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 Exotic Revival Style 1830 – 1850, 1920 – 1930

Identifiable Features

Egyptian Revival Style
1.  Massive columns resembling bundles of sticks
2.  Vulture & sun disk symbol
3.  Rolled (cavetto) cornice
4.  Window enframements that narrow upward

Moorish or Oriental Revival Style
1.  Ogee (pointed) arch
2.  Complex and intricate details with a Middle Eastern or Oriental theme
3.  Recessed porches
4.  Onion dome or minaret
5.  Mosaic tile trim

Swiss Chalet Revival Style
1.  Front facing projecting gable with wooden cut out trim
2.  Second floor porch with cut out balustrade and trim
3.  Patterned stickwork on exterior walls
4.  Low pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves

exotica

 

 

 

The Exotic Revival style actually encompasses several different styles, all somewhat rare, but so distinctive in design that they are worthy of mention. There are two periods of popularity associated with the Exotic Revival style, an earlier mid-19th century one when the style was first introduced and a subsequent period in the early 20th century when the style was reintroduced and revived again.   Buildings from the later period especially of the Exotic Revival style are often of grand size and scale and public use, such as churches, banks, theaters and government offices.

The Egyptian Revival style is simply the addition of Egyptian inspired columns and decorative motifs to buildings that are similar to the Greek Revival or Italianate styles in form. Scholarly interest in the archaeological discoveries of ancient Egypt early in the 19th century led to the development of Egyptian-themed buildings. The style attempted to recreate the appearance of Egyptian temples, especially with the use of massive columns that resemble sheaves of sticks tied at the top and bottom. Details refer to ancient Egyptian symbols—the phoenix, the sphinx, and the vulture and sun disk. This style was most often applied to public buildings, banks, prisons, courthouses, offices, and cemetery structures. This style was often chosen for buildings representing eternity and the afterlife. The Egyptian Revival Style flourished yet again for public buildings (especially movie theaters) from 1920 to 1930, often utilizing poured concrete as a building material. The 1835 Philadelphia County Prison (demolished in 1968) was one of the first Egyptian Revival buildings in the U.S., of imposing stone design by architect Thomas Ulrich Walter. Most surviving examples of the Egyptian Revival style are theaters, cemetery mausoleums and entry buildings, and banks.  The entrance gate to the Pottsville Cemetery with its massive columns and use of symbolic funereal decorative details is an excellent example of the Egyptian Revival style.

Another variation of the Exotic Revival is the Moorish or Oriental Revival style. This style, evocative of the Middle East or Far East, is notable for its ogee or pointed arch which appears at windows, and porches. Trim is delicate and ornate, sometimes with a lacey pattern. Some Moorish or Oriental Revival buildings have recessed porches or Turkish onion domes. The style was inspired in the late 18th and early 19th century by the increasing trade and contact with the Far East. The stylized and traditional architecture of this region appeared exotic and romantic. Like the Egyptian Revival, the Oriental Revival became popular again in the 1920s and 1930s.  While employing different decorative details and massing, the YMCA Building and Zembo Mosque in Harrisburg  are both examples of the Moorish Revival style. Chuches reflecting the Eastern European cultural tradion often are designed with gilded Moorish style onion domes. While that is a distinctive Moorish Revival style feature, it may be the only element of that style present in the overall design.

The Swiss Chalet Revival Style is another variation of the Exotic Revival style. Examples of this style appeared in the pattern books of Andrew Jackson Downing, which promoted other Romantic styles. Buildings of this style emulate the appearance of Swiss chalets, with a protruding front facing gable. A distinctive element is the second floor porch or balcony with flat cut out balustrade and trim. Sometimes stickwork or half timbering appears on the wall surfaces as well. The style also has a low-pitched roof with wide overhanging eaves supported by with brackets. This style was considered appropriate for rustic or mountainous settings, but it appears, sometimes in a more vernacular form, in varied settings throughout the state.  Few examples of the Swiss Chalet Revival variation of the Exotic style have been identified in Pennsylvania.

All three variations of the Exotic Revival style are relatively rare in Pennsylvania, but are easily identifiable due to their distinctive details.

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 Second Empire/Mansard Style 1860 – 1900

Identifiable Features

1.  Mansard roof
2.  Patterned shingle roof
3.  Iron roof crest
4.  Decorative window surrounds and dormers
5.  Eaves with brackets
6.  One story porch
7.  Tower
8.  Quoins
9.  Balustrades

second

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. It was used extensively in the northeastern and midwestern parts of the country. The Second Empire style had its beginnings in France, where it was the chosen style during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-70), France’s Second Empire, hence its name. Well-attended exhibitions in Paris in 1855 and 1867 helped to spread Second Empire style to England and then the United States. The Second Empire style actually harkens back to an earlier time, the 17th century designs of French architect Francois Mansart, for whom the mansard roof is named.  The mansard roof is the key identifying feature of this style and was considered both a fashionable and functional element since it created a fully usable attic space.

In its time, the Second Empire style was viewed as a contemporary “modern” style, rather than revival style, since it was popular in France and the United States simultaneously and its combined design elements did represent a new building form. The style was first seen in America in the 1850s and flourished after the Civil War. It was so commonly employed in that era that it was sometimes referred to as the “General Grant style.”

