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ABCs of American Architecture (Classic Styles)

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


It is not necessary here to linger on the differences in the classic styles of architecture because they are intermingled and overlapping. Suffice, therefore to acquaint ourselves with the vocabulary of the parts, to recognize the origins of the influences and to appreciate the beauty and symmetry and balance of the whole.

To summarize—

The formal styles of architecture indigenous to the eighteenth century were a result of the Renaissance in Europe. It was a time of enlightenment and hope, so new art forms were sought in the classics of Greece and Rome. [The architecture is frequently labeled Neoclassic.]

The Georgian style was popular in the Eastern coastal cities. Buildings were brick with white trim and sashed windows, square with hipped roofs and symmetrical wings.

The Federal style was a neoclassical style, so named in honor of the new nation. The Adams brothers of England influenced the style with their use of delicate and beautiful ornamentation and new forms, such as circles, ovals and octagons.

Thomas Jefferson’s influence on the Federal period was different. He selected strong, bold and massive elements of Roman architecture—columns, pediments and porticos to symbolize the new republic. One visualized the "Southern mansion", with its towering columned portico. This style is sometimes called Jeffersonian classicism.

The Greek Revival style succeeded the Roman influences and has been revived each century. It is characterized by columns or pilasters, strong white horizontal lines, heavy cornices and pediments.


Page #:

Cumberland Historic Preservation Commission

City of Cumberland

Illustration of a Greek revival building


Collection Location:

Original Size:
22 x 29 cm.

Helene L. Baldwin, Joy W. Douglas, Gary Bartik and John Eiser

Historic buildings, Maryland, Allegany County; Historic buildings, Maryland, Cumberland.

Cumberland (Md,); 1742-1980

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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