American Architectural Styles

This page is under construction. 

Not everyone agrees on the date range for any given style, so it was decided here to provide the widest date range found from a variety of sources.  Instead of making a general chronological list, used here are the styles and substyles groupings as presented in McAlester and McAlester (1989), with additional entries and notes as needed (particularly when commercial buildings differ).  Only the more common attributes are provided with each style.  Folk houses–more often encountered than the usually larger, style-based houses–are presented first.

Keep in mind that buildings may of course be mixed in style, either by original design or by later alteration.  In addition, the earliest non-military structures in the Port Huron area tended to be “shanties” and log, all of which are no longer extant (or, if any do still exist, they are now swallowed up within a larger building, waiting to be discovered and recorded).

Folk, National, ~ 1850-Present.  Railroad and post-railroad era homes.  Six basic types:

  • Gable-Front, which reflects the Greek Revival movement and suited for narrow lots; very common, even into the 20th century; “shotgun” houses in the South are of this type, as are wider versions inspired by the Craftsman movement.
  • Gable-Front with Wing (“L” shaped).  Common in the Northeast and Midwest.  Often, or typically, has a porch; may be one of the other types with a later addition.
  • Hall & Parlor were the most common form of pre-railroad era house in the south, and are still very common.  Symmetrical (usually), with one room on each side of the front door, but often with additions to the back.
  • The I-House.  Basically the two story version of the Hall & Parlor home.  Being two-story, however, means that the continuing, slanting roof of H&P rear additions is absent (though the back may still have an addition off the first floor).  Common in colder parts of the country where more interior space was needed during the winter months.
  • Massed-Plan with Side Gable.  Rectangular houses that are more than one room deep and side-gabled.  Earlier versions tended to have porches, while later versions tend to lack porches (or have small ones).  Usually one-story.
  • Pyramidal.  Square or nearly square homes in one or two stories; hipped or equilateral hipped (Pyramidal).  Particularly popular from about 1905 to 1930.  The common two-story versions of these homes are often referred to as American Foursquare, and Port Huron has its fair share!
Victorian Folk, Union St, Port Huron

An example of Folk Victorian in Port Huron (Union Street).

Folk, Victorian, ~1870-1910.  See the Medieval-based Queen Anne style, below, for details.  These are folk houses as described in the above (National Folk) section, but with Victorian style elaborations added.  These decorative additions include spindlework porch detailing and under-eave brackets.

Ancient Classical

  • Early Classical Revival, 1770 – ~1850.  Similar to Georgian and Adam (below), but the columned entry porch (portico) dominates the front facade.  Porches, which are normally two stories on a two-story home, have gabled pediments; columns (often 4) are Roman types.  Prominent fan light over door.  May or may not have decorative cornice.  May have a three-part look, especially when the central part of the home is two-story and either end is one-story.
  • Greek Revival, 1820 -1860.  Similar to Early Classical, but cornice is emphasized and usually not decorative (except via frieze bands); porches with round or square columns (may have either flat or gabled roof); doors surrounded by glass panels (transom and side lights).

Renaissance Classical

  • English: Georgian, 1700 – ~ 1830.  Symmetrical with small-paned (9-12/sash) windows; in earlier years (or in south), quoins at wall corners and doorways, in later years (or in north), front door with entablature and/or pediment, with columns or pilasters, and a row of small glass panes; decorative cornice, usually with dentils.  Roof balustrade not uncommon, especially in later years.
  • English: Adam/Federal, 1780 – ~1840.  Very similar to Georgian, the differences being:  Windows usually have 6 panes for sash and 3-part Palladian windows are common; door has fanlight; “high style” elaborations; projecting wings or dependent structures.
  • Italian: Italianate, 1840 -1885.  Low-pitched roof with brackets under wide overhang; usually 2-3 stories; tall windows, often curved with elaborate crowns; may have a squared/angular cupola or tower.
  • French: Second Empire, 1855 -1885.  Similar to Italiante, but the differences really
    Port Huron Second Empire home

    A Port Huron Second Empire home that hasn’t been covered with vinyl siding! 1334 Seventh Street, built around 1877-1881.

    stand out.  Mansard roof dominates; molded cornices and dormers (often elaborate) beautify the roof.  Usually brick.  A very distinguished style that came here after Napoleon III used this style in rebuilding Paris.  It was most popular during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), and so is sometimes referred to as the General Grant Style.  This style was popular in Port Huron, so some homes in this style still exist, but many (most of the larger ones) have been demolished.  The original city and county building was in this style, but enlarged later and remodeled later to the Chateauetesque Style (it burned down in 1949).

