A Concise History of American Architecture (1980)

Style Chronology
Any attempt to show the development and interrelationship of styles is certain to incorporate generalizations and simplifications that do not express adequately the complexities of’ historical fact.. Nonetheless this chronology is presented in the hope that it. may dramatize the many options that have existed for American architects since the early seventeenth century.
The style entries for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries describe ethnic and regional developments whereas those for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are not geographical in organization since the rapid dispersal of’ architectural ideas increasingly erased regional distinctions. It should be remembered that virtually all building in the seventeenth century was vernacular in expression and relatively unselfconscious, while designers thereafter were increasingly selfconscious. The style entries of’ the nineteenth and twentieth centuries show those modes employed by architects, but they indicate little of the far larger volume of important vernacular building.

The dates at which a style emerges or later passes from use are often difficult to pinpoint, for Although it is sometimes known when the first of a type appeared, vernacular variations on a style or expression often continued in outlying areas well after its use had subsided in the area of origin, The dates shown here, therefore, should he considered approximate not absolute.

Provincial Spanish Baroque (Southwest and Florida) c.1600-1840
Provincial Jacobean (Virginia, Carolinas) 1607-1695
Late English Gothic Vernacular (New England) 1620-c.1700
Provincial Dutch Renaissance (New Netherlands) 1624-c.1750
Swedish Vernacular (Delaware, Pa.) c.1638-1665
English Vernacular (New York) 1664-c.1700
English Vernacular (Delaware, Pa.) 1664-c.1700

Early Georgian (in the middle 1680s isolated early Georgian buildings appeared in Boston and Philadelphia)

French Colonial (Mississippi Valley) c.1700-c.1805
Provincial Spanish Baroque 1768-c.1840

Georgian (Maryland, Virginia, Carolinas) 1695-c.1775
Georgian (Middle Colonies) 1703-c.1775
Georgian (New England) 1706-c.1775
Gibbsian Georgian (New England) 1754-c.1790
Gibbsian Georgian (Maryland, Virginia, Carolinas) 1756-c.1799
Gibbsian Georgian (Middle Colonies) 1760-c.1795

Jeffersonian Classicism 1770-c.1820
Gothick” 1799-c.1830

Adamesque Federalist 1787-c.1820
Federalist 1790-c.1820

Greek 1818-c.1850
Early Medieval 1821-c.1850
Gothic 1839-c.1870
Egyptian 1834-c.1850
Renaissance, Italianate and Italian Villa 1837-1860
Romanesque 1845-1875

Downing-Davis Cottage 1842-1890
The Octagon Mode 1848-c.1860

Second Empire Baroque 1855-1880
High Victorian Gothic 1860-1880

Stick Style 1862-c.1880
Eastlake 1872-c.1885
Queen Anne 1875-c.1890
Shingle Style 1879-c.1900

Richardson Romanesque 1880-1895
Francois 1er 1880-1900
Chicago Commercial (Chicago School) 1880-1915

Renaissance 1887-1930
Beaux-Arts 1890-1920
Gothic 1885-1930

Craftsman Bungalow 1895-1940
Bay Area Group (San Francisco) 1900-1915
Prairie School 1900-1920
Northwest Regionalism 1935-1950
Suburban & Regional Eclecticism 1910-1940
Art Deco 1925-1940
Early Modern (International Style) 1929-1940
International Style (Mies and the Second Chicago School) 1940-c.1970
Formalism 1957-
Expressionism 1957-
Brutalism 1959-
Post-Modernism (Creative Eclecticism III) 1964-



