According to Virginia and Lee McAlester in A Field Guide to American Houses, during the first half of the 20th Century, Neo-Classical was the prominent style for domestic architecture in the United States. The style had two phases of popularity. From 1900 to 1920, Neo-Classical style buildings employed hipped roofs and correct column vocabulary. In the later more recent phase of Neo-Classical architecture, the characteristics of the style adapted to include the use of side-gabled roofs and simplified columns. A renewed interest in classical style architecture emerged in the United States after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The architectural committee of the exposition required a classical theme for all exposition buildings.
Virginia and Lee McAlester note that Neo-Classical homes have five main variations: full-height entry porch, full-height entry porch with lower full-width porch, front-gabled roof, full-façade porch, and one-story. These main variations are illustrated above in the picture gallery. The authors of A Field Guide to American Houses also note the main areas of embellishment on the Neo-Classical to be the porch-support columns, doorways, cornices, and windows.
The University of Michigan architecture website describes the facades of Neo-Classical buildings as having large areas of blank wall surface exposed and strong prominent rooflines free from an excess of embellishment. Central Pedimented porticoes are a standard feature of the Neo-Classical facade. Columns employing the Greek orders, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian support these pedimented porticoes. In more contemporary and less rigid interpretations of classical architecture, the columns on Neo-Classical buildings, especially houses, can simplified. Often square columns are seen on contemporary Neo-Classical Revival houses. Please see below for more common features of Neo-Classical Revival houses.
As noted in “Architectural Movements of the Recent Past” by Alan Higgins, the defining features of the Neo-Classical Revival style are:
- Rectangular Shape
- 2 to 3 stories
- Central Entry-Hall Floor plan
- Siding made with Vinyl, Faux Stone, and other composite materials
- Roofline often has Cross-gables and Dormers
- Palladian windows and Semi-circular Fanlights
- Double-hung windows with Decorative shutters
- Temple-like Entrance common; Portico topped by Pediment
- Dentil moldings
- Higgins, Alan. “Architectural Movements of the Recent Past,” PDF. http://alan-higgins.com/
- McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Knopf, 1991.
- University of Michigan. “Neo-Classical Revival.” UMichigan Architecture. http://www2.si.umich.edu//umarch/styles/neoclassic.htm (accessed May 26, 2010).
- Principal Variations of the Neo-Classical Home. Redrawn from an image in Virginia and Lee McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses.
- Higgins, Alan. “Architectural Movements of the Recent Past,” http://alan-higgins.com/