With British influence in America waning considerably after the War of 1812 and the nation rapidly expanding westward, the Greek Revival style was a fundamental expression of America’s triumphant sense of destiny. It also conveyed the idea that the newly formed nation was the spiritual successor to Greece, the birthplace of democracy. Americans’ sympathy and support for Greece’s war of independence from Turkey also contributed to this notion.
Greek Revival is an excellent example of an architectural style that gained popularity by exploring parallels between an earlier culture and the present day. It was popular from about 1825 to 1860 until the Civil War.
As temple-fronted facades on the nation’s churches, banks, town halls, and houses became increasingly prevalent, Greek Revival turned into the unofficial national style. Appropriate to the nation’s emerging sense of self, one of the country’s first Greek Revival buildings was the Second Bank of the United States, built in Philadelphia between 1819 and 1824.
The style moved West with the early settlers and acquired subtle regional differences along the way. Not surprisingly, the fastest growing regions ended up with the largest number of Greek Revival homes. Popular fascination with Greek Revival began to wane in the late 1800s as architects in the eastern U.S. explored other styles, such as Gothic and Italianate.
Features of the Greek Revival Style
Are you wondering whether a building you love in DC is in the Greek Revival style? Perhaps you think your home has elements of this historical architecture. Either way, learn more of the characteristics, materials, and features used in Greek Revival buildings so you know one when you see it.
Homes in the Greek Revival style are usually painted white to resemble the white marble of this style’s impressive and costly public buildings. Heavy cornices, gables with pediments, and unadorned friezes are specific details. Gable-fronted construction, found in many of today’s homes, is one of the style’s enduring legacies.
Stucco and wood, and occasionally stone, are the essential building materials of the Greek Revival style. Intended to resemble stone or marble temples, the buildings are either painted white or enhanced with a faux finish, as seen with the Lee Mansion at Arlington National Cemetery.
Low-pitched gable and hip roofs are typical. The cornice line is often embellished with a broad trim band to emphasize the temple-like roof. Standing seam tin or cedar shingles were common roofing materials in the early 1800s, so they are often found in Greek Revival homes.
The size of window panes in historically accurate Greek Revival residences typically reflect mid-19th-century glazing technologies. As a result, most windows are double-hung with six panes to each sash. Decorative windows are frequently found in three-part assemblages. Among the style’s unique features are the small rectangular windows set into the frieze beneath the cornice instead of dormer windows, which were common at the time. In this style, window surrounds tend to be less elaborate than doorways.
Columns and pilasters are among the most common elements of Greek Revival. Although classical columns are round, the Greek Revival style incorporates square or octagonal columns. Some columns don’t feature bases, as seen in the Greek style, while others have bases, as seen in the Roman adaptation. Greek Revival columns can be fluted or smooth, but they’re almost always made of wood.
Classic Greek architecture includes three types of capitals, which is the uppermost section of a column. The simplest and most common capital found in Greek Revival is the unadorned Doric style. Only a few columns feature Ionic capitals, and even fewer are of the Corinthian order. Pilasters are occasionally used in Greek Revival architecture, adding a row of column-like protrusions to an otherwise flat wall.
Because the vault design was unknown to the Greeks, a simple post-and-beam construction is widely found in Greek Revival buildings. For this reason, the arched entrances and fanlights common in the Georgian and Federal styles were not part of the Greek Revival movement.
Elaborate door surrounds are standard features of Greek Revival homes. Small-paned sidelights and a rectangular transom are typically framed by heavy, wide trim, sometimes recessed for a more three-dimensional look. The door might be single or double-wide, divided into one, two, or four panels. A portico entrance or porch is almost always included as part of the front entrance.
Are you interested in learning more details about Greek Revival architecture? Check out more architecture terminology!
Greek Revival Remodeling in VA, MD & DC
The stately Greek Revival homes in the DC area have much to offer. You may be eager to update the materials, replace damaged features, or add to your living space. With help from Wentworth, you’ll gain a new appreciation for your home and improve your quality of life while staying true to the original architecture. Here are the Greek Revival home remodeling services we offer:
- Greek Revival home remodeling: What room do you wish to update? From bathrooms and kitchens to parlors and living rooms, we can add functionality and beauty to any room in your home.
- Greek Revival home additions: Perhaps you want more space to spread out, but you’re nervous about making an addition to your historic home. Rest assured that Wentworth will account for age, condition, and architectural style when formulating a design and performing the build.
- Greek Revival interior reconfigurations: Historic homes aren’t always built to today’s standards. Whether you want to knock down walls, relocate staircases, or repurpose wasted hallway space, we can make your living area work better for you.
- Custom Greek Revival detailing: The intricate details used in the Greek Revival style are undeniably beautiful. We have you covered if you need help restoring damaged columns or pilasters, adding crown molding, or replacing stair railings.
- Greek Revival interior design services: Selecting colors, furnishings, and accessories for a Greek Revival home isn’t always straightforward. Our interior design services tie your recent remodel together with genuine antiques or modern pieces meant to blend into the historical backdrop.
- Façade enhancements in the Greek Revival style: Does your home need a face-lift? Maybe it has a different exterior style, but you want it to resemble Greek Revival. Either way, the experienced craftsmen at Wentworth can go above and beyond your expectations when enhancing the façade.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common cause of damage to wood columns?
Water, insects, and excessive loading are the most significant reasons wood columns in Greek Revival homes fail over time. The wood may split or rot, causing structural concerns. Repair is essential to address the underlying damage and restore beauty and structural integrity to your home.
Can Wentworth recreate historic façade elements?
Yes! Our team can make it happen whether you want to restore or replace the cornices, column capitals, door surrounds, or other facade elements in the Greek Revival style. Our dedicated craftsmen are experts at restoration and recreation, depending on your home’s needs.
How long does it take to renovate a Greek Revival-style home?
The time frame depends on the age and condition of your home, the scope of the work, and any underlying structural issues that arise. Before breaking ground, our team will thoroughly assess your home’s condition and prepare a comprehensive report of the work required, including any preliminary repairs. With this information, we can provide an accurate timeline estimate for you to consider before you commit.
Is aging-in-place remodeling possible in a Greek Revival home?
Yes! The idea of aging in place is to make your home more accessible as you experience mobility changes that often come with age. Additions such as curbless showers and walk-in tubs, grab bars, comfort-height toilets, wider doorways, and other accessibility features make your home safer and more comfortable. We can even relocate your primary suite to the ground floor for easy access.