adobe From Spanish adobe, which comes from Arabic al-toba “the brick.” A brick of sun-dried mold, grass, mid straw, and by extension, buildings made of such brick.
arcade Literally, a series of arches Supported on columns or square or rectangular piers or a Covered passageway whose sides are open arcades; and by extension a covered way lined with shops even if no arches are used.
architrave From Old French and Old Italian arch-trabs, “chief beam.” Specifically, the lowest element in the entablatures of the Ionic and Co¬rinthian columnar orders (see order), with two or three stepped-back faces; but by extension the frame around windows, doors, and arches in Renaissance architecture (see Fig. 171).
ashlar A dressed or squared stone and the masonry built of Such hewn stone. It may be coursed, with continuous horizontal joints (see Fig. 151b), or random, with discontinuous joints (see Fig. 149).
astylar From Greek n + stylos, “Without column.” Term used to denote a building which, though embodying classical features, has none of the traditional orders or pilasters (see order and pilaster) (see Fig. 88).
axis An imaginary line about which parts of a building, or individual buildings in a group, are disposed, usually with careful attention to bi-lateral symmetry.
baluster From French and Italian derivatives of Greek, balaustion, the flower of the pomegranate, because of the shape of the post. An upright vase-shaped post used to support a rail.
balustrade A series of balusters supporting a rail (see Fig. 171).
bargeboard A trim element running along the lower edge of a gable roof, originally a carved hoard with foliate Gothic ornamental devices, but later translated into flat scroll-sawn patterns (see Fig. 102). Also called vergeboards.
barrel vault A masonry vault resting on two parallel walls and having the form of a half cylinder; sometimes called tunnel vault; also, by ex¬tension, a nonstructural wooden ceiling of the same form.
batten From French, baton; and from Latin, bastum, “stick.” A narrow strip of wood used to cover and seal a joint or crack (see board and bat¬ten).
batter The downward and outward slope of the lower section of a ma¬sonry wall (see Fig. 149).
bay A basic unit or module of a building defined by repeated columns or pilasters or similar framing members.
bell course (or stringcourse) A projecting horizontal course of masonry, of the same or dissimilar material, used to throw rain water off a wall; usually coincides with the level of an interior floor.
blind arch An arch within a wall that contains a recessed flat wall rather than framing an opening; used to enliven an otherwise unrelieved ex¬panse of masonry or to decrease the dead weight.
hoard and batten A form of sheathing for frame buildings consisting of wide boards (usually placed vertically whose joints are covered by bat¬tens.
bracket A projecting support used tinder cornices, eaves, balconies, or windows to provide structural or purely visual support (see Fig. 107).
brickwork Three types of brickwork or bonding are common in eighteenth-century architecture. The simplest is common bond in which the bricks are all laid lengthwise to the plane of’ the wall. More complex is English bond in which the brick are laid in alternating courses, one course lengthwise (stretchers) and the other endwise (headers). Flemish bond is even more intricate with each course consisting of stretchers and headers (see illustration).
cantilever A beam, or a part of a building supported by such beams, which is supported at one end only, the other end hovering in the air (see Fig. 220).
capital The top-most part of a column which carries the entablature.
casement A window pivoted at the side, like the page of a book, and usually taller than it is wide. (See the contrasting double hung window) (see Fig. 20).
castellated Having battlements (parapet walls with notched openings) and turrets like those of a medieval castle (see Fig. 105).
chamfer From French chanfrein, “a bevel.” To remove the edge or cor¬ner; also, the flat surface left after the corner is cut away.
clapboard From Dutch, clappen, “to split,” + board. A thin board, origi¬nally riven or split, thinner at one edge than the other (later sawn with this profile), laid horizontally and with edges overlapping on a wooden¬ framed building (see Fig. 9).
clerestory From Middle English, clere, “lighted,” + story. Originally the upper section of the nave of a Gothic cathedral with its banks of large windows, hence any elevated series of windows for light and ventila¬tion.
coffer From Middle English, coffre, “box;” and Latin cophuinus, “basket.” A recessed box-like panel in a ceiling or vault; usually square but some-times octagonal or lozenge-shaped (see Fig. 63).
colonnette A diminutive column or a greatly elongated column, Most often used for visual effect rather than for structural support.
common bond See brickwork.
console From Latin, consolator, “one who consoles,” hence a support. See bracket.
corbel From Middle English, corp; and Latin, corvus, “raven.” A block of masonry projecting from the plane of the wall used to support an upper element (cornice, battlements, upper wall).
Corinthian Order See order.
cornice From Greek, koronos, “curved,” referring to the curved profile. Specifically, the uppermost and projecting section of the entablature; hence, the uppermost projecting molding or combination of brackets and moldings used to crown a building or to define the meeting of wall and ceiling (see order).
crocket From Old French, crochet, “hook.” In Gothic architecture, a carved, ornamental foliate hook-like projection used along the edges of roofs, spires, towers, and other upper elements.
crowstep gable A masonry gable extended above the roof line with a series of setbacks; often found in Northern European medieval archi¬tecture, especially Dutch architecture (see Fig. 16). See the related Flemish gable.
cupola From Late Latin, cupula, diminutive form of “tub.” A rounded tower-like device rising from the roof of Northern Renaissance and Ba¬roque buildings, usually terminating in a miniature dome (see Fig. 44).
dentil From Latin, dens, “tooth.” A small rectangular block used in a series below the cornice in the Corinthian Order; any such block used to form a molding below a cornice.
dependency: An outbuilding or other subordinate structure that serves as an adjunct to a central dominant building.
Doric Order See order.
dormer From Old French, dormeor, “bedroom window.” A vertical window and its projected housing that rises from a sloping roof (see Figs. 32, 13:i).
double hung window A window of two (or more) sash, or glazed frames, set in vertically grooved frames and capable of being raised or lowered independently of each other; widely in use in the American English colonies after c. 1700.
eave The lower edge, often overhanging, of a roof.
engaged column A column that is attached to and appears to emerge from the wall; in plan it consists of a half to three-quarters of a fully round column. It may he purely decorative or it may serve as a buttress-like thickening of the wall.
entablature The horizontal beam-like member supported by a classical column (see order). Although the details and proportions of the en¬tablatures of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders vary, each has three component parts: the lower architrave, the middle frieze, and the crowning cornice.
eyebrow dormer A dormer formed by bowing upward a section of the roof and inserting a narrow segmental window beneath (see Fig. 149).
fanlight A circular or elliptical window over a door, often with elaborately contrived and interwoven mullions; used extensively c. 1700 to c. 1820.
fenestration From Latin, fenestra, “window.” A general term used to de-note the pattern or arrangement of windows.
finial From Latin, finis, “end.” In Gothic architecture, an ornament, usually foliate, used at the end or peak of a gable, tower, or spire.
Flemish bond See brickwork.
Flemish gable A masonry gable extended above the roof with setback stages that may have stepped or Curved profiles in any of a variety of combinations (see Pig. 2 1). Related to the crowstep gable.
foliate From Latin, foliatus, “bearing leaves.” Having a two-dimensional or carved three-dimensional pattern based on leaves or plants; often stylized.
frame A structural support composed of separate members joined together to form a cage, as contrasted to solid masonry construction. Traditionally a wooden frame was composed of large, hewn hardwood members fastened by complex interlocking joints (see mortise and tenon). The frame of the Gleason house is a good example. About 1830 a radically new method was introduced that employed mass-produced softwood lumber in a frame that could be much more speedily raised (sec Fig. 111 and the discussion of the balloon frame).
frieze From Latin use of the name Phrygia, a city known for its elaborate embroidery. Specifically the flat, horizontal panel in the entablature of the Ionic order, between the lower architrave and the crowning cornice ornamented with low relief sculpture (because of its resemblance to elaborate embroidery). Hence, by extension, the center panel or section of all entablatures, even in the much different Doric order which has grooved stylized beam ends (triglyphs). With the spaces between filled with panels of low relief sculpture (metopes); see order. By further ex¬tension any elevated horizontal decorative band or panel.
gable The triangularly shaped area enclosed by the two sloped surfaces of a gable roof and the wall below; a generic term distinct from pediment which refers to a portion of a classical facade.
gable roof A simple roof composed of two flat surfaces meeting to form a straight ridge (see Fig. 9).
