This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Gothic Revival Style 1830 – 1860

Identifiable Features

1.  Pointed arches as decorative element and as window shape
2.  Front facing gables with decorative incised trim (vergeboards or bargeboards)
3.  Porches with turned posts or columns
4.  Steeply pitched roof
5.  Gables often topped with finials or crossbracing
6.  Decorative crowns (gable or drip mold) over windows and doors
7.  Castle-like towers with parapets on some high style buildings
8.  Carpenter Gothic buildings have distinctive board and batten vertical siding

Gothic

The Gothic Revival style is part of the mid-19th century picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting the public’s taste for buildings inspired by medieval design. This was a real departure from the previously popular styles that drew inspiration from the classical forms of ancient Greece and Rome. While distinctly different, both the Gothic Revival style and the Greek Revival style looked to the past, and both remained popular throughout the mid 19th century. The Gothic Revival style in America was advanced by architects Alexander Jackson Davis and especially Andrew Jackson Downing, authors of influential house plan books, Rural Residences (1837), Cottage Residences (1842), and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). This style was promoted as an appropriate design for rural settings, with its complex and irregular shapes and forms fitting well into the natural landscape. Thus, the Gothic Revival style was often chosen for country homes and houses in rural or small town settings.

The Gothic Revival style was also popular for churches, where high style elements such as castle-like towers, parapets, and tracery windows were common, as well as the pointed Gothic arched windows and entries. The Carpenter Gothic style is a distinctive variation of the Gothic Revival style featuring vertical board and batten wooden siding, pointed arches and incised wooden trim. The name comes from the extensive use of decorative wood elements on the exterior. While some examples remain, the pure Carpenter Gothic style is not well represented in Pennsylvania.

The most commonly identifiable feature of the Gothic Revival style is the pointed arch, used for windows, doors, and decorative elements like porches, dormers, or roof gables. Other characteristic details include steeply pitched roofs and front facing gables with delicate wooden trim called vergeboards or bargeboards. This distinctive incised wooden trim is often referred to as “gingerbread” and is the feature most associated with this style. Gothic Revival style buildings often have porches with decorative turned posts or slender columns, with flattened arches or side brackets connecting the posts. Gothic Revival style churches may have not just pointed arch windows and porticos, but often feature a Norman castle-like tower with a crenellated parapet or a high spire.

Many examples of Gothic Revival buildings of both high style and more vernacular character can be found across the state. The high style buildings, mansions, churches, prisons and schools sometimes offer ornate architectural details. The more common vernacular buildings may have only a few Gothic details, usually pointed arch windows and a front facing gable with wooden trim. Gothic Revival details may also be found in urban settings on rowhouses or duplexes. Later in the 19th century, Gothic Revival details were mixed with elements of other Victorian era styles to become a style known as the Victorian Gothic. In the early 20th century, a distinct variation of the Gothic Revival style, known as the Collegiate Gothic style, developed primarily for educational buildings. These derivative forms of the Gothic Revival style are more fully discussed elsewhere in this field guide.

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Romanesque Revival Style 1840 – 1900

Identifiable Features

1.  Masonry construction
2.  Round arches at entrance windows
3.  Heavy and massive appearance
4.  Polychromatic stonework on details
5.  Round tower
6.  Squat columns
7.  Decorative plaques

Romanesque

The Romanesque Revival style was introduced in the United States in the mid 19th century, as architectural ideas from Europe, based on the buildings of ancient Rome, were imported here. Only a few public buildings were built in this style until the talented and influential American architect Henry Hobson Richardson embraced the style in the 1870s and 1880s. Richardson, a graduate of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, developed a more dramatic version of this style with bolder, wider arches and strong sculptural forms. The Richardsonian Romanesque version of the style continued to be used for public buildings but also became popular for residential mansions. Interest in this style continued to grow after Richardson’s death in 1886 with the publishing of a book on his work and later pattern books and builders’ guides. Buildings of Romanesque Revival style are most easily identified by their pronounced round arches and heavy, massive stone or brick construction. Most have round towers, squat columns and decorative plaques with intricate or interlacing patterns. Since masonry buildings were more expensive to build than wooden ones, Romanesque Revival structures are less common than some of the other Victorian era styles executed in wood.  With its strong sense of gravity and permanence, the Romanesque Revival style was especially suited to churches, university buildings, prisons and other public buildings.

