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.

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 Renaissance Revival Style 1890 – 1930

Identifiable Features

1.  Low-pitched hipped or flat roof
2.  Symmetrical facade
3.  Masonry construction
4.  Impressive size and scale
5.  Round arch entrance and windows
6.  Classical details: columns, pilasters
7.  Roof line parapet or balustrade
8.  Arcaded and rusticated ground level

Italian

The Italian Renaissance Revival style developed at the very end of the Victorian period of architecture. Like the Romanesque styles and other later classically-inspired styles, the Italian Renaissance Revival style looked to Italy and the ancient world for inspiration. This style developed in direct contrast to the medieval form and appearance of other popular styles of the time, the Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, and Shingle styles. This style and the earlier Italianate style both were modeled on the 16th century buildings of the Italian Renaissance. However, Italian Renaissance Revival style buildings are much closer stylistically to the original form than the Italianate style. This added authenticity was due to greater familiarity with the original buildings—via photographs versus pattern books—and advances in masonry veneering techniques that developed in the early 20th century.

The most predominant feature of this style is its imposing scale and formal design incorporating classical details such as columns and round arches and balustrades. This style can take several distinct forms, but all variations are almost always of masonry (usually stone) construction. One version of the style features a large rectangular building, usually three or more stories in height, topped by a flat roof with a crowning balustrade. Another common feature for this flat roof version of the Italian Renaissance Revival style is a rusticated stone first floor with upper floors having a smooth finish. Porch arcades and porticos are often seen in this  version as well. The other most common form of this style features a hipped roof, often of clay tiles, with broadly overhanging, bracketed eaves. This variation bears some resemblance to the Spanish Colonial Revival style (also known as the Mission style) which was popular in the same period. While having a similar form and tiled roof, the Spanish Colonial Revival style lacks the classical details like columns, pilasters and pedimented windows.

The Italian Renaissance Revival style was first popularized on the East Coast by architects such as McKim, Mead & White as early as the 1880s. This elegant style is seen mostly in up-scale, architect-designed buildings, such as mansions or public buildings. While many examples of this style can be found in Pennsylvania, it is most common in city settings. The 1920s-era State Office complex (North and South Office Buildings, Finance Building, and Forum Building), adjacent to the Beaux Arts State Capitol building in Harrisburg, is of this style.

 

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 Collegiate Gothic Style 1890 – 1940

Identifiable Features

1.  Gothic arch window and door openings
2.  Masonry (brick or stone) construction
3.  Bas relief decorative panels or plaques
4.  Portico or recessed porch entryway
5.  Buttresses
6.  Tracery windows
7.  Crenulated parapet
8.  Tower or spire

Collegiate Gothic

The Collegiate Gothic Revival style is an early 20th century adaptation of the 19th century Gothic Revival style to serve a specific function, educational buildings.  The Gothic Revival style, which flourished from the period of 1830 through 1890 in the United States, was often chosen for churches and institutional buildings due to its  impressive, medievally-inspired form. In the early 20th century the Gothic Revival style reappeared for an appropriate choice for both university and secondary school buildings.  Prominent universities such as Boston College, Yale, Duke, and Princeton employed the Collegiate Gothic Revival style in this period to create an atmosphere of respected antiquity.  In the 1920s and 30s, many new public and private schools were built in Pennsylvania as a result of changes in educational policy.  These new larger and more complex school buildings had specialized space design for cafeterias, gyms and technical training and were often of Collegiate Gothic style.  While these designs were sometimes rather pared down versions of the more ornate forms of the style with only a few decorative details like an arched and recessed entryway or a few decorative panels, these school buildings are clearly part of the Gothic Revival tradition.  Masonry construction lent a sense of permanence and substance, a fitting image for the public education system, especially as it strove for even greater academic offerings.

 The Collegiate Gothic Revival style can be found throughout the state in the public and private secondary schools of cities and towns, and also on university campuses.  The Philips Memorial Building at West Chester University is a noted example of this style and was built in 1927.  Constructed in 1930, Bishop McDevitt High School  (originally called Catholic High School) in Harrisburg is another  good example of this style as seen as a private secondary school.

