How to identify types of 19th Century Architecture
The best way to begin to get an
understanding of 19th century architecture is to get down to the
very basics of how it came to be and why. The very terms
Elizabethan, Queen Anne, Georgian and Victorian all describe periods
in which English monarchs reigned. Georgian, for
example describes the long era in which a number of kings named
George ruled England. George III was in charge when America
gained it's independence. Any literature, music, architecture
of that era can be called Georgian. Technically, in America, a
true Georgian house must have been built prior to the establishment
of this nation's independence.
Recipe for Change
1. In the later part of
the 18th century, reforms in higher education started taking place.
A new focus was placed on sciences and literature. Prior to
this time, universities were more like monasteries. The majority of
one's study was based on religion. This change meant that
architects were beginning to become exposed to classic art and
literature from all around the world. Designs and styles taken
from ancient ruins began to show up in furniture by Sheraton
and Chippendale and soon began to appear on English-inspired Federal
2. In August of 1814,
British troops invade Washington DC. In a display of power
they loot and burn the city, including the White House, sending
President Madison fleeing into the night. This action was
regarded as completely disrespectful and outside the boundaries of
war at the time. Even the remaining British loyalists turned
their backs on England. This act was not forgotten by the
generation who lived through it, and sparked a strong and long
lasting anti-British movement.
By 1830 Americans were saturated with the classic Roman influences
which had been so embraced by the generation of the founding
fathers. But, things were rapidly changing. The Erie
canal was opened in 1825 encouraging people to begin moving
westward. By 1830 the Hudson river was clogged with
steamboats. Early steam locomotives were making an appearance
causing a transportation revolution. In 1827 Americans rose up
against the establishment and elected Andrew Jackson who unseated
the last remainder of the founding fathers in the name of John
Quincy Adams. Americans believed the age of Jackson was to be
the era of the common man, and the 1830's to be a social revolution.
It only makes sense that the elitism and refinement of the Federal
Style seem so completely out of place.
So what does
this all mean? People were being exposed to architecture and
designs that they had never seen before. It was all very
exciting and new. This sparked not just architects, but
furniture designers, clothing, even hair styles of the era.
Anything that had British styling was almost taboo. The anti
British sentiments ran quite deep, and while trade was still taking
place between the two countries, most things that had a British look
or feel were modified in some way to be anything but British.
And finally, there was a new Democratic era being ushered in.
People were looking for a New America as well. The industrial
revolution gave birth to an emerging middle class. These
people had a little money to spend and were desperate to look like
the long established upper class.
All of these
things came together to form the most explosive period in American
architecture. The Victorian Era.
below does not reflect all styles of Victorian era architecture but
rather the core. As the Victorian era continued, the sheer
number of homes being built rose exponentially. Plan books
were used and land owners could pick any element from any style to
create their own personal home. Architects of the day were
also not keen on building the same house twice, at least not in the
same region. This again resulted in the blending of styles,
especially toward the 1890's. Keep in mind that the people of
that time did not look at these styles as ridged. Homes of
mixed styles were equally celebrated.
The key to
identifying the base style of a 19th century home is to look for the
dominant features. You will find those listed in the links
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