gambrel roof From Old North French, gamberel; from Late Latin, gamba, “leg,” referring to the bent or crooked stick used by butchers to suspend carcasses. .A roof, similar to a gable roof, but with two slopes on each side, a steeper pitch to the lower outer portion of the roof, and a gentler pitch to the upper center portion of the roof. In the colonies used by Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers, though in each area the profile differed. For a typically Dutch or Walloon gambrel roof, see Fig. 17; for an example derived from Swedish influences, see Fig. 28.
golden section A proportional ratio devised by the Greeks that expresses the ideal relationship of unequal parts. Capable of being demonstrated by Euclidian geometry, it can also be stated thus: a is to b as b is to a + b, or a/b= b/a+b. If this is rewritten as a quadratic equation, the value 1 assigned to a, and solved for b, the value of b is 1.618034. Thus, the golden section is 1:1.618.
half timbering Frame construction in wood in which the framing members are left exposed on both exterior and interior, with the spaces between the framing members filled with brick nogging (ran-dom brickwork) or wattle and daub. Practiced in medieval France and England and briefly in the English colonies, it was revived as a purely decorative motif early in the twentieth century by using appliedhall timbering,” which is not structural.
hipped roof A roof of four sloped surfaces that meet in a point (with a square plan) or a sharp ridge line (rectangular plan) (see Figs. 132, 175).
hood molding A large projected molding over a window used to throw rain water away from the window; sometimes supported by brackets.
in antis Used to described columns set between projecting walls (antae).
Ionic order See order.
lancet Used to describe extremely narrow sharply pointed Gothic win¬dows (hence the name) (see Fig. 91).
lantern In architecture, a small square or round glazed structure built atop a larger structure to admit light (see Figs. 60, 83).
leaded glass Small glass panes, most of them clear but often colored too, forming a geometric or foliate pattern, held in place by channels of lead soldered together.
lintel From Middle English and Old French, lintel; from Latin, limen, “threshold.” A beam or support used to carry a load over an opening or to span between two columns.
loggia Italian, from French, loge, “small house, hut.” A covered but open gallery, often in the upper part of a building; also, a covered pas¬sageway, often with an open trellis roof, connecting two buildings.
Mansard roof From Francois Mansart, French architect, 1598-1666, who employed this roof form extensively. A roof with two Slopes on each of its four sides – a steep and nearly vertical slope on the outside and a gentle nearly flat slope on the top (see Figs. 115, 118). The outer roof slope may often be convex or concave in profile.
modillion From French and Italian, modiglione; from Latin, mutulus, from an Etruscan root meaning “to stand out.” A small curved and or¬namented bracket used to support the upper part of the cornice in the Corinthian order; any such small curved ornamented bracket used in series.
molding Any carved or modeled band integral to the fabric of a wall or applied to it.
monitor A form of lantern, but wider and usually square in plan.
mortise and tenon One of the basic wood joining methods. One member is cut with a rectangular or square hole (mortise) to receive the other member cut with a rectangular or square tongue (tenon).
mouse tooth gable (muisetanden gable) Dutch term referring to the infilling in the steps of a crowstep gable. Brick is laid at an angle perpendicular to the slope of the gable within the steps, and the gable is finished off with a smooth brick or stone coping or sill; an adaptation widely used in New Netherlands and Virginia.
mullion From Middle English, moniel; from Latin medianus, “median.” Originally the large vertical stone divider in medieval windows; later the vertical supports in glazed windows; often now any support strip, vertical or horizontal, in a glazed window.
nogging Brick or miscellaneous masonry material used to fill the spaces between the wooden supports in a half-timber frame.
obelisk From Old French, obelisque; from Greek, obeliskos, “spit or pointed pillar.” A tall narrow square shaft, tapering and ending in a pyramidal point.