 

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 Early Republic Period 1780 – 1830 

The Early Republic Period marks the era when the English colonies declared their independence and the young nation was first established.  The predominant style in this period was the Federal or Adam style, a refined version of the previously popular Georgian style.  Federal style buildings were common in the period from 1780 to about 1830  and were distinguishable from their earlier Georgian counterparts mostly by the more delicate and elaborate classical  details on similar symmetrical facades.  The other style to develop in this period was the Early Classical Revival or Greek Revival style which drew its design inspiration more directly from the ancient buildings of Greece and Rome.  This Early Classical Revival style continued to be employed for much of the nineteenth century, especially for buildings in public use, schools, churches, banks and government offices.

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 Architecturel Spanish Colonial Revival Style 1915 – 1940

Identifiable Features

  1. Low-pitched, clay tile roof
  2. Round arches at entryway, porch or windows
  3. Porch arcade with columns
  4. Low-relief carving at doorways, windows and cornices
  5. Stucco exterior walls
  6. Elaborately carved doors
  7. Decorative window grills of wood or iron
  8. Spiral columns
  9. Multi-paned windows
  10. Balconies or terraces
  11. Curvilinear gable

Spanish The Spanish Colonial Revival Style, also known as the Spanish Eclectic style, is a remnant of the traditional Spanish architectural themes seen in Spain’s early American colonial settlements. The traditional elements like clay tile roofs, round arch openings, and carved wooden doors follow the form of the early Spanish missions and are very distinctive.  Other ornate decorative features draw from later periods of Spanish architecture and show the influence of Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic, or Renaissance design. This revival style became popular in the early 20th century after the Panama-California Exposition was held in San Diego in 1915. Exotic-themed architectural revivals (Egyptian, Moorish, Dutch Colonial, Swiss Chalet) were popular throughout the country in the period from 1920 to 1940. Many good examples of the Spanish Colonial Revival style remain in Pennsylvania.

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 Beaux Arts Style 1885 – 1930

Identifiable Features

1.  Flat or low pitched roof
2.  Wall surfaces with decorative garlands, floral patterns or shields
3.  Symmetrical facade
4.  First story rustic stonework
5.  Grand and imposing in size and scale
6.  Roof line balustrade
7.  Pedimented or arched windows
8.  Columns on porches and porticoes
9.  Quoins

Beaux

The Beaux Arts style, named for the premier French school of architecture, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, was introduced to the United States by American architects like Richard Morris Hunt who attended the prestigious school in the late nineteenth-century.  Hunt designed the Newport, RI mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt, “The Breakers,” in this style in 1892.  The Beaux Arts style was most often seen in places where turn-of-the- century wealth was concentrated, major urban centers and resort communities.  The popularity of this style was advanced by the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  With its grandiose treatment of classic architectural forms, the Beaux Arts style was seen as an ideal expression of both corporate or wealth and civic pride.  Buildings of this style are both formal and monumental with abundant and opulent decorative details.  The Beaux Arts style is especially suited for public buildings designed to deliver a strong symbolic message, such as libraries, museums, court houses, train stations, and government offices.   Privately owned Beaux Arts style mansions delivered a message as well, one of personal wealth.  This style was popular in an era of great American palace building marked by eclectic use of historic architectural themes and elements.

The Beaux Arts style uses formal symmetry, Italian Renaissance form, and  classical Greek and Roman decorative elements like columns, pediments and balustrades to create a grand and imposing architectural statement.  Exterior decorative details include may include quoins, balconies, terraces, porches, and porticoes as well as ornamental windows and grand entrances. This style also featured lavish interiors including pilasters, arched openings, elaborate chandeliers, coffered ceilings, or marble fireplaces.   The State Capitol Building in Harrisburg ,completed in 1906  and  designed by Josephf Huston, is a penultimate example of this style.  Envisioned as a “palace of art,”  the Capitol building has opulent detail and classically inspired design.  Described by President Theodore Roosevelt at its 1906 dedication as “the handsomest State Capitol I ever saw,”  the State Capitol is Beaux Arts style architecture at its most extravagant.   Other examples include private mansions and a vast array of public buildings, courthouses, libraries and offices.