Do you enjoy looking at majestic and powerful structures? Are you entranced by grand columns, intricate details, and sky-high facades? If so, then it’s time to take a closer look at the classic style of Greek Revival architecture. Think opulent buildings with stately pediments and heavy classical adornment, all inspired by ancient Greece. In this blog post we’ll take a closer look at some of the defining features found in Greek Revival buildings along with their unique cultural significance. So let's dive into the world of Greek Revival architecture!
What Is Greek Revival Architecture?
Greek Revival architecture draws inspiration from the harmonious blend of symmetry, proportion, simplicity, and elegance found in ancient Greek temples from the 5th century B.C. Flourishing between 1825 and 1860 in the United States, Greek Revival became the nation's primary architectural style, stretching from the East Coast to the West Coast. However, its dominance was interrupted with the onset of the Civil War.
The History of Greek Revival
James "Athenian" Stuart, a British architect, introduced Greek Revival to the United Kingdom after being captivated by the splendor of Greek architecture during his 1751 journey to Greece. He published Antiquities of Athens in 1762, the world's first reference book on Classical Greek architecture, which helped popularize the style beyond its Mediterranean origin. In America, Greek Revival thrived as a symbol of democracy in the early 19th century. Americans drew inspiration from ancient Greece's democratic roots, embracing its culture, art, and philosophy. They moved away from the British-influenced federal style, adopting a more authentically democratic approach. The Greek War of Independence further inspired them to adopt ideals of democracy and independence. American developers and builders embraced Greek Revival as a national style, incorporating it into various structures like state capitol buildings, banks, churches, row houses, cottages, and plantation houses. Books on architectural patterns, like "The Companion for American Builders," "The Assistant for Builders," and "The Marvels of Contemporary Architecture," played a crucial role in the quick dissemination of this design. Greek Revival's expansion in the United States resulted in captivating regional adaptations reflecting local preferences and materials. Notable examples include New Orleans' galleried cottages and double-galleried townhouses, as well as Manhattan's iconic Colonnade Row townhouses, credited to architect Andrew Jackson D.
Greek Revival Elements and Key Characteristics
- Columns and Pediments: This architectural style features tall columns and pediments, resembling the ancient Greek temple type with its imposing row of columns and a triangular pediment above.
- Painted Plaster Facade: Unlike the stone structures in Greece, American Greek Revival homes were constructed with wood and plaster, which were then painted white to mimic the appearance of stone.
- Horizontal Transom: Instead of the fanlight seen in previous Federal Period homes, Greek Revival houses feature a horizontal transom above the front entrance.
- Bold Moldings: Both the interior and exterior of the home are adorned with bold yet simple moldings, reflecting the high-style aesthetic of Greek Revival.
- Embellishments: More affluent residences exhibit intricate details, such as framed dormer windows on the second level with pilasters and pediments. Less opulent homes incorporate similar elements but with fewer embellishments.
Greek Revival style offers a captivating glimpse into history, showcasing the enduring influence of ancient Greece and its timeless beauty. From its origins in the UK to its prominence in the US, this style stands as a testament to the lasting allure of classical elements and their widespread impact. When admiring these grand structures, we connect with the past by appreciating the architectural marvels of Greek Revival.