interest to Grecian architectural models. At the same time, the War of 1812 increased American resentments of British influence. These factors led to a flowering of what is now known as Greek Revival architecture.

Irresistible to the first generation of American-born architects (among them, Benjamin Latrobe, Robert Mills, William Strickland, Thomas U. Walter, Ithiel Town, etc.), “Grecian Style” swept through the country with western expansion. In addition, guides for carpenter builders by Asher Benjamin and Minard Lafever made the style widely available for imitation. Taking many shapes, it was the classic form of the Parthenon which inspired design of Bank of the United States in Philadelphia (1818), and served as a catalyst, identifying Grecian architecture with economic security. The National style, as it came to be known, became the universal fashion for public buildings, churches, banks, and town halls. In New England and the northern United States, the side-passage, gable-front house was introduced. Vernacular examples abound, incorporating Grecian doorway moldings, window frames, and columns supporting porch roofs and suggesting the broad appeal of a style that represented a distant and idealized culture.

Geographic Range:
Greek Revival was the dominant style of domestic architecture between 1830 and 1850. In New England large groups of Greek Revival houses can be found in cities that industrialized during this period such as New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut, and Cambridge and New Bedford, Massachusetts. Vernacular examples in rural areas of New England are also common.

Typical Features:

  • Heavy entablature and cornices
  • Gable-front orientation common in northeast; also gable-front and wing subtype
  • Generally symmetrical façade, though entry is often to one side
  • Front door surrounded by narrow sidelights and rectangular transom, usually incorporated into more elaborate door surround
  • Windows typically six over six double-hung sash
  • Small frieze-band windows set into wide band trim below cornice not uncommon
  • Chimneys are not prominent
  • Gable or hipped roof of low pitch
  • Cornice lines emphasized with wide band of trim (plain or with incised decoration, representing classical entablature)
  • Porches common, either entry or full-width supported by prominent square (vernacular) or rounded columns (typically Doric style)
  • Columns typically in Greek orders, many still have Roman details (Doric, Ionic or Corinthian), vernacular examples may have no clear classical precedents

High-Style Elaborations:

  • One or two story with full height columns supporting front pediment gable
  • Pilasters, particularly at the corners of the building, occasionally across entire façade
  • Full-width colonnaded porch giving appearance of Greek temple

Gallery of Greek Revival examples

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Gothic Revival: 1840-1880

Originally, gothic architecture was primarily used in religious construction and was popular between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, giving rise to the monumental cathedrals of England and northern France. Its revival in Europe began during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as part of the Picturesque movement. A design philosophy, this movement sought to break free from the rigid geometric nature of classicism and to create naturalistic and relaxed designed landscapes and homes. Gothic Revival architecture was admired for its asymmetrical variety and symbolized an idealized version of Europe’s medieval past, one that was virtuous and chaste in contrast with the materialism of the Industrial Age.

As in previous centuries, Americans of the early nineteenth century were influenced by the cultural movements of Europe, including the Picturesque. In 1832, the first example of Gothic Revival architecture in the United States was designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892). He was the first to champion the style for use in domestic construction and his 1837 book Rural Residences was the first house plan book published in the United States to include three-dimensional views and floor plans. Davis’ friend, landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852), expanded on this work with Cottage Residences (1842) and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850), which truly popularized the style. Americans put their own twist on the gothic style, using details such as pointed arches on light wood-framed construction in a variation that is known as Carpenter Gothic.

By 1865 the Gothic Revival style was declining in popularity. It enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1870s, stimulated by the writings of English art historian critic John Ruskin. This High Victorian Gothic phase was principally applied to public buildings such as churches and libraries with a few landmark houses with the definitive polychrome cladding (distinctive linear patterns in masonry distinguished by horizontal bands of contrasting colors or textures of brick or stonework).

Geographic Range:
Never as popular as the contemporary Greek Revival or Italianate styles for domestic architecture, most surviving examples exist in northeastern states where architects first popularized the style. Few urban examples exist largely because Davis and Downing emphasized rural style, compatible with nature, and later High-Victorian Gothic examples are rarely domestic buildings.

