Illustrated Architecture Dictionary   ....................   Styles of Architecture

Period Houses
Also called
Period Revival

A general term, rather than a specific architectural style. Period houses were revivals of earlier historical styles, and, although they were more accurate historically than 19th century revivals, they also reflected some modern tastes.

The term includes, among others, the following styles:

Ornament tends to be underscaled and carefully executed. Fine effects are achieved through the handling of quality materials for color and texture --- shingle or slate roofs with a weathered, hand-crafted appearance; dark stained "hand-hewn" oak lintels; tapestry brick laid to create a richly textured surface.


The success of the period house depended on its stylistic accuracy. Earlier architects could, in their Queen Anne and contemporary designs, pick bