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Architectural Styles - Two Hundred years of Residential Design

2015-12-15 09:50:00

Architectural Styles - Two Hundred years of Residential Design.

I hope the reader finds this article interesting, but I have to admit, up front, that it may be more opinion than fact.

As an architect I want to briefly touch base on the evolution of architectural styles in American residential design.

Rather than going back to saltbox style homes of New England or Flemish detailing found on Bacon’s Castle in Surry County, Virginia let’s move forward nearly seventy years and begin with Georgian homes. Many of the plantation homes along the James River are Georgian. Hallmarks of the style are rigid symmetry, hipped roofs, sashed windows, pilasters and pedimented dormers. The Georgian Period extended until around 1800.

The Federal style reigned from around 1780 through 1820 and homes were typified by low pitched roofs, an elliptical fan light over the entry, thin muntins, lintel window heads and louvered shutters. Point of Honor built in 1815 is a prime Lynchburg example.

Roman Classicism or Jeffersonian styling was popular through the 1830’s. This design can be found at Poplar Forest and Belle Grove on the Cedar Creek battlefield. Each have pedimented Tuscan porticos, a raised basement, lunettes in the portico gable and plain entablatures. Semi-circular fan lights over the entry are common also, although not at Poplar Forest.

Between 1820 and 1860 the Greek Revival style was in vogue. Elements that are typically found within this style include a gabled front similar to a Greek temple with either Doric, Ionic or Corinthian detailing. The roofs are of a low pitch and the entablature is most often full and deep. Rectangular transoms were typical and window and door heads often had shoulders.

The middle of the 1800’saw a softening of the classical design with the emergence of the Gothic Revival period. Homes of this period were more cottage in feel with steep roof pitches, chimney pots, gingerbread eave trim, pointed arches, and stucco finishes.

The Italian Villa style was popular through the 1880’s with homes showing off tall towers with bracketed roof lines. Roofs were typically composed of gentle roof pitches, arched windows in a grouping and exterior balconies.

The Second Empire period extended through the 1890’s and was a style of extensive detailing with mansard roofs, quoins, tall chimneys with decorated caps, paired brackets supporting roof soffits and veranda porches.

By 1900 the Queen Anne style was everyone’s favorite with a wide variety of colors and patterns along with towers adorned with conical roofs, multiple roof lines, wide eyebrow dormers, horizontal and board and batten siding, varied patterns of window panes, roof finials, circular porches, stained glass and diagonal shingles to name a few of the many details that created this architectural style.

From around 1900 through the early 1940’s, the bungalow style was prevalent and was much different from anything prior. This style has seen a reemergence lately and is often referred to the Craftsman style today. Design elements include a gabled roof facing the street, shed dormers, wood shingle siding, tapered columns, exposed rafter tails, and gable brackets and trim.

This has been a brief description of residential styles of architecture spanning two hundred years from the mid 1700’s to the mid 1900’s. Custom designers today can recreate any of these architectural styles or marry various styles together to create a home as unique as the homeowner.

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