order From OId French ordre; from Latin, ordo, “line or row;” possibly from Greek, arariskein, “to fit together.” Any of the several types of classical columns, including pedestal bases and entablatures. The Greeks developed three orders, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, of which the Romans adopted the latter two and added Tuscan Doric and the Composite (a combination of the features of Ionic and Corinthian). 1. The Greek Doric, developed in the western Dorian region of Greece, is the heaviest and most massive of the orders. It rises from the stylobate without any base; it is from 4 to 6 1/2 times as tall as its diameter; it has twenty broad flutes. The capital consists simply of a banded necking swelling out into a smooth echinus which carries a flat square abacus. The Doric entablature is also the heaviest, being about one fourth the height of the column. The Greek Doric order was not used after c. 100 B.C. until its “rediscovery” in the mid-eighteenth-century. 2. The Ionic order was developed along the west coast of what is now Turkey, once Ionian Greece. It is generally about nine times as high as its diameter. It has a base, twenty-four flutes, and a much more elaborate capital consisting of a decorative band and a circular egg and dart molding on which rests the distinctive volute; on top of the volute rests a thin flat abacus. The Ionic entablature is about one-fifth the height of the column. 3. The Corinthian order, the most attenuated and richly embellished, was the least used by the Greeks. It is about ten times as high as its diameter, rising from a base, with twenty-four flutes, and a tall capital consisting of a band from which spread upward three or four layers of curling acanthus leaves ending in tight volutes in the four corners and supporting a concave abacus. The Corinthian entablature is also about one-fifth the height of the column. 4. Other orders: The Roman Doric order is much slimmer than the Greek prototype, being nearly as slender as the Ionic order: moreover it has a short base. More original is the Tuscan Doric order which has a base and an unfluted shaft and is about seven times as high as its diameter; its capital is similar to that of the Greek original but more strongly articulated. The Romans also combined the Ionic and Corinthian or¬ders, placing the volutes atop the acanthus leaves, creating the Com¬posite order, the most sculpturally elaborate of them all.
Palladian window A type of opening or window much used by Sebastiano Serlio and Andrea Palladio (hence the name) with a tall round-headed miter opening flanked by shorter rectangular openings. Four columns or pilasters frame the flanking openings and the entablatures they carry form a base for the arch framing the center opening (see the window of the Ely house, Ely’s Landing, Connecticut, and Figs. 29, 42).
pavilion From Old English, pavilon; from Latin, papilio, “butterfly,” per¬haps because of the resemblance of ornamental tents to butterfly wings. Originally a tent, especially an elaborately ornamented shelter; later, any portion of a building projected forward and otherwise set apart, or even a separate structure. Much favored in French Renaissance and especially Baroque architecture, and hence in Second Empire Baroque architecture, 1850-1890 (see Figs. 122, 116, 118).
pediment From variation of obsolete English, perement, perhaps from pyramid. Originally the triangular gable above the entablature of Greek and Roman temples enclosed by the horizontal cornice of the entablature, and raking cornices following the edges of the roof (sec Fig. 81); later, any such cornice-framed crown over a door or window, whether triangular (Fig. 29) or segmental (Fig. 40), or broken (Fig. 31), or consisting of curved broken cornices ending in volutes (fig. 26).
pendill From French, pendant, “hanging.” The projecting and exposed lower end of a post of the overhanging upper story, or “jetty,” of seventeenth-century New England houses; often carved (see Fig. 9).
pent roof From Middle English, pentis; from Latin, appendicula, “small appendage.” A short sloping roof attached to the wall over the door and windows; widely used along the Delaware River (during the seven-teenth and eighteenth centuries).
peripteral From Greek peri, “around,” + pteron, “wing,” or “flying around.” Adjective used to describe a building with a free-standing col¬onnade on all four sides (see Fig. 82).
Peristyle From Greek, peri, “around,” + stylos, “column.” Noun, referring to a free-standing colonnade running completely around a building (see Fig. 82).
pilaster From Old French, pilastre; from Medieval Latin, pilastrum, “pil¬lar.” A buttress-like projection from a wall in the form of one of the classical orders, and like them, having base, fluted or unfluted shaft, and capital, carrying an entablature or cornice.
plinth From French, plinthe; from Greek, plinthos, “square stone block.” Specifically, a square flat block Used as the base under a column, but by extension any block-like podium beneath a building.
polychromy From Greek polukhromos, from polus, “many,” + khroma, “color.” The use of many colors, and particularly in nineteenth century architecture the employment of many building materials with contrasting natural colors (see Fig. 122).
porte cochere From French, “coach door.” A covered area, attached to a house, providing shelter for those alighting from carriages (see Figs. 176, 177).
portico From Latin, porticus, “porch.” A porch, with a roof usually carried by columns, protecting the main entrance to a building (see Fig. . 51).
