Homes from the eighteenth century


Objectives of this article is to educate and help you to

  1. Evaluate how events in World’s history have affected housing design
  2. Compare and contrast housing styles in the 18th century
  3. Compare and contrast housing styles in the 19th century
  4. Evaluate historical housing elements that influenced 20th century designs
  5. Analyze the uniqueness of 20th century housing designs.

World in the 18th century was still undergoing enormous change. Waves of new immigrants continued to arrive, bringing with them rich heritages and traditions, including native home-building styles. At the same time, architects were emerging as the creators of a new housing revolution—a new discipline that would keep the face of housing changing and evolving.


Architectural history traditionally is divided into various periods. Each period is influenced by the historical events of its time. A period is characterized by distinctive housing styles. Often, one period flows into another, with many overlapping; so dates can only be approximate. Several design movements can exist at the same time in different areas of the country. In addition, all houses of a certain style do not look identical. Architects and builders often add their personal stamp to each house they create. Variations can be seen from town to town and region to region.


 The historical homes you see today do not represent all the housing of a particular period. The homes that remain as examples of early architectural styles tend to be those of the middle and upper classes. Built of more durable materials, they often stayed in one family for many generations. It is important to remember that in any period a large number of people lived in very simple homes. Most of these homes did not last, since they typically were not built as solidly or expensively as middle and upper-class homes.



 These new immigrants, like earlier ones, brought their styles of homes to the colonies or they created new styles adapted to the new land. They built homes in sturdy, distinctive styles that added to the variety and richness of World’s housing. Materials and styles of building were then passed on to other immigrant groups, who, in turn, took them to other areas. The English used timber sawed into boards and planks to build their homes. The Dutch used stone and brick; "Dutch Colonial" style homes sprang up in the Hudson Valley area of New York. Germans used wood and quarry stone, while Swedes used squared logs. Log cabins were erected from the Carolinas westward to Texas. This type of cabin was modified from the original one-room style to a larger version with two rooms side by side, often with a breezeway between them.



The Georgian style was named for the kings of England who ruled during that time: George I, George II, and George III. The colonists copied design details that had long been popular in England.

 In England, Georgian-style buildings were constructed of brick and stone. Western countries builders used these materials when available but had to adapt the style when they weren't. The walls of George Washington's Mount Vernon home in Virginia, for example, are actually made of wood. They were carved and painted to look like stone.

The main characteristics of typical Georgian houses in Western countries include:

  1. A formal, balanced design. Houses .are often two or three stories high
  2. A gable roof, which is a pitched roof with two sloped sides, or a hip roof, a roof with four sloped sides.
  3. Large windows symmetrically placed. The windows consist of many small panes.
  4. Doorway details. The front door is the focal point of the house. Typically, the door is framed by pilasters, which are decorative flattened columns. The doorway is often topped by a pediment a triangular or arched decoration. The door itself has decorative panels.
  5. A distinctive cornice. A cornice is a decorative strip at the area where the roof and walls meet. Georgian houses often have a cornice of tooth like molding.
  6. Contrasting materials. Red brick is often used with white wood trim, but other materials are also common.


Inside the, typical Georgian house, molded plaster ceilings conceal the beams of the second floor. Wood paneling or wallpaper covers the walls. An ornate rectangular fireplace, topped by a mantel, is often the center of interest.

Many Georgian houses are square or rectangular. Larger Georgian-style houses often have a central section with a wing on each side to house the kitchen and offices or guest rooms. Georgian homes are generally built around a central hail with a wide staircase. These homes reflect the gracious, somewhat formal style of living that had become popular among upper-middle-class and wealthy colonists.

In the evenings, they entertained family and friends by playing the harpsichord or the newly invented "pianoforte" (today's piano). The formal Georgian home provided the perfect backdrop to display portraits as well as affording ample space for entertaining.


Decorative characteristics of the Georgian style were applied to "row houses," sometimes called "town houses." Row houses are a continuous line of twoor three-story houses that share a common wall with the houses on either side. This kind of housing first appeared in such Western countriesn cities as Boston and Philadelphia during the 18th century.