Typical Features:

  • Common forms are side-gabled with prominent central cross-gable and asymmetrical L-shaped plan
  • Steeply pitched roofs, usually with steep cross gables and deeply overhanging eaves
  • Gables commonly decorated with bargeboards or vergeboards, particularly in carpenter gothic examples
  • Open cornices and exposed rafters
  • Wall surface extends into gable without break; no eave trim
  • Wood-frame “carpenter gothic” predominate; some masonry examples – high-style or public buildings
  • Vertical board-and-batten siding common
  • Windows commonly extend into gables, frequently with pointed arches
  • Square-topped windows with hood molds common
  • Doors with pointed arches or gothic motifs and decorative crowns; some batten doors
  • Broad one-story porches common (entry or full-width) usually supported by flattened gothic arches
  • Chimneys tall and slim, sometimes medieval in character
  • Looser/irregular floor plans – allowed because of advances in framing technologies (balloon frame)

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Polychromed exterior cladding (High Victorian Gothic)
  • Oriel windows
  • Drip moldings above windows
  • Castle-style towers, turrets, and parapeted gables
  • Finials at gable peaks, window tracery, leaded stained glass
  • Intricate wooden ornamentation using scroll saw technology at windows, roof-wall junctions, porches and doors

Gallery of Gothic Revival examples

Visit Historic New England's Roseland Cottage

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Italianate: 1840-1885

As with Gothic Revival, the Italianate style began in Europe as part of the Picturesque movement, a reaction against the formal classical ideals in art and architecture that had dominated the previous two centuries. It was inspired by the rambling, informal Italian villas of northern Italy with their characteristic square towers and asymmetrical, open floor plans. The first Italianate houses in United States were constructed in the late 1830s, popularized by the pattern books of Andrew Jackson Downing similar to the Gothic Revival discussed above. By the 1860s however, the Italianate style surpassed the slightly earlier Gothic Revival in popularity.

In the United States two separate approaches can be seen in domestic examples. One was more directly inspired by the traditional Italian villa with its masonry construction, square towers, and irregular massing and floor plans. This is distinguished from a more formal, symmetrical, and familiar town house or detached Greek Revival box to which Italianate ornamentation such as eave brackets and arched windows were applied. The combination of a familiar form and the “picturesque” decoration helped the style maintain its dominance through the third quarter of the nineteenth century. In fact, vernacular examples developed into a truly American style with only passing reference to Italian models. The financial panic of 1873 and the subsequent economic depression directly led to the decline of the Italianate style.

Geographic Range:
Examples of Italian villas and houses with Italianate detailing are common in expanding towns and cities of this era in the Midwest as well as older but still growing cities of the northeastern seaboard. They were least commonly constructed in the southeastern United States.

Typical Features:

  • Two or three stories; typically asymmetrical, two-story L- or T-shaped plans
  • Low-pitched, hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves
  • Large eave brackets dominate cornice lines arranged singly or in pairs
  • Tall, narrow windows, with 1:1 glazing; commonly arched or curved upper sash
  • Paired and triple windows frequent; bay windows common
  • Windows frequently embellished with heavy crown molding or pediments in inverted U-shape
  • Smooth exterior finish, often stucco; less commonly clapboard or board and batten siding
  • Porches nearly universal, centered, or full-width; small entry porches most common
  • Paired doorways common; large-pane glazing in door itself; arched doors; elaborate framing decorations

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Square cupolas or towers (campaniles); less frequently octagonal
  • Horizontal belt courses and corner quoins
  • Balconies with balustrades

Gallery of Italianate examples

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Second Empire: 1855-1885

Following the Civil War, a population explosion in the cities and towns of the northern and western United States naturally led to a huge demand for new housing. At the same time, house design books and building parts catalogues were becoming available nationally and streetcars and trains brought newer, more distant suburbs with space for large new houses within commuting distance of major cities. These factors along with a postwar industrial and economic energy resulted in the flowering of a variety of new architectural styles. Overall floor plans and forms became more varied and complex, with styles increasingly defined by the shapes of door and window openings and applied decoration at windows, doors, porches, and particularly front entries.

The Second Empire (or French Second Empire) style was considered to be the modern fashion of the late nineteenth century, mimicking the latest French building styles. Its distinctive mansard roof was named for an early French architect, Francois Mansart (1598-1666), and was used extensively during the reign of Napoleon III (1852 – 1870), France’s Second Empire. Exhibitions in Paris in 1855 and 1867 helped to popularize the style internationally. The mansard roof became particularly popular in urban areas where it provided a full attic story of living space and was also commonly used in remodeling older buildings.

