From the early 1820s to the late 1850s, American architecture was dominated by the Greek Revival style. The style's popularity stemmed from the American appreciation of ancient Greek democracy and identification with the 19th century Greek struggle for independence against the Ottoman empire. As the style developed, American architects incorporated elements of classical Greek architecture into their designs, intending Greek Revival style to visually evoke the strength, majesty and values associated with ancient Greece.
Elements of Greek Revival Style
The most recognizable and universal feature of Greek Revival architecture is the appearance of columns supporting a pediment (a kind of gable -- the triangular part of the wall under a roof) or a porch roof at the building's entry. Below the roof, Greek Revival buildings frequently have an ornamental molding, known as a cornice. This style focuses on a heavy use of symmetry, a low-pitched, gabled or hipped (pyramidal) roof and in residential buildings, a minimal chimney. Larger mansions and government buildings were frequently designed to resemble Greek temples. Many buildings in this style were painted white to resemble the marble found in ancient Greek architecture.
Neoclassical architecture, a precursor to Greek Revival inspired by classical Roman and Greek design, rose to popularity in America during the last half of the 18th century. This style incorporated details of Greek and Roman architecture, but did not attempt to fully recreate classical buildings in the way that Greek Revival eventually would. Early neoclassical examples, based more on Roman than Greek design, include the Senate and the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, one of the world's most important financial institutions from 1816 to 1832, was one of the first government buildings to fully represent the Greek Revival movement. Architect William Strickland, inspired by the Parthenon, designed the bank to fully resemble a Greek temple.
Greek Revival style flourished in New England and mid-Atlantic states such as Pennsylvania, where it could be found on residential architecture in addition to public buildings. In the Northeast, Greek Revival houses usually had front-facing gables and frequently included a type of ornamental column known as a pilaster in the corners of the building's front, or facade. In addition to traditional homes, row houses such as those on Pennsylvania's Portico Row also employed the Greek style. These buildings were made of brick rather than marble or painted white wood and included shared porticos (covered porches leading to an entryway) supported by Greek-style Ionic columns.
Although extremely popular in states such as Louisiana and Georgia, Southern Greek Revival architecture differed from Northern versions of the style. Rather than emulating a temple, many residential homes, especially in Louisiana, were made in a galleried cottage style. A galleried cottage was a large, cottage-style home with a portico and Greek columns. The double gallery was also popular in Southern states and included a two-story facade with a porch on both stories and columns extending the entire height of the facade.
- Louisiana Office of Lieutenant Governor: The Greek Revival Style
- Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission: Early Classical Revival Style: Roman Classical Revival 1790 - 1830, Greek Revival 1820- 1860
- College of the Holy Cross: Worcester's Greek Revival
- Bryn Mawr College: The Lure of Greek Revival Renditions
- National Park Service: Second Bank
- Architect of the Capitol: Explore Capitol Hill
- Historic New England: Architectural Style Guide
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