Medieval

  • Postmedieval: English, 1600 -1700.
  • Gothic: Gothic Revival, 1840-1880.  Steep gabled (usually side) with cross gables; decorative vergeboards at gables; unbroken walls extends into gable; one-story porch common; great variety in columns and windows.  Masonry walls.
  • Gothic: Stick, 1860 – ~1890.  Very similar to Gothic Revival, but linear trusses make for less obviously elaborate gable decorations.  Vertical boards along door, windows, and often at the corners of walls; brackets may continue these.  Other decorative wooden elements as part of exterior walls common.  This is a wooden version of high Gothic that precedes the more popular, or common, Queen Anne style.
  • Romanesque: Richardsonian Romanesque, 1880 -1900.  Usually, the rough-faced
    The beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque home on Military Street (at Chestnut) in Port Huron. Known as the Dr. Mortimer Willson house (it is now apartments).

    The beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque home on Military Street (at Chestnut) in Port Huron. Known as the Dr. Mortimer Willson house (it is now apartments).

    masonry walls give this style away.  A hipped roof with cross gables is most common, with towers and arched doorways (windows are often not arched) very common.  Belt courses, emphasizing the break between first and second floors, are common.

  • Medieval: Shingle, 1880 -1900.  Gabled roofs (or hipped with cross gables), often intersecting; gambrel not uncommon.  Wood shingles on walls–all the way through gables–although some don’t have shingled first floors.  Roofs originally had wood shingles as well.  Porches are often prominent.  Towers, use of stone, and Romanesque arches are common.
  • Medieval: Queen Anne, 1880 -1910.  A busy style that incorporated many attributes of previous styles.  Perhaps the primary attribute is that, in seeking to leave no wall naked (that is, unadorned or uncovered in some way), Queen Anne buildings are very irregular and ornamental.  Irregular gabled roofs went from steep to low in later examples.  Towers and bays common, as are wide and wrap-around porches.  While spindlework makes many Queen Anne’s recognizable, other decorative subtypes include half-timbered, patterned masonry, and free classic.

Eclectic Movement

  • English: Colonial Revival, 1880 -1955.
  • Renaissance: Chateauesque, 1880 -1910.
  • French: Beaux Arts, 1885 -1930.
  • Mediterranean: Italian Renaissance, 1890 -1935.
  • Postmedieval: Tudor, 1890 -1940.

    Neoclassical home, Port Huron

    A neoclassical home in Port Huron, having elements of earlier styles. The Lohrstorfer Home at 1617 Military Street (built in the 1890s).

  • Anglo-American:  Neoclassical, 1895 -1940.
  • French: French Eclectic, 1915 -1945.

Modern Movement

  • Arts and Crafts: Prairie, 1900 -1920.
  • Arts and Crafts: Craftsman, 1905 -1930.
  • Machine Age: Modernistic, 1920 -1940.
  • Machine Age: International, 1925 -1970s.

Other

  • Spanish Colonial, 1600 -1850
  • Exotic Revivals, 1835 – ~1890.
  • Octagon, 1850 -1870.  It’s octagonal.
  • Mission Style, 1890 -1920.
  • Spanish Eclectic, 1915 -1940.
  • Pueblo Revival, 1910 – present.
  • Monterey, 1925-1955.
  • Mansard, 1960-1985.
  • Postmodernism, or Neo-eclectic, 1960s – present.

K2 Building, Osaka, 1990, K Shinohara

An example of Postmodern Architecture. Architect K. Shinohara’s K2 Building in Osaka (1990).

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Sources

John J.-G. Blumenson, Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms, 1600-1945 (Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1981).

Rachel Carley, The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1994).  Illustrated by Ray Skibinski and Ed Lam.

Kathryn Bishop Eckert, Buildings of Michigan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Herbert Gottfried and Jan Jennings, American Vernacular Design, 1870-1940 (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1988; Van Norstrand Reinhold Co, Inc., 1985).  Recommended.

Bruce Hawkins, Odyssey Research Monographs, Vol II No 1, “Report of the Preliminary Excavations at Fort Gratiot (1814-1879) in Port Huron Michigan” (Rochester: Oakland University 1989).

Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Architectural Style Guide (Washington State Styles and Forms: 1860-1990).

Marilyn W. Klein and David P. Fogle, Clues to American Architecture (Washington, DC: Starrhill Press, 1986).  Recommended.

Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).  Recommended.

Leland M. Roth, A Concise History of American Architecture (New York: Icon Editions [Harper & Row, Pub.s], 1979).

Marcus Whiffen, American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide to the Styles (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992).