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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Old Time Pagan Religion Part Deux

Man, that's Greek. Bucks County Pennsylvania Greek, that is. Doric columns with no base. Don't get no Greeker than that.
That's the Josiah Hayden house in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. That's not to be confused with Williamstown, Mass. The locals call Williamstown "Billsville," to avoid or add to the confusion, I'm not sure which. Williamstown in the northwest corner of the state. Williamsburg is in the center of the state. The Connecticut river valley used to be the center of manufacturing in Massachusetts, which was the workroom of the whole country at one time. The Haydens ran factories in Williamsburg, including a brassworks, until 1950. The industry moved on.
The Greek Revival style was perfect for the times. Absolutely dominant style from 1825 to 1850 or so, it was sometimes called the "National Style." Pretty much everything built east of the Mississippi River was Greek revival for those 25 years. San Francisco too.

I doesn't have to be really plain, either. Here's the Porcher-Simonds house in Charleston, South Carolina. Whoah:
There were pattern books for carpenters to follow to build in the National Style, but America started to have professionally trained architects designing buildings. And they gravitated to the very fashionable style of the times. It was hip, and it allowed for a great deal of improvisation.

What's this magnificent building? Courthouse? Mansion of a captain of industry? State Capital?
Nope, it's Pumping Station Number 1 in Louisville Kentucky. It's a little more Roman than Greek, really, but it demonstrates the desire for Americans to build in a sophisticated and monumental style during the period, no matter how mundane the project.

Why Greek?

The War of Independence of Greece against the Ottoman Empire captured the imagination of many Americans. After the War of 1812, there was also a backlash against anything that smacked of the British Empire. The Adam style of high style colonial went completely out of favor, and it was based on a sort of application of Roman details to colonial houses, and it seemed very British. People began to associate Greek themes with a kind of purity of thought. Greece was the mother of Rome, and it was kind of search for authenticity to revive it in sticks and bricks. London, seemed, well, Roman.

Greek Revival was everything everywhere in the United States for a while, only to be subsumed in a wave of Italianate and Gothic Revival styles in its turn.

Its enduring legacy is still with us all over, though, if you know where to look. It gave us the front gabled house. It's in there. Somewhere.

4 comments:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

That last photo? My small town is littered with such homes. But we also have a fair number of cute [big] Victorians complete with gingerbread or even Indian look-outs.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

btw: Mr. Charming is a Citadel graduate and I love the time-warp that is the Battery in Charleston, SC.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Ruth Anne- The Porcher-Simonds house overlooks the Battery to this very day. It looks like a very interesting place to wander around.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Sippican: I can assure you you'd love it. [Mrs. Cottage wouldn't mind a little romantic getaway to all the nice bed&breakfasts, either.] If you're there on a Friday afternoon, the cadets always have a parade at the drill field. Charleston and Savannah still have some of the greatness of the old South about them.