Architecture / Style / Richardsonian Romanesque

Chronology

1860-1890 (Whiffen)
1870-1900 (Blumenson)
1880-1895 (Roth)
1880-1900 (McAlester)

Description

Architecture associated with Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86) and the late 19th century Romanesque Revival. Experimentation with the Romanesque Revival began in the 1849s and 1850s for churches and public buildings, using round arches, corbels and historically correct features such as chevrons and lozenges borrowed from the pre-Gothic architecture of Europe. But in texture and outline these early Romanesque structures resembled their Gothic Revival contemporaries. (Poppeliers, 62)

As interpreted by Richardson in the 1870s and 1880s, the Romanesque became a different, and uniquely American style. Still present were the round arches framing window and door openings, but gone were vertical silhouettes and smooth stone facings. Richardson’s buildings were more horizontal and rough in texture. Heaviness was an ever-present characteristic of the style – emphasized not only by the stone construction but also by deep window reveals, cavernous door openings and, occasionally, bands of windows. These openings were often further defined by a contrasting color or texture of stone or by short, robust columns. (Poppeliers, 62-65)

An architectural style characterized by: round arches over door and window openings, a heaviness of appearance created by rock faced stonework and deep window reveals, an asymmetrical façade, towers with conical roofs, porches with broad round arches supported by squat piers, and steep-gabled wall dormers.

Leading Examples

Trinity Church (1872, Henry Hobson Richardson), Boston, Massachusetts. Has a massiveness and disposition of parts that is uniquely Richardsonian. (Poppeliers, 65)

Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (1884-88, Henry Hobson Richardson), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Union Station (1900), Nashville, Tennessee. Indicates the style’s long popularity. The building’s debt to Richardson is obvious in the rock-faced masonry, round arches, soaring tower and general massiveness. (Poppeliers, 63)

John J. Glessner House (1885-87, Henry Hobson Richardson), Chicago, Illionis. One of the architect’s finest houses. It shows simple massing and inherent patterns of coursed masonry used effectively for ornamental effect. (Poppeliers, 62)

Wayne County Court House (1890-93, Jaes McLaughlin), Richmond, Indiana. A good example of the many Richardsonian Romanesque courthouses built throughout the country in the late 19th century. Their powerful masonry masses suggest the majesty of the law. The recessed loggia above the entrance gives a touch of relief from the heavy masonry facade and allowed the stonemasons a chance to display their talents. (Poppeliers, 64)

Riley Row (1887, Wilcox and Johnston), St. Paul, Minnesota. Has the rough stone trim, squat columns and arched openings found on many late 19th-century Richardsonian Romanesque row houses. (Poppeliers, 64)

Sources Cited

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