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Federal Style Architecture in Buffalo, NY
1790-1830

Neoclassicism - Terminology
Neoclassicism/Neoclassical
(Neo-Classical)
Literally: "New Classicism."
European and American architecture style inspired by Classical Greek - and especially Roman - ruins.
Georgian Four King Georges in England. George III ruled England when Neoclassicism was popular.
Georgian Neoclassical Neoclassicism named after George III in England. Encompasses both Palladian and Adamesque Neoclassical styles.
Palladian Neoclassical Earlier version of European Neoclassicism based on the books of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio who studied Roman ruins in Italy.
Adam style/Adamesque Later version of European Neoclassicism based on Robert's Adam's studies of excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Colonial Styles of architecture during America's colonial period, i.e., before the Revolutionary War. The most prominent style was Georgian because most the colonies were English owned.
Federal The American term for Adamesque after the Revolutionary War. "Federal" is a a patriotic term.
Roman Classicism/ / Jeffersonian Classicism / Classic(al) Revival Neoclassical version inspired by Renaissance-inspired Palladian Neoclassical style. Thomas Jefferson owned three copies of Palladio's books and used Palladian ideals in designing Monticello, etc.

This vision of Neoclassicism competed with the simpler Federal style.
Beaux-Arts Classicism A very rich, lavish and heavily ornamented classical style taught at L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the 19th century. Influenced the last phase of Neoclassicism in the United States

Federal style architecture is the American version of British Adamesque style.

In Britain, in the second half of the 18th Century, Roman architectural precedents, especially in the contemporary excavations of Pompeii, were popularized by Robert Adam. The style is referred to as Adamesque, or as "Georgian" in honor of the reigning monarch, George III.

The English style came to America by way of British pattern books and an ever-swelling wave of masons, carpenters, and joiners who emigrated from England. After the Revolutionary War, in a display of patriotic zeal, the entire period in America, including Georgian architecture and furniture, became known as "Federal." The most common symbol used in the Federal style is the American eagle.

Thomas Jefferson modeled his home, Monticello, and the University of Virginia on Roman precedents popularized by 16th century architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio's designs were also the model for Robert Adam's country villas (Harewood House). The urban designs by Adam, however, are influenced more by Roman urban excavations, e.g., in Herculaneum and Pompeii, and Adamesque urban designs are the major influence of American "Federal" style. Thus, a distinction is made between public buildings in Jeffersonian Classical Revival / Roman Classicism style and Federal urban dwellings.

The best-known American architects known for their Federalist buildings are Charles Bulfinch, Samuel McIntyre, Alexander Parris, and William Thorton.

Houses: The Adam house is most commonly a simple rectangular or square box, two or more rooms deep, with doors and windows arranged in strict symmetry. The box may be modified by projecting wings or attached dependencies. The stylistic focus is on the main entry -- a paneled door often framed by half or three-quarter length side lights and thin pilasters or columns. The door is often crowned by a fanlight, or entablature.

Roofs:  Low pitched roofs: side-gabled, hipped, or center-gabled, , often balustraded. Also: raking parapets extending over the roof and including tall, paired chimneys (chimney stacks connected by a parapet)

Windows: Large windows with double-hung sashes, panes separated by thin wooden supports (muntins), Usually a number of small panes of glass because it was difficult to make large pieces of glass. There might be 12, 8, or 6 panes in both the top and bottom window sashes, e.g, 12-over-12 or 9-over-6.

Windows aligned horizontally and vertically in symmetrical rows, usually five-ranked on front facade, less commonly three-ranked or seven-ranked; windows never in adjacent pairs, although three-part Palladian-style windows are common. Lintels and sills are rectangular or even slanted inward, and  sometimes made of stone.

Paint colors were limited, the most popular being yellow, ochre, or white. Outbuildings and even the nonpublic side of more important buildings often were painted red, the most economical paint color for the period.

Entrance: Elliptical or semicircular fanlight over front door (with or without flanking slender side lights).

Interiors: Showcase hexagonal, oval and circular rooms (The most famous federal-style "oval room" is undoubtedly the Oval Office of the White House.) Decorations, including rosettes, urns, swags, oval paterae, bulls-eye corner blocks.


Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:


See also:


Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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