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Greek Revival Style in America

Updated on December 14, 2017
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Ancient art and architecture isn't only for historians, but for people like us who’ve always been interested in anything olden and periodic.

The Greek revival period of the second quarter of the 19th century brought on a stylistic revival of complex origins.

Firstly, architectural books including books on cabinetry and furniture design began to flood the American market and covered topics of the arts ranging from art periods, craftworks, cabinetry, and decorations to interior furnishings and architectural styles and design.

19th Century Greek Revival Architecture
19th Century Greek Revival Architecture | Source

Secondly, Sir John Soane, the Regency architect and one of the leading architects in England was also a great influence on the Greek revival movement of American 19th century.

Thirdly, there was sympathetic feeling towards the Greeks during their five-year war of fighting for their independence. The earlier statesmen had advocated for the use of Roman and Greek styles of the arts because they felt the designs were more suitable for the Federal structures and this thought became an inspiration for residential designers and the birth of the designs of Greek revival houses.

At this stage of US history, the country was rapidly expanding, and with this rapid expansion came mounting wealth and fortunes, and as more and more immigrants landed on American soil, frontiers began to expand, resulting in an urgent need to find new settlements, spanning from the east coast to the Middle West.

It Was Time for a Change

America's interest in the arts and architecture, heightened by imported books and magazines, coupled with the arrival of newer immigrants, was greatly aroused especially since they now had the opportunity to 'tour' Europe or view it through the windows of these communication mediums.

The term 'colonial' wasn't so fashionable anymore, it was outdated and English forms and features of the Adam brothers and Wren were no longer trendy because they were colonial.

People demanded a change and the stylish forms of the Greek revival homes coupled with the perfection of Greek arts was more worthy for their stately structures than those of the preceding periods.

Greek Revival in America - A 'Borrowed' Style

The Greek revival period can be aptly described as a period in American art history that adapted to a borrowed style, but what they did with this was amazing.

They created great designs and produced furniture pieces that had the charm and dignity of a native character. The Greek revival styles the American way eventually developed, resulting in a stylish national expression of an American period design.

Greek Features in Architectural Styles

The “temple” style that was used for the architectural styles of churches and for most public structures and buildings was soon applied to home designs and was used extensively for interior designs and exterior architectural designs of luxury homes.

Pseudo-Greek features and elements were evident in moldings with changing curvatures, pediment crowns for doors and windows, friezes enriched with triglyphs (blocks with vertical channels spaced at intervals in the frieze of the Doric columns), or classical mythical figures.

Greek Revival Interiors

Greek moldings with their changing curvatures were evident in both wood and stone forms. The rooms had high ceilings with ornate and elaborate cornices and the walls were either wallpapered with imported textiles or painted in plain colours.

The parlors of the homes were separate from the dining rooms and were split by Greek columns (Corinthian or Iconic) that were very important features of their interior architecture at the time. These columns were intended to serve as 'frames' for the door openings leading into other open spaces or rooms.

Window treatments had pressed brass valances, and furniture was styled in the American Empire fashion with enhancements of metal ornaments and the well-known signature of Greek curves. Table legs were capped with ornamental cast metal feet and most chairs had swivel castors.

Greek Revival Period Interior Design
Greek Revival Period Interior Design | Source

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    • artsofthetimes profile image

      artsofthetimes 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for those inspiring words Ziyena. Greek art IS awesome.

    • ziyena profile image

      ECLECTIC PLETHORA 4 years ago from LOST IN TIME

      I absolutely love the Greek revival period ... I grew up in the south for most of my childhood and had wonderful experiences visitng these old homes. Verandahs, spiraling staircases, outdoor kitchens, and nooks and crannies. Your very thorough in your research and I look forward to reading more of your arts selection. Voting UP