Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Chronology

  • 1820-1860 (Whiffen)
  • 1820-1860 (Blumenson)
  • 1820-1850 (Baker)
  • 1825-1860 (McAlester)
  • 1818-c.1850 (Roth)

Description

The Greek Revival style is an adaptation of the classic Greek temple front employing details of either the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian order. Often would have a low-pitched gable (or sometimes hipped) roof, insignificant chimneys, and bevel siding. Often had a porch or portico usually with non-fluted columns that support a full entablature with low-pitched pediment and a frieze. Many houses were built without the colossal temple front.

The rectangular transom over the door was popular and often was broken by two engaged piers flanked by side lights that surround the door. The shouldered architrave trim was widely used for doors and windows. Upper floor lighting is incorporated ingeniously into the enlarged frieze of the entablature. Elongated six-over-six double hung windows, and four-panel doors flanked by sidelights and a transom above were common.

Leading Examples

Levi Gale House, 85 Touro St, Newport, Rhode Island (1835). This house was designed by Russell Warren in 1835 for lawyer Levi H. Gale. Warren worked primarily in Bristol and Providence and was one of Rhode Island’s most distinguished 19th century architects. The Levi Gale House is a wooden Greek Revival house with quoins set at alternate lengths, large two-story columns, and entrance portico.

William Vernon House, 21 Freeborn St, Middletown, Rhode Island, 2021.

William Vernon House (Elmhyrst), Middletown, Rhode Island. When William Vernon, a wealthy Newport merchant and a descendant of the owners of the famous Vernon House in Newport, established his country estate on a hill just beyond the town’s border, at One Mile Corner (named for the distance from Colony House), he had the hill and its vistas pretty much to himself. Today this Greek Revival house is crowded against a street corner, its arcadia chopped up by development. What may once have been the finest Greek Revival house in the state is also missing its attic structure. Its major portico is on the garden front, looking downhill toward what was once its park (and hence now appears to be its rear elevation). Four beautifully detailed Ionic columns are inset in a shallow two-story porch closed by paneled blocks on either side. (This was topped, until the 1960s, by an attic story centered in three square windows the width of the interspacing of the columns with paneled frames the width of the columns in between. A plain parapet flanking the triple windows terminated at either end of the elevation in paneled boxes with acroteria.) Two other Grecian mini-buildings complement the main house: a porter’s lodge with a Doric front and Vernon’s country office in a temple shape surrounded on three sides by Corinthian columns. So this onetime nostalgic idyll embraced the full gamut of the Greek orders. Source: William H. Jordy et al., “William Vernon House (Elmhyrst)“, [NewportRhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-MI16.Last accessed: April 1, 2021.

Glossary

Sources Cited

Also see Architecture / Style index.