Houses in the Second Empire style are essentially defined by this distinctive roof type, with other detailing reflecting a number of different fashions (most commonly Italianate details) or even a combination of several different styles. The second empire style was used for many public buildings during the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1977) and is therefore sometimes referred to as the General Grant style. The Second Empire style rapidly faded from popularity following the panic of 1873 and subsequent economic depression.

Geographic Range:
This style was most popular in the northeastern and midwestern states and less common on the Pacific Coast or in the southeastern United States. Second Empire townhouses were particularly popular in urban areas where the mansard roof provided a full upper story of usable attic living space.

Typical Features:

  • Mansard (dual-pitched) roof with dormer windows on steep, lower slope; roof profile can be straight, flared, or curved; colored roof shingles and slate or tin tiles form decorative patterns
  • Molded cornices bound lower roof slope above and below
  • Decorative brackets beneath eaves
  • Beneath roofline decorative details are usually similar to Italianate (windows, doors, and porch details), though also may find details suggesting other styles
  • Typically square or L-shaped blocks of between two and four stories
  • One or two-story bay windows common
  • Full porches common
  • Tall first-story windows; elaborate window surrounds (arched, hooded, pedimented, or dentiled)
  • Tall chimneys
  • Typically stone but also brick or wood frame with clapboard siding

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Rectangular or square towers, usually centered on the front façade, less commonly at junction of main block and L-shaped wing.
  • Ornate cast-iron cresting at roof ridges and tower

Gallery of Second Empire examples

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Stick Style: 1860-1890

The Stick style is often considered to be a transitional style, linking the preceding Gothic Revival with the subsequent Queen Anne. All three were inspired by the building traditions of Medieval English half-timbered construction with its visible structural elements, steeply pitched roofs and projecting gables. Unlike Gothic Revival, the Stick style stressed the wall surface itself rather than applying decorative elements merely at windows, doors, and cornices. Various patterns of wood clapboards or board-and-batten siding were applied within square and triangular spaces created by the raised stick work. This detailing was applied to a variety of nineteenth-century building forms, making it the defining element of the style.

The focus on patterned siding is reminiscent of High Victorian Gothic detailing, except that the latter were universally executed in masonry rather than wood. In fact, the Stick style is a celebration of wood construction and in many ways the “structure” as defined by the stick work is the decoration. The undecorated, square-milled lumber gives a precise, geometric quality to Stick-style homes. Advocates additionally promoted the Stick style’s structural "honesty" because the stick work was meant to express the building’s internal structure. However, unlike true half-timbering, stick work was merely applied decoration with no true relation to the underlying balloon-frame construction. During the 1880s the Stick style was rapidly replaced by the related Queen Anne movement which was both more widespread and influential.

Geographic Range:
The Stick style was less common than the contemporary Italianate or Second Empire styles. Examples survive primarily in the northeastern United States and date from the 1860s and '70s. It is likely that many original examples are now obscured, as their characteristic wall patterns and detailing, susceptible to deterioration, have been removed rather than repaired or replaced.

Typical Features:

  • Asymmetrical two or three-storied form with emphasis on vertical
  • Complex gable roofs, usually steeply pitched with cross gables and overhanging eaves
  • Decorative trusses at gable ends common
  • Exposed rafter tails
  • Wooden wall cladding (either clapboards or board-and-batten siding) interrupted by patterns of horizontal, vertical, or diagonal boards (stick work) raised from the wall surface for emphasis and meant to represent the underlying framework
  • Extensive porches and verandas; porches plainly trimmed but commonly have diagonal or curved braces
  • Large 1:1 or 2:2 windows; frequently paired; fit within patterns created by stick work
  • Corbeled chimneys

High-Style Elaborations:

  • Towers and projecting pavilions with decorative trusses and stick work
  • Jerkin-head gables

Gallery of Stick Style examples

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Queen Anne: 1880-1910

The standard for domestic architecture during the Victorian era in the United States, the Queen Anne style is difficult to define, encompassing a wide range of architectural elements and borrowing and combining features from multiple stylistic traditions. The initial inspiration came from England, but developed into something uniquely American. During the second half of the nineteenth century, English architects led by Richard Norman Shaw developed and published house plans inspired by Elizabethan cottages and manors with their varied, asymmetrical forms and medieval-inspired half timbering. Like the philosophy behind the earlier Gothic Revival movement, Shaw and his contemporaries were reacting against urban industrialism and used architecture to promote the ideal of simpler country living, though without the religious connotations connected with gothic forms.

American architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), aware of Shaw’s movement, designed the first Queen Anne home in the United States in 1874, the Watts-Sherman House in Newport, Rhode Island. The style also gained popularity as a result of exposure at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, promotion in the country’s first architectural magazine, The American Architect and Building News, and in new plan books available by mail order nationwide. Advancing technology also played a role in spreading the Queen Anne style across the country, with pre-cut architectural details readily available and affordable thanks to mass-production and railway distribution.

Shaw’s original designs were meant to be executed in brick, but his ideas were mostly reinterpreted in the United States in wood. Half-timbered construction was generally replaced by the balloon frame, with a multitude of applied decoration. The defining feature of the American Queen Anne style is the use of varied wall planes and forms using bays, towers, overhangs, wall projections, and multiple wall materials and textures to avoid any flat or plain expanses. No example exhibits all the varied elements and features associated with the Queen Anne style, though several subtypes exist, defined by different decorative details. For example, in some examples spindle work, or gingerbread ornamentation was used to embellish porches, gables, and overhanging walls. In free classic examples classical columns are used as porch supports, and Palladian windows and cornice-line dentils added a classical look. There are half-timbered examples with groupings of three or more window and features similar to early Tudor designs, and a small number of homes with patterned masonry or stonework were built, but usually these were architect-designed and found in urban locations.

Geographic Range:
Queen Anne homes are nearly ubiquitous throughout the country, particularly west of the Appalachians and prominently in California from San Diego to San Francisco, with both townhouses and free-standing examples.

Typical Features:

  • Asymmetrical two or three-storied, multifaceted form
  • Complex intersecting gabled or hipped roofs
  • Projecting upper floors
  • Bay windows, often cut away from upper stories
  • Extensive porches and verandas with turned porch posts and balustrade spindles
  • Irregular floor plans
  • Towers, turrets
  • Multitude of applied features such as brackets, roof cresting, and ornamental chimneys
  • Mixing of stylistic details from various architectural styles including reinterpreted classical forms
  • Textured wall patterns including decorative shingles typical
  • Lacy ornamentation around porch entries and at gable ends common
  • Large 1:1 windows; upper panes often edged with leaded or colored glass
  • Rich, bold paint color schemes
  • Usually wood framed; sometimes first story of brick or stone masonry with wood frame above

Gallery of Queen Anne examples

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Shingle Style: 1880-1900

Unlike preceding architectural styles, the Shingle style is not defined by applied decoration and therefore there is little in the way of applied detailing at the doors, windows, cornices, porches, or on wall surfaces of Shingle-style homes. Instead, the focus of the Shingle style aesthetic was complex shapes and forms encased within a smooth surface of wooden shingles meant to unify the irregular outline of the house. Also unlike preceding styles, the Shingle style was uniquely American. Even so, it borrowed certain design elements from a variety of contemporary styles, such as the wide porches, shingled surfaces, and asymmetrical forms from Queen Anne designs. It also adapted gambrel roofs, lean-to additions, classical columns, and Palladian windows from the Colonial Revival movement and Syrian arches and the use of stone at the ground story from the concurrent Richardsonian Romanesque style.

The Shingle style was never adopted or adapted for mass or vernacular housing, remaining a largely high-style, architect-designed aesthetic. As a largely architect-designed style, it was a consciously created American form and a reaction to the mail-order architecture that was popular during the 1880s. Among American architects who worked in the Shingle style were Henry Hobson Richardson and William Ralph Emerson of Boston; John Calvin Stevens of Portland, Maine; and the firm of McKim, Mead & White. A good reference on the Shingle style as well as the preceding Stick style is Vincent Scully's book The Shingle Style and the Stick Style, Yale University Press.