 One of the best known buildings of the Romanesque Revival style in Pennsylvania is the 1884 Allegheny Courthouse and Jail in Pittsburgh, one of the last designs of Henry Hobson Richardson.  Other excellent examples of this style can be found throughout the state, especially in church and school buildings. Many surviving train stations and courthouses are executed in this style as well.

The Romanesque Revival style is seen most often in urban and suburban areas, and rowhouses were a particularly common building type constructed in this style. The areas surrounding Pittsburgh contain a number of buildings inspired by Richardson’s Allegheny Courthouse and Jail. This building influenced construction around southwestern Pennsylvania for over a decade, from public buildings to residential detached homes and rowhouses. It is seen less often in Philadelphia, as Richardson did not have architectural commisions there.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Colonial Revival Style 1880 – 1960

Identifiable Features

1.  Columned porch or portico
2.  Front door sidelights
3.  pedimented door, windows or dormers
4.  Broken pediment over front door
5.  Pilasters
6.  Symmetrical Facade
7.  Double-hung windows, often multi-paned
8.  Bay windows or paired or triple windows
9.  Wood shutters often with incised patterns
10.  Decorative pendants
11.  Side gabled or hipped roofs
12.  Cornice with dentils or modillions

Colonial

One of the most frequently produced and enduring popular styles in America is the Colonial Revival style.  It can be seen in a seemingly endless variety of forms throughout the state and the country and still continues to influence residential architecture today.  Basically, the Colonial Revival style was an effort to look back to the Federal and Georgian architecture of America ’s founding period for design inspiration.  Less commonly, the Post-Medieval English and Dutch Colonial house forms were an influence on the Colonial Revival style.  This enthusiasm to explore the architecture of America ’s founding period was generated in part by the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 celebrating the country’s 100th birthday.  This trend was further promoted by the Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago .

Like most revival efforts, the Colonial Revival style did not generally produce true copies of earlier styles.  Although, in the early years of the 20 th century (1915-1935) there was a real interest in studying and duplicating Georgian period architecture.  Generally, the Colonial Revival style took certain design elements—front façade symmetry, front entrance fanlights and sidelights, pedimented doorways, porches and dormers—and applied them to larger scale buildings.  These colonial era details could be combined in a great variety of ways, creating many subtypes within this style.  In the 1940s and 1950s a more simplified version of the  Colonial Revival style became popular for homes, usually featuring a two story building, a side-gabled or hipped roof, classically inspired door surrounds and windows, shutters and dormers.  Less common are examples of the Dutch Colonial Revival which are distinguished by a gambrel roof, and sometimes a shallow pent roof over the first floor.  Likewise, there are fewer examples of the Colonial Revival style with a second story overhang inspired by the form of Post Medieval English buildings.

The Colonial Revival style was also popular for public buildings, applying common achitectural details of the style to a larger form.  Colonial Revival public buildings include government offices, post offices, libraries, banks, schools and churches.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Sullivanesque Style 1890 – 1930

 

Identifiable Features

1.  Intricately patterned, wide decorative cornice
2.  Vertical bands of windows
3.  Terra cotta or plaster panels with sculptural ornamentation
4.  Flat roof with deep projecting eaves
5.  Tall (6 stories or more) building
6.  Porthole windows at cornice level
7.  Large round or Syrian (Ogee) arch at entry
8.  Curvilinear and entwined decorative pattern – Celtic influenced
9.  Buildings have three distinct parts: top, middle and bottom

Sullivanesque

The Sullivanesque style was created by Louis Sullivan  (1856-1924), a prominent turn of the century  architect. Sullivan was educated at MIT and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and worked for premier Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, before moving to Chicago.    The Sullivanesque style developed in response to the  emergence of tall, steel-frame skyscrapers in the 1890s.  This new building type presented a new design challenge.  Sullivan’s approach was to use ornament and design to delineate a tall building into three distinct parts, an entry level with prominent window and door openings, a mid section with bands of windows with vertical piers, and a top with a highly decorative cornice, often featuring round porthole windows.  Sullivan applied classical design principals to these early skyscrapers.  His tripartite design was distinctive and elegant and shows the influence of the concurrent Art Noveau movement in the decorative panels using geometric forms, curving lines and Celtic inspired entwined patterns.  This elaborate form of ornamentation marks a building as Sullivanesque more so than any other feature.