post and lintel A structural term used to describe a generic type in which upright columns support horizontal beams. The structure may be stone, wood, or iron and steel.
quatrefoil From Latin, “four leaves.” An ornamental pattern of four circular or pointed lobes.
quoin From Old French, coing, “wedge.” Originally the structural use of large masonry blocks to reinforce the corner of a brick or other masonry wall (see Fig. 45); but often used as a decorative embellishment in non-load-bearing materials (see applied wooden quoins, Fig. 26).
rinceau From Middle French, rainsel, “branch.” Ornamental work, often low relief sculpture, consisting of curvilinear intertwining leaves and branches.
rosette Stylized circular floral ornament in the form of a fully open rose.
rustication From Latin, rusticus, “of the country, rude, coarse.” The treatment of stone masonry with the joints between the blocks deeply cut back. The surfaces of the blocks may be smoothly dressed (as in Fig. 168), textured (us in Fig. 122), or extremely rough, or quarry-faced (as in Fig. 151b).
saddleback roof Traditionally a roof with two gables and one ridge, but also a roof (gable or hipped) with two slopes on each side, the outer portion gentler in slope, the inner portion steeper (see Fig. 46).
saltbox Term used to describe the typical seventeenth-century New England house with a short gable roof to the front and a long gable roof to the rear (see Fig. 13).
sash From French, chassis, “frame.” Frame in which glass window panes are set.
setback A recessed upper section of a building; used in New York and Chicago skyscrapers of the 1920s as a way of admitting more light and air to the streets below (see Figs. 207, 209).
shed roof The simplest roof consisting of a single inclined plane; used widely in domestic architecture, 1965-1975 (see Fig. 265).
skeleton frame See skyscraper construction.
skyscraper construction The method of construction developed in Chi¬cago in which all building loads are transmitted to a ferrous metal skel¬eton, so that any external masonry is simply a protective cladding.
spandrel From Old French, expandre, “to spread out.” In a wall system of arches, the area between the architraves of the arches and the entabla¬ture above (as in Fig. 144); in a skeletal frame building, the panels be¬tween the columns and the windows of each story (see Figs. 157, 238).
stereobate From Greek, sterebates, “solid base.” The total substructure or base of a classical building; in a columnar building, the uppermost level is the stylobate.
stringcourse See belt course.
stylobate From Greek, stylobates, “column foundation or base,” The upper layer of the stereobate upon which the columns rest.
terra cotta From Latin, “cooked earth.” A ceramic material made from clay slip poured into molds and fired; capable of assuming many forms; widely used, 1875-1930, as a sheathing material – particularly when glazed.
trabeated structure From Latin, trabs, “beam.” Used in place of post and lintel.
truss From Middle English, trusse; from Old French, trousser, “to secure tightly.” In architecture, a frame assembled of small members (of wood or metal) in triangular sections in such a way that the whole is rigid and cannot be deflected without deforming one of the members; used to span large distances (see Fig. 117).
turret, tourelle From Old French, tourete, diminutive for tower. A small tower, sometimes corbeled out from the corner of a building.
vault From Middle English, vaute; from Latin, volvere, “to turn.” An arched ceiling of masonry; if circular or oval in plan, a dome.
veranda, verandah From Hindi, varanda, which is partly from Por¬tuguese, varanda, akin to Spanish, baranda, “railing.” An extensive open gallery or porch.
verge board Sec barge board.
Vierendeel truss From M. A. Vierendeel, Belgian engineer, who devel¬oped it in 1896. A lattice frame with members at right angles that derives its strength from the rigidity built into its joints; it has no diago¬nal members as in a typical truss.
volute From Latin, voluta, “sroll,” from volvere, “to turn.” A spiral curve; the curled top of the Ionic capital.
voussoir From Old French, vossoir, derived perhaps from Latin, volvere, “to turn.” Any of the wedge- shaped blocks used to form an arch, the center one of which is the keystone.
water table A molded course of masonry forming a transition between the foundation wall and the upper wall, designed to throw rain water away from the wall.
wattle and daub A rough form of construction in which a woven basket-work of twigs is coated with mud plaster; employed to fill the spaces be¬tween framing members in hall limber construction.
ziggurat From Assyrian zigguratu, “summit, mountain top.” A temple-tower of multiple stepped-back stages built by the Babylonians and Assyrians.

Sources Cited

Roth, Leland M. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1980.

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