Geographic Range:
The Shingle style was primarily a high-style architect-designed style and reached its highest expression in seaside resorts of the northeastern United States – summer destinations such as Newport, Rhode Island; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; eastern Long Island; and coastal Maine. Scattered examples were constructed in all regions of the country though few vernacular examples exist. Despite being well publicized in contemporary architecture magazines, the Shingle style never gained the popularity of Queen Anne designs and thus surviving examples are unusual outside of coastal New England. It was also unsuitable to dense urban areas because of its typically expansive floor plan and wood construction.

Typical Features:

  • Wall cladding and roofing of continuous wood shingles; masonry first story with shingles above also common
  • Two or three-storied; asymmetrical façade, form and floor plan
  • Irregular roof line; hipped, gable, or gambrel; intersecting cross gables and multi-level eaves common
  • Extensive porches and verandas
  • Shingled walls continue without interruption; no corner boards   
  • Decorative detailing used sparingly; Palladian windows and simple classical columns most common details
  • Porch posts simple wood elements or massive piers of stone or clad in shingles
  • Large simply adorned windows with small panes; bands of windows common
  • Bay windows common; multiple window arches common
  • Rounded turrets and towers; often partial or half-towers integrated into the main volume of the house
  • Romanesque Syrian arches used at porches
  • Prominent chimneys corbelled
  • Eyebrow dormers

Gallery of Shingle-style examples

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Colonial Revival: 1880-1955

The Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 is usually credited as the starting point for a rebirth of interest in the colonial architectural heritage of this country and the early English and Dutch houses of the Atlantic seaboard. It is not surprising that in celebrating one hundred years as an independent nation Americans proudly looked to the past for inspiration. The increasing popularity of colonial influences on contemporary architecture motivated a highly publicized tour of a group of architects in 1877 who observed and recorded Georgian and Federal houses of New England. These men would go on to form the well-known firm of McKim, Mead & White a year later. It was also this trip that influenced the first two landmark examples of the Colonial Revival style designed by the firm: the Appleton House in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the HAC Taylor House in Newport, Rhode Island. The simplicity of colonial designs and honest use of materials with more economical plans than the recently popular Picturesque homes also contributed to the growing popularity of the style. Even a century after “modern” architecture was introduced, Colonial Revival motifs continue to be popular in new construction.

Early Colonial Revival examples were rarely historically accurate, with exaggerated forms and elements which took inspiration from the details of colonial precedents. Georgian and Federal examples had the largest influence on the revival with elements such as colonial door surrounds, multi-pane sash windows, and cornice dentils on a symmetrical façade. Secondary influences came from First Period Post-Medieval English and Dutch Colonial examples, evident in gambrel-roofed examples or later Colonial Revival examples with second-story overhangs. More researched and accurate examples appeared between 1915 and 1935, aided by the publication of a large number of books and periodicals on the subject of colonial architecture. However, the economic depression of the 1930s followed by the Second World War led to a simplification of the style in later examples with stylized door surrounds, cornices, or windows merely suggesting a colonial precedent.

Geographic Range:
Domestic construction during the first half of the twentieth century was dominated by Colonial Revival examples in a multitude of various sub-types. Well-suited for domestic architecture, examples can be found throughout the country.

Typical Features:

  • Accentuated front door with decorative pediment supported by pilasters or extended forward and supported by slender columns to form entry porch
  • Fanlights and sidelights common; Palladian windows common
  • Façade symmetry; centered door; aligned windows
  • Double-hung sash windows usually with multi-pane glazing; frequently in adjacent pairs; multi-pane upper sash with single pane lower sash and bay windows (not historically accurate) were popular
  • One-story wings, usually with a flat roof and commonly embellished with a balustrade
  • Broken pediments, rare on original colonial structures popular in Colonial Revival examples
  • Door surrounds tend to be shallow (less deep) than originals and exhibit machine-planed smoothness
  • Dormers, often with exaggerated, eclectic pediments
  • Masonry cladding grew in popularity as technology for using brick or stone veneer improved after 1920
  • Gable, Hipped, or Gambrel roofs
  • Details tend to be exaggerated with larger proportions than original elements
  • Details from two or more types of Colonial styles often combined so pure replicas of a particular style are far less common than eclectic mixtures
  • Interior floor plans are not symmetrical and are more open than historic examples

Gallery of Colonial Revival examples

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Architectural Style Guide