Perhaps the best-known example of this style in Pennsylvania is the Philadelphia City Hall, built in 1871-1881. While it is distinguished by its crested mansard roof, City Hall has opulent Second Empire details throughout, including dormers with decorative hoods and elaborate columned window surrounds. Examples of the Second Empire style can be found in almost every Pennsylvania town, usually in the form of single residences, duplexes or rowhouses. Second Empire mansions or public buildings are often elaborately detailed, but many other buildings of this style have only the curving lines of the shingled mansard roof to mark them. Other commonly seen details are a bracketed cornice beneath the mansard roof, round arched windows, decorative dormer windows, an iron crest at the roofline, and columned porches or porticoes.

 

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 Tudor Revival Style 1890 – 1920

Identifiable Features

1.  Steeply pitched roof
2.  Cross gables
3.  Decorative half-timbering
4.  Prominent chimneys
5.  Narrow multi-pane windows
6.  Entry porches or gabled entry
7.  Patterned stonework or brickwork
8.  Overhanging gables or second stories
9.  Parapeted or Flemish gable

Tudor

The Tudor style is an eclectic mixture of early and Medieval English building traditions to create a picturesque, traditional appearance. The term Tudor is somewhat of a misnomer, since the style does not closely follow the building patterns of the English Tudor era of the early 16th century.  Instead, it an amalgam of late medieval English inspired building elements.  The earliest examples of this style were architect designed, and more closely followed original English models of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.  These early and more ornate buildings are sometimes referred to as  Jacobethan style, rather than Tudor.  In the early part of the 20th century, less ornate versions of this medieval English style became very popular for the design of homes, spreading across the country through pattern books, builders’ guides, and mail order catalogs. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Tudor style was second only to the Colonial Revival style in residential popularity.  Tudor buildings are easily identified by their steeply pitched roofs, often with a front facing gables or multiple gables, and half timbered wall surfaces.  Not all Tudor buildings have half-timbering, but all share similar massing and Medieval English decorative details.  These  details might include  an overhanging gable or second story, decorative front or side chimney, diamond shaped casement windows, or a round arched, board and baton front  entry door.  Tudor houses are almost always of stucco, masonry or masonry-veneered construction,  often with ornamental stonework or brickwork.  In some Tudor buildings the roofs curve over the eaves to imitate medieval thatching, or the roof line itself curves from peak to cornice to suggest a medieval cottage. Often picturesque and charming,  Tudor style buildings, mansions and more common homes, can be found throughout the state.

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 Commercial Style 1890 – 1920

Identifiable Features

1.  Vertical emphasis: 6-20 stories in height
2.  Flat roofs
3.  Masonry wall surfaces
4.  Three part windows or projecting bay windows
5.  Decorative cornices
6.  Steel and beam construction
7.  Ground floor storefronts

Commercial Style

The Commercial style reflects advances in construction technology that permitted the creation of very tall buildings, the first skyscrapers in the urban landscape.  This style is sometimes referred to as the Chicago style, after the city where steel-framed, relatively unadorned, utilitarian, tall commercial buildings first appeared in great numbers in the 1890s.  Advances in commercial architectural design in Philadelphia and New York City laid the groundwork for the full development of the Commercial style in Chicago.  William Le Baron Jenney was the first architect to employ the steel frame construction in his design for the Home Insurance building completed in Chicago in 1885.   Other prominent architects who worked in the development of this new building technology included the firms of Adler and Sullivan (Sullivan’s  embellishment of this style became its own distinctive architectural style, the Sullivanesque), Burnham and Root, and Holabird and Roche.  While the style thrived in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century, examples of the Commercial style can be found in many other cities.

Prior to the development of steel frame technology, building height had been limited by the need for massive masonry support walls.  The strength of the steel skeleton allowed for much taller buildings without the bulk of heavy masonry walls.  The invention of the elevator also facilitated the design of tall buildings by making upper floors more easily accessible.  Commercial style buildings reflecting this first wave of skyscraper construction are usually between six and twenty floors in height.  The distinguishing characteristics of this style are a steel skeleton construction, expressed externally as a grid of intersecting piers and cross spandrels, a flat roof with modest cornice, and large bands of windows.  Windows often featured a projecting bay which extended from the ground floor to the top of building.  Another common window type used for Commercial style buildings was the “Chicago window,” comprised of a large fixed central pane, flanked by two narrow casements for ventilation.  The ground floor of Commercial style buildings usually contained large display windows for storefronts.  Some examples of this style employ decorative elements of other popular styles of the era, such as Romanesque or Gothic Revival ornament.  Sullivan’s uniquely curvilinear Art Nouveau inspired ornamental panels led to its distinction as a separate architectural style. Some buildings of Commercial style are very simple in design with no notable ornamentation or reference to past architectural styles.  These bare bones commercial buildings were the precursors of even taller and more simplistic modern skyscraper design.

While the purest description of Commercial style buildings best fits early skyscrapers, many much shorter buildings are sometimes described as Commercial style.  These one to four story brick buildings date from the same era, were designed for commercial use, have large pane windows on the ground floor  and flat roofs, often with decorative parapets.  Early car dealerships and repair shops often take this form with large windows or garage door bays on the ground floor.  This subtype of the style is a more vernacular version that is more prevalent in Pennsylvania than the true high style Commercial style skyscrapers.

 

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