Roots of Style: Forms and Colonial Revivals Span Eras

Colonial revival architecture, in the context of the American house, first emerged in the previous two decades of the 1800s. It is considered among one of the very first diverse styles that proliferated through the first half of the 20th century. Its key origins are about the Georgian and Adam styles, which defined 18th-century home layout in the U.S.

Because this is an eclectic style, you will get a vast array of details and forms. The Dutch colonial, with its gambrel roof, is a favorite subtype. Most colonial revivals are symmetrical two-story homes, but you will also find asymmetrical and one-story colonials, in addition to a few with postmedieval influences.

Hansen Architects, P.C.

Another subtype of the style has a hipped roof and full-width porch on the main level, similar to this house. Compare it to the similar makeup of neoclassical designs, where the porch rises two floors. In addition, the hipped and based dormer, along with the centered triple upper-floor window, also helps to define this house as an eclectic colonial revival.

RWA Architects

At first glance you might consider this house Georgian, but have a closer look at the fenestration. Commonly on colonial revivals, the lower-level windows are grouped rather than spaced apart enjoy the upper-floor windows. The double-hung dividers have divided panes, or lighting, on the upper sash, but possess one pane of glass to the lower sash, a trait common to the revival but not used on authentic colonial houses.

Bearing in mind the eclectic nature of the resurrection, strange here would be the eave brackets, which can be reminiscent of the Italianate style. Also note the brick. Many ancient examples of the style needed wood siding, however, grand examples were full masonry construction. It was not till the early 1920s that the method of brick veneering developed, and it became the fashionable selection for many colonial revivals built later afterward, as illustrated here.

The architects have labeled this house for a foursquare, which describes its building type, rather than its style. Colonial resurrection foursquares are typical, as are Prairie-inspired foursquares. A foursquare is merely a strategy with two degrees, each two rooms wide and two rooms deep. The style is established in the particulars of windows, cornices, porches and entrances.

Jan Gleysteen Architects, Inc

This 1938 New England colonial revival confirms its classification with its date of construction. Since the popularity of this fashion persisted through the decades, tastes for much more densely correct designs resulted in many examples being almost indistinguishable to the Georgian and Adam houses that provided their inspiration. Set yourself back 80 decades and imagine comparing this house to one that has been 100 years old at that moment. The differences would be easy to see, because the more exact execution of machine-finished details on the newer house would be evident.

Notice the replicated Georgian entrance surround and its classically thorough entrance porch. Many variations and mixtures of these two elements alone help define the colonial revival style.

Morgante Wilson Architects

Notice the variety of window shapes and configurations in this side-gabled Chicago colonial resurrection. Dormers atop possess an arch; you will find just two sizes on the second degree; and tall, narrow French casements complete the motif on the main level. A small curved and classically detailed entrance porch shelters a modestly styled Georgian entrance surround.

The winged expansion to the left is another indication of colonial revival. Flat-roofed parts similar to this one can be enclosed or used as a porch, and were often added to original Georgian and Adam houses through the years.

Rock Spring Design Group LLC (David Verespy, ASLA)

A mixture of materials, windows and details makes for a unique composition here. Double-hung windows are characteristically grouped on the initial level but are capped with a wood lintel supporting the stone veneer. The balanced placement of oval windows and the classically comprehensive porch and entrance surround confirm its relation to Renaissance architecture, which affirmed the Georgian era. The mixture of colonial details and differently rustic appearance continue to be favored in neoeclectic variations of colonial revivals.


One-story versions tend to be called Cape Cods; they have origins in the first coastal New England settlements. Other variations of this form were reinterpreted in the Southeastern U.S., but were built mostly after ancient times. The setup, as in this instance, is still quite popular and appears in regional varieties around the nation. This contemporary house can be considered neoeclectic. Notice the wing to the left and the brick veneer quoins.

Steven Corley Randel, Architect

Although this 1941 California house is in need of some TLC, it marvelously demonstrates another subtype of their resurrection, known as the Garrison colonial. The inspiration goes all the way back to postmedieval New England houses. Several traits seen here are common to this type.

Postmedieval English houses often had a small overhang of the second degree, as does this house. Look carefully at the underside of the overhang and note the dangling pendants, another medieval trait and occasionally found in Garrisons. The overhang additionally provides a roof for its massive bay windows, which became remarkably popular in many styles through the 1950s.

As inside this altitude, Garrisons often had brick-veneer first levels and wood-clad second floors. This case goes somewhat farther with second-floor windows set into wall dormers with segmental arched contours and arched divided-light details.

Dennis Mayer – Photographer

Compare the previous house to this San Francisco–region Garrison interpretation. At right the second degree characteristically overhangs the very first. A similar prominent bay window comes forward under its gable. It is very likely that the wing to the left is a good addition to the original residence.

Dennison and Dampier Interior Design

A subtype using a casting centre gable is not as common. Notice the single-level porch here. Had the columns climbed to the second degree, this would closely follow Greek revival design. Pilasters at the corners and a Palladian window at the pediment supply more colonial revival individuality. This house also offers a flat-roof wing at left and 16- over 16-pane double-hung windows.

Wright Building Company

The colonial revival houses still being built are probably best defined as neoeclectic. The mix of rustic stone and classical details has become quite popular, as can be seen in the subsequent few examples.

While the centre body of this house follows the conventional configuration a wing at left and the protruding garage wing right bring this case securely into the 21st century. Classical proportions and particulars combine with a compound plan, setting a handsome and joyful appearance.

Peter Zimmerman Architects

Much more asymmetrical than the previous case, this house is extended at a similar compound formation. Several different secondary elements, like the dormers and chimneys, dance from 1 end to the other. Stone covers both centre kinds, helping to anchor its place and supplying contrast to the clapboard wings.

E. B. Mahoney Builders, Inc..

Note the subtle asymmetry with this house. As far back as the Queen Anne style, the classical detailing of the colonial revival would be implemented to less-formal front views.

The colonial revival has its deepest roots in Renaissance classical design. However, true to the eclectic designation, it borrows bridges and from other popular styles.

The colonial revival became overshadowed in the first two decades of the 20th century by Craftsman and Prairie styles, ancient forms of contemporary architecture. Nevertheless it trumped those two styles in the decades after World War I, as did American Tudor, Spanish and French eclectic, chateauesque and lots of different styles.

From the 1960s another wave of contemporary architecture, this time midcentury, suppressed the colonial resurrection as an influential and dominating taste across the United States. Nevertheless, the conventional type of the colonial revival is very likely to persist indefinitely, partly because it has so much historical importance and is such a classic and popular appearance.

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