While several of Sullivan’s early works were constructed in Philadelphia between 1849 and 1860, many of his best-known works are located in the Midwest.  Sullivan worked with and influenced many other significant American architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright,George Grant Elmslie, and William Gray Purcell.  The Sullivanesque style is an urban style, primarily  seen in large cities or regional centers.

 

 

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Meetinghouses 1700 – 1860

Identifiable Features

1.  1 or 2 story height
2.  Two individual entrance doors on front facade
3.  Austere interior furnishings
4.  Side gable roof
5.  Gabled hoods or transom over front door

meetinghouses

The simply designed meetinghouse form is most often associated with the Quaker faith, but is also common to other religious sects, especially the Mennonites.  Other early religious sects built meetinghouse style churches in Pennsylvania as well, including the Moravians, German Baptists, the German or Dutch Reformed, and the Brethren in Christ.   In the early settlement period churches often shared a building for worship, so a meetinghouse may have been built to meet several sects’ needs.   Basically, meetinghouses are physical manifestations of faith.  Thus, religious sects that emphasized simplicity, piety, equality, and a focus on the spiritual, not material world chose the meetinghouse form of church as an expression of their religious values.  Interestingly, the Amish, a sect with many of these values, do not build churches or meetinghouses; rather they worship in homes or barns.

Quaker meetinghouses are among the earliest religious buildings in our state, since Pennsylvania was founded by Quaker William Penn as a colony committed to religious tolerance.   The simple style of the Quaker meetinghouse was derived from late 17th century English patterns and then adapted for use in the colonies.   The Quakers, like the Puritans of that era, desired simply styled churches with little ornamentation.  The building form chosen by the Quakers in Pennsylvania usually had separate entrances for men and women and separate seating areas as well.  Usually one or two stories in height, this Quaker meeting house form has a side gabled roof and often small gabled door hoods.  As a vernacular building type, designed without an architect or a desire to follow current fashionable styles, the meetinghouse form remains relatively unaltered over time.  However, there is some variation in the design of meetinghouses, due to the preferences of religious sects, regional preferences, or the era of construction. Built of stone, brick, log or clapboard, the meetinghouses are representative of building practices in their region.  Interior detail is usually very minimal with pews or benches for seating, but no altar, decorative stained windows, or bell tower.  Some meetinghouses have a front facing gable, but retain the side by side entry doors as does the New Providence Mennonite Church in New Providence, Lancaster County.    A Historic American Building Survey study of meetinghouses in southeastern Pennsylvania was undertaken in 1997 and produced photos and measured drawings of these buildings dating from 1695 to 1903.  This HABS data is available at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/hhhtml.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Georgian Style 1700 – 1800

Identifiable Features

1. Symmetrical form and fenestration (window placement)
2. Multi-pane windows (6-20 panes in each sash) 3. Side-gabled or hipped roof
4. Stone or brick walls
5. Transom window over paneled front door
6. Pediment or crown and pilasters at front entry
7. Cornice with dentils
8. Water table or belt course
9. Corner quoins

georgian_style

The Georgian style, identified by its symmetrical composition and formal, classical details, was the most prevalent style in the English colonies throughout the 18th century. It was the first architect-inspired style in America, a distinct departure from the more utilitarian, earlier buildings that followed prevailing folk traditions. The Georgian style arrived in America via British architectural building manuals called pattern books around 1700. While the Georgian style was popular in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is based on the classical forms of the earlier Italian Renaissance period. English master architects Inigo Jones, Christopher Wren and James Gibbs, inspired by the classicism of the Italian Renaissance developed the Georgian style in England. As the style spread to the colonies, it reflected a period of colonial growth and prosperity and a desire for more formally designed buildings.

