American Period Styles of Housing

By: Jose Mijares

Romantic Revival (1800-1885)

Romantic architecture takes its cue from the movement called Romanticism, which first developed in England during the late 18th century and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Romanticism spread from Europe to the United States, and is best known in literature. In architecture, Romanticism often evokes past styles, such as the Gothic style, seen in the mid-19th-century Gothic Revival. The Roman Classical Revival style (sometimes called Roman Classicism) and later the Greek Revival style emulated the form of classical Roman and Greek temples. The Italianate style began in England with the picturesque movement of the 1840s. With the picturesque, movement, however, builders began to design fanciful recreations of Italian Renaissance villas. When the Italianate style moved to the United States, it was reinterpreted again to create a uniquely American style.

Late Victorian (1850-1910)

This was the time period in American architecture known for intricate and highly decorative styles such as the Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, Stick/Eastlake, Shingle, Renaissance Revival and Chateauesque. The tall, steeply roofed, asymmetrical form of Victorian era buildings is based on a Medieval prototype, with a variety of stylistic details applied.

Mansard Style (1860-1900)

The Second Empire style, also called the French Second Empire style or Mansard style, was an immensely popular style throughout the United States in the 1860s and 1870s. Some characteristics of a Mansard Style Home were:

  • Mansard roof
  • Patterned shingle roof
  • Iron roof crest
  • Decorative window surrounds and dormers
  • Eaves with brackets
  • One story porch
  • Tower
  • Quoins
  • Balustrades

Queen Anne (1880-1910)

For many, the Queen Anne style typifies the architecture of the Victorian age and it was one of the most popular styles of homes. Some identifiable features of this style were:

  • Abundance of decorative elements
  • Steeply pitched roof with irregular shape
  • Cross gables
  • Asymmetrical facade
  • Large partial or full width porch
  • Round or polygonal corner tower
  • Decorative spindlework on porches and gable trim
  • Projecting bay windows
  • Patterned masonry or textured wall surfaces including half timbering
  • Columns or turned post porch supports
  • Patterned shingles
  • Single pane windows, some with small decorative panes or stained glass

Neo-Classical (1900-1940)

Since this style was more scaled down and flexible than its grander cousin, the Beaux-Arts, Neoclassical spread prolifically throughout the U.S. and became popular for a wide range of everyday buildings. Some features were:

  • classical symmetry
  • full-height porch with columns
  • temple front
  • dentil cornices.