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Romantic

The Romantic style of house includes three subgroups:

  • Greek Revival
  • Gothic Revival
  • Italianate

During the preceding Colonial era, a single architectural style tended to dominate in each colony for long periods of time; Georgian houses, for example, were the fashion in the English colonies through most of the 18th century. Likewise the first popular Romantic style, the Greek Revival, dominated the newly independent United States through much of the first half of the 19th century. Architectural models evocative of Greek democracy were thought to be especially appropriate in the new republic, as it rejected traditional ties to England in the decades following the War of 1812.

By the 1840s, a new trend toward competition among several acceptable architectural fashions was taking shape. The harbinger of this movement was the publication in 1842 of the first popular pattern book of house styles—Andrew Jackson Downing’s Cottage Residences. Downing showed full-façade drawings of several new fashions that he considered suitable alternatives to the prevailing Greek classicism. Medieval precedents were recommended in models that were to lead to the Gothic Revival style. Likewise, Italian Renaissance traditions were freely adapted in Downing’s “Italianate” cottages.

Now, for the first time, builders and homebuyers had a choice. Soon, neighborhoods of alternately Greek, Gothic and Italianate houses became commonplace. The simultaneous popularity of several architectural styles with differing antecedents was to persist as a dominant theme throughout the later history of American housing.

Excerpted from A Field Guide to American Houses, Virginia and Lee McAlester, Alfred Knopf, New York, © 2000.