A typical Georgian house in Pennsylvania is a stone or brick two-story building with a side-gabled roof and a symmetrical arrangement of windows and doors on the front façade. Usually 5 bays (or openings) across with a center door, the style also commonly features a pedimented or crowned front entrance with flanking pilasters. Other commonly seen details are multi-paned sliding sash windows, often in a 6 light over 6 light pattern, a dentiled cornice, and decorative quoins at the corners of the building. Smaller Georgian buildings might be only 3 bays across, and feature either a center door or side door. The side door version is called a “Two-thirds Georgian” since it follows the Georgian style but lacks two of the usual five bays across the front. This variant of the style, adapted to an urban setting, appears in rowhouse or townhouse form in the state’s early cities. Some Georgian buildings in Pennsylvania were built with a pent roof between the first and second stories, although this was not the common form. Another regional variation of the style is the hooded front door, marked by a shallow roof projecting from the decorative crown at the front entry.

Elements of the Georgian style in various vernacular forms appear on buildings in Pennsylvania throughout the 18th century and beyond.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Queen Anne Style 1880 – 1910

Identifiable Features

1.  Abundance of decorative elements
2.  Steeply pitched roof with irregular shape
3.  Cross gables
4.  Asymmetrical facade
5.  Large partial or full width porch
6.  Round or polygonal corner tower
7.  Decorative spindlework on porches and gable trim
8.  Projecting bay windows
9.  Patterned masonry or textured wall surfaces including half timbering
10.  Columns or turned post porch supports
11.  Patterned shingles
12.  Single pane windows, some with small decorative panes or stained glass

Late Victorian

For many, the Queen Anne style typifies the architecture of the Victorian age.  With its distinctive form, abundance of decorative detail, corner tower, expansive porches and richly patterned wall surfaces, the Queen Anne style is easy to identify.  High style Queen Anne buildings are often considered local landmarks, ornate and showy attention getters.  This style is present in communities across the country in numerous variations of form and detail.  It was the most popular style for houses in the period from 1880 to 1900, but is often employed for large scale public buildings as well.

The style was first created and promoted by Richard Norman Shaw and other English architects in the late 19th century.  The name refers to the Renaissance style architecture popular during the reign of England’s Queen Anne (1702-1714). Actually, the Queen Anne style is more closely related to the medieval forms of the preceding Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England.  The style became popular in the United States through the use of pattern books and the publishing of the first architectural magazine “The American Architect and Building News.”  The Queen Anne style evolved from those early English designs to become a distinctly American style with numerous, sometimes regional variations.  The use of three dimensional wood trim called spindlework was an American innovation made  possible by the technological advances in the mass production of wood trim and the ease of improved railroad transport.  While the Queen Anne style can take a variety of forms, certain key elements are commonly found.    Queen Anne buildings almost always have a steep roof with cross gables or large dormers, an asymmetrical front façade, and an expansive porch with decorative wood trim.  A round or polygonal front corner tower with a conical roof is a distinctive Queen Anne feature on many buildings of this style.  Wall surfaces are usually highly decorative with variety of textures from shingles to half timbering, to panels of pebbles or bas relief friezes.

 

 

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Stick Style 1860 – 1890

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched gable roof
2.  Cross gables
3.  Decorative trusses at gable peak
4.  overhanging eaves with exposed rafters
5.  Wood exterior walls with clapboards
6.  horizontal, vertical or diagonal decorative wood trim – stickwork
7.  Porches with diagonal or curved braces
8.  Towers

Stick Style

The most distinctive stylistic element of the Stick style is the  decorative stickwork or bands of wood trim applied horizontally, vertically or diagonally to the exterior wall surfaces.  A similar pattern of decorative wood trim appears in the trusses of the gables and across gables and on the porch braces.  The stick style is considered to be a transitional style, with decorative details similar to the preceding Gothic Revival Style , and a shape and form closely related to the following Queen Anne Style.  All three styles are inspired by Medieval English building tradition and thus, share some common features.  Unlike the Gothic Revival style, the Stick style treats wall surfaces, not just doorways, cornices, windows and porches as decorative elements.

