Greek Revival Houses
While the Federal style was associated with wealthy elites, it was followed by the widespread popularity of the Greek Revival style, which was used for homes ranging from mansions to simple farmhouses. Most strongly associated with public buildings, the style flourished across America from 1825 through the 1850s. While the Federal style was inspired by both Roman and Greek models, but did not tend to reproduce Classical architectural details exactly, the Greek style represented a new focus on reproducing the exact proportions of Classical Greek temple fronts, with appropriate pediments and colonnades. However, exact proportionality was less of an issue with the many local builders, who produced much simpler houses throughout Connecticut in an instantly recognizable adaptation of the Greek Revival mode.
Some Examples of Greek Revival Houses
Connecticut has one of the great examples of a Greek Revival house, the nationally known Samuel Russell House (Fig. 1) in Middletown. Designed by the notable architect Ithiel Town, this 1828 house displays the defining features of the Greek Revival: the gable with wide trim forming a triangular pediment; the classical Greek entablature, with transom and side lights, surrounding the doorway; and the round columns, in this case with Corinthian capitals. It is the facade of a Greek Temple adapted to a domestic residence. Another example is the Aaron Skinner House (Fig. 2) in New Haven, designed by Town’s partner, the influential Alexander Jackson Davis. The Skinner House features Ionic columns and has a side, rather than a front, entrance. As time went on, variations to the style also appeared: the Ellery Hills House (Fig. 3) in Hartford has an unusual elliptical portico, but the wide band of trim and the Ionic columns clearly mark this as a Greek Revival house.
Greek Revival houses come in many shapes and sizes. Some, like the Henry Mygatt House in Farmington and the Henchman S. Soule House in New Haven (Fig. 4), are essentially cubes with Greek entry porticos.
Some houses are not very different from the center hall houses of the Colonial and Federal periods with applied Greek Revival detailing. Some, like the Benjamin Bissell House in South Windsor, were much earlier houses updated in the Greek Revival style. The John Welles Loomis House (Fig. 5) in Suffield displays a variety of applied Greek detailing, including pilasters on either end of the front facade. The Dr. Jonathan Cogswell House (Fig. 6) in South Windsor, is an even more elaborate example, with an imposing pediment and Ionic columns, but has essentially a very traditional house form. Another example is the John Johnson House in Norwich.
A National Style
Elements of the Greek Revival style were soon taken up by local builders throughout America, making it what many consider to be America’s first truly national style of architecture. Adapted to local tastes, these simpler houses (often with applied Greek Revival detailing) were often gable-fronted, but did not retain complete symmetry on the front facade, instead typically having three bays with the front door off-center (leading to a side passage). A classic example (one of many in Connecticut) is the Hollister-Kinne House in South Glastonbury (Fig. 7), which has a pedimented front gable, pilasters, side-lights and Greek-style entablature around the doorway, and corner pilasters: all common elements of the style.
Other houses of this type, which could feature more or less elaborate details and additional wings and porches, but with the same basic form for the main block of the house, include the C. Barber House in East Windsor (which has a wing added), the Elishama Brandegee House in Berlin (which has a columned front portico and Ionic pilasters), and the Chester Bulkeley House in Wethersfield (a less common brick example). Another interesting variation is the Stephen Willard House (Fig. 8), also in Wethersfield, which faces its pedimented gable-end toward the street, but has its entrance on the side–a potential solution to the problem of adequately arranging interior space, as the typical Greek Revival off-center gable-end entrance usually requires a long hallway which eats up available space.