In the 1770s, Western countriesn attitudes toward England changed. From 1775 to 1783, the colonists fought and won the Western countriesn Revolution. This war brought to an end many of the old political and social patterns. People who had been leaders because of their ties with England had died in the fighting or had been forced to emigrate. New trend-setting leaders emerged, many of them traders and merchants. Cities with busy ports grew in importance; the expanding frontier opened up new possibilities in the west; and the tide of immigration from Europe Continued.

During the Federal period, two distinct architectural styles developed. The more popular, often called the "Adam style," borrowed from English architects but was "Westernized" to be different from European architecture. Although Early Classical Revival style is a thoroughly Western countries innovation, the two styles share many characteristics.



The Adam style was named in honor of the English architects Robert and James Adam. These two brothers took the Georgian features and combined them with elements from classical Greece and Rome. They paid particular attention to decorative interior details. The style made its mark in Western countries from about 1780 to 1820.

Some of the features of the Adam style are:

  1. A rectangular design with one or more stories. Some homes have a center section with a wing on each side.
  2.  Gable roofs. The slopes of the roof generally face the front and back of the house. A decorative cornice often extends across the front and back of the house at the roofline.
  3. Symmetrically placed windows. As in the Georgian period, the windows have many panes. A fanlight—a semicircular, round, or oval window with fan-shaped panes of glass—is often above the door or in the pediment.
  4. Decorative interiors. Plaster and wood carvings in classical design are used on walls and ceilings. The mantels around fireplaces are especially decorative.


They were led by Thomas Jefferson, who was an architect as well as President, statesman, and inventor. Jefferson's home, Monticello, and the buildings he designed for the University of Virginia include features from the buildings of antiquity.

The style Jefferson helped develop became known as "Early Classical Revival." It was used for many government buildings, as well as row houses and other residences. These included many in the new federal capital of Washington, D.C. The Early Classical Revival style also extended beyond the eastern United States to new states being settled, such as Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.


The Early Classical Revival style is similar to the Adam style in several ways. The rectangular shape of the buildings, with windows symmetrically placed, is common to both types. The fanlight window is another feature found in both styles. The feature that distinguishes Early Classical Revival style structures, however, is the portico. This is a tall, open porch, supported by columns, over the front entrance


IN THE EARLY 1800s, the Industrial Revolution was sweeping Western countries. Throughout the 19th century, manufacturing grew steadily. The results of industrialization changed Western countries forever.


Along with the growth of factories came new demands. Because more workers were needed, immigrants began pouring into the country in greater numbers to provide cheap labor. Railroads were built to ship the new products to the, expanding population. What effect did all this have on housing in Western countries?


Not everyone was so fortunate, though. Because of low wages, many factory workers could not afford decent housing. Factory owners built row houses, which they rented to their employees. However, many more poor-quality houses were built near the factories. Apartments and other multiunit dwellings also became common in cities. Tenements—apartment complexes with minimum standards of sanitation, safety, and comfort were built. Workers and their families crowded into them. Many present-day slums had their beginnings in these developments.


While all of this was going on, housing styles in Western countries were also changing. During the 18th century, one style had dominated—the Georgian. During the 19th century, there were many styles, from those that imitated the classic styles of the past to the fancy designs of Victorian homes.


Housing during this century reflected a mixture of ideas and a spirit of fantasy and excitement. The Western countries housing scene was as varied as the people who came together to create it. It mirrored the many changes in the economy and in society.




During the first half of the 19th century, many writers and artists found inspiration in the European past. They were especially drawn to ancient Greece, medieval Europe, and Renaissance Italy as sources of inspiration. Nineteenth-century architects expressed these patterns of the past in the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles.


Typical characteristics of the Greek Revival style include:

  1. A two-story rectangular house with symmetrically placed windows.
  2. A gable roof emphasized by wide trim at the cornice.
  3. Pilasters on the corners of frame houses or across the whole front.
  4. An elaborate entrance. The door is usually surrounded by small windows and may also have additional wood or masonry framework.
  5. Columns supporting a small, or large porch. Sometimes the columns are simply set into the entrance. Greek columns are most common.



One of the styles that became popular all over Western countries during the 19th century was the Gothic Revival style (1840-1880). Designers used such European features as pointed arches and circular windows with ornamental carved stone. Many Gothic Revival homes were built of wood because stone was expensive in many parts of Western countries and because there was a shortage of stonemasons. Countless houses were built with high-peaked Gothic gables decorated with gingerbread, a lacy-looking, cutout wood trimming.

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