Like other Picturesque styles, the Stick style was promoted by the pattern books of Andrew Jackson Downing in the mid-1800s.  The exterior stickwork was considered to be display  structural honesty by showing the supportive wooden understructure on the outside.  Since the stickwork on the walls was purely decorative rather than structurally relevant, such an argument for the greater integrity of form of this style seems somewhat unfounded.  The Stick style was never as popular and wide spread as the somewhat later Queen Anne Style which appears in various forms all over Pennsylvania and the United States.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Traditional Octogon 1850 – 1870

Identifiable Features

1.  Octagonal shaped building
2.  Low pitched hipped roof
3.  Wide overhanging eaves
4.  Brackets at the cornice
5.  Partial or fully encircling porch
6.  Octagonal cupola on some versions

Octo

The Octagon Mode is a distinctive and remarkable yet relatively rare architectural style, which enjoyed a brief period of popularity primarily in the years from 1850 until 1870. Previously, Adam- or Federal-style buildings had occasionally featured octagonal wings or projections, so the octagon form was not a new creation. Several prominent designers (including Thomas Jefferson) built octagon buildings in the United States in the late 18th and early 19th century, but the octagon house form seldom appeared until it was reintroduced to the public through the writings of Orson Squire Fowler in 1848.

Fowler was a public lecturer, writer, and eccentric, and he promoted this style in his book The Octagon House: A House for All. He viewed the octagon form as a healthful, economical, and modern innovation in housing and argued that it offered increased sunlight and ventilation, as well as savings on heating and building costs. Octagon houses were built across the country but were more of an anomaly than a common style. The Northeast and Midwest had the greatest number of octagon buildings. Octagon houses often incorporated elements of other styles, the Greek and Gothic Revival  styles, and especially the Italianate. Few residences were built in the octagon style after 1865. However, the octagon form continued to be used for barn and outbuilding construction from the mid to late 1800s. Tollhouse and railroad stations of this era were sometimes built in the octagon form as well.

Interestingly, the octagon appeared in Pennsylvania almost one hundred years before Fowler published his book, in the form of small stone school buildings in the southeastern portion of the state. Documentation suggests that Quakers began building octagonal stone school buildings in southeastern Pennsylvania as early as the 1760s. It is assumed that this school form is derived from English or Scots-Irish folk tradition, a variation on the one-room schoolhouse. The Quakers are thought to have embraced this octagonal school form due to the simplicity of its design, simplicity being a key principle of the Quaker faith. Additionally, the octagonal style buildings were practical, being less expensive to build and heat, and easier to ventilate and light. By the early 1800s, the stone octagonal school house form was so common in southeastern Pennsylvania that both Quakers and non-Quakers employed it. Several of these unique octagonal stone schools survive, with construction dates from 1802 to 1841.

This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania.  In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century.  This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950

PA Architecture Chateauesque Style 1860 – 1910

Identifiable Features

1.  French chateau-like appearance
2.  Round tower with conical roof
3.  Steeply pitched hipped or gable roof, often with cresting
4.  Tall chimneys with decorative caps
5.  Round arch or flattened basket-handle arch entry
6.  Multiple dormers
7.  Quatrefoil or arched tracery decorative elements
8.  Balustraded terrace
9.  Usually of masonry (stone or brick) construction

Chat

The Chateauesque style is exactly what it sounds like: an effort to recreate the appearance and stylistic elements of the palatial French chateaus of the 16 th century.  Details borrow elements from the Gothic style and the Renaissance style, just as the original Chateau designs did.  The Chateauesque style was popularized in the US by by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France .  Buildings of this style are almost always architect-designed, grand places intended to impress.

Chateauesque style buildings are easy to identify due to their imposing appearance and characteristic complex roof line with abundant detailing.  Buildings of this style have steeply pitched hipped (and sometimes gabled) roofs, topped by cresting or finials, and pierced by decorative gabled wall dormers. Low relief carving may ornaments the dormer gables and window surrounds.  Chimneys are tall and have decorative corbelled tops.  Another standout feature is a round tower topped by a conical roof, although some more modest examples of the style may omit the tower.  Balconies may feature Gothic inspired quatrefoil or arched tracery patterns.  Entry doors often have round arches or a flattened arch with an ogee arch molding.

Most examples of this rather rare style are found in a sophisticated urban setting or on an estate where such opulent, high style buildings might be expected.  Several outstanding mansions of Chateauesque style have been identified in the Philadelphia area and also public buildings such as city halls in other locations.

After the turn of the 20th century, elements of the Chateauesque style were incorporated into a revival form sometimes called the French Eclectic style.  Identified by a round tower with a high conical roof and steeply pitched hipped roof, this style often appears in early 20th century neighborhoods along with other popular revival styles of the the era, such as the Tudor and Colonial Revival styles.