Home Styles Prevalent in Historic Homes in the Triangle

Greek Revival 1825-1860

Greek RevivalThe Greek Revival style became popular in the US in the early part of the 19th Century fueled partly by sympathy for the Greeks for their part in the Revolutionary War and the consequential decline in the British influenced Adam style, predominant until that time. The style spread across the country due to the influence of carpenters guides and pattern books popular at the time. In addition there were a growing number of trained architects in America, some trained abroad. One of the most famous styles of Greek Revival architecture is the full-colonnaded mansion of the south, sometimes refereed to as ‘Southern Colonial’, Just think of Tara in Gone With the Wind. Greek Revival started to lose popularity in the 1860’s.

Identifying Features

Gabled or hipped roof of low pitch; cornice line of main roof and porch roof emphasized with wide band of trim; most have porches, either entry or full width supported by predominant square or round columns, typically of the Doric style; front door surrounded by narrow sidelights and a rectangular line of transom lights above, door and lights usually incorporated in more elaborate door surround.

Gothic Revival 1840-1880

Gothic Revival started in England in latter part of the 18th Century with homes being built or re-modeled in the Medieval style complete with turrets, battlements and multi-pointed windows. The trend moved to the US in the early part of the 19th Century, mainly in rural locations. Though a number of Gothic Revival churches still exist there are very few residential examples in the Triangle.

Identifying Features

Steeply Pitched Roof, usually with steep cross gable; gables commonly have decorated vergeboards; wall surface extending into gable without break; windows commonly extended into gables, frequently having pointed (Gothic) arch; one-story porch, often supported by flattened Gothic arches.

Italianate 1840-1885

ItalianateAs with the Gothic Revival, Italianate style began in England in reaction to formal classical ideas which had bee fashionable for the previous 200 years. The movement emphasized the rambling informal Italian farmhouse or country villa style with characteristic square towers. While following the principals of the European movement America developed it’s own indigenous style with only hints of the original Latin style. The first Italianate homes were built in the US in the late 1830’s the style being popularized by the pattern books of Andrew Jackson Downing. By the 1860’s it had completely overshadowed the Gothic style. The decline of Italianate style began with the financial panic of 1873 and the subsequent depression.

Identifying Features

Two or three stories, rarely one; low pitched roof with widely overhanging eaves having decorative brackets beneath; tall, narrow windows, commonly arched or curved above; windows frequently with elaborate crowns, usually of inverted U shape; many examples with square cupola or tower.

Second Empire 1855-1885

Second EmpireThe Second Empire style of architecture, also known as the Mansard style, is of French inspiration. France’s Second Empire, under Napoleon III and Eugenie, lasted from 1852 to 1870. During this glamorous period the boulevards of Paris were lined with grand townhouses with mansard roofs. A mansard roof has a very shallow slope on the top, and a very steep slope on the sides, with dormer windows. It was named for 17th-century architect Francois Mansart, who used it on most of his buildings. The mansard roof became popular during the Second Empire because a new property tax was imposed based on the height of a building, but the height was measured only to the lower edge of the roof. With a mansard roof, one could add an extra story without paying extra taxes.By the 1860s this style spread to the United States, and because of its popularity during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, it was often called the “General Grant” style.

Identifying Features

Mansard (dual-pitched hipped) roof with dormer windows on steep lower slope; molded cornices normally bound the lower roof slope both above and below; decorative brackets usually present below eaves.

Folk VictorianFolk Victorian 1870-1910

Folk Homes are traditional locally designed and built homes. The growth of the railroad in the late 19th century made it possible to transport bulky, pre-formed materials over long distances. Homes were therefore not as dependent on materials available locally. Some homes were designed to have Victorian details on traditional designs others just grafted, now inexpensive, machine made, Victorian detailing onto older homes. After about 1910 these Symmetrical Victorian houses, as they were sometimes called were replaced by Craftsman, Colonial Revival and other fashionable eclectic styles.

Identifying Features

Porches with spindlework detailing (turned spindels and lace-like spandrels “Gingerbread”) or flat, jigsaw cut trim appended to National Folk house forms; normally, but not always, symmetrical facade; cornice line brackets are common.

Queen Anne 1880-1910

Queen AnneThe name ‘Queen Anne’ is actually a misnomer. The style, named and originally popularized by a group of 19th century English architects, borrows far more heavily from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods than the formal renaissance architecture of Queen Anne’s reign (1702-1714). Originally half timbered or masonry structures typical in English Queen Anne styles are replaced with complex spindle works and free classic sub-types in US interpretations.

Identifying Features

Steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, usually with dominant front facing gable; patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows and other devices used to avoid a smooth walled appearance; asymmetrical facade with partial or full width porch which is usually one story and extended along one or both sides.

Colonial Revival 1880-1955

Colonial RevivalThe Colonial Revival era was a re-birth in interest in early English and Dutch houses of the Atlantic seaboard. The main style features of Colonial Revival were taken from Georgian and Adam homes of the late 18th and early 19th Century, with influences from post-Medieval and Dutch Colonial style. Early examples didn’t follow one particular historic style, rather took features from two or more precedents. As printing technology improved allowing detailed photos and plans to be reproduced in periodicals and magazines it was possible to build more faithful reproductions of early Colonial homes. The latter part of the Colonial Revival period coincided with the availability of the automobile, this resulted in larger plots in urban areas to accommodate driveways or even garages.

Identifying Features

Accentuated front door, normally with decorative crown supported by pilasters or extended forward and supported by slender columns to form an entry porch; doors often have overhead fanlights or sidelights; facade normally shows symmetrically balanced windows and center door; windows with double hung sashes, usually with multi-pane glazing in one or both sashes; windows often in adjacent pairs.

Neoclassical 1895-1950

NeoclassicalIn 1893 the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago. The organizers mandated a classic theme for the Expo and many of the top architects of the day designed dramatic buildings around the theme. The main buildings were on a monumental scale but the state pavilions were more the size of domestic dwellings. This is the source  of the inspiration for the Neoclassical homes popular around the country at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Identifying Features

Facade dominated by full height porch supported by classical columns; columns typically have Ionic or Corinthian capitals; facade shows symmetry with balanced windows and center door.

Craftsman 1900-1930

Craftsman StyleCraftsman style homes were primarily inspired by Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene two brothers who practiced architecture together in Southern California. In the early years of the 20th Century they designed many Craftsman style bungalows, several influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement and an interest in oriental wooden architecture. The style spread across the country due to publicity given by popular magazines at the time and pattern books. It was even possible to buy Craftsman homes in completely pre-cut packages of lumber to be assembled by local labor. A number of such homes in Historic Oakwood came from the Sears Roebuck catalog. The style fell from favor after the mid 1920’s with few being built after the 1930’s.

Identifying Features

Low Pitched, gabled roof with wide, unenclosed, eave overhang; roof rafters usually exposed; decorative beams or braces commonly added under gables; porches, either full or partial width with roof supported by tapered square columns.



A Field Guide to American Houses, Virgina and Lee McAlester, Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. ISBN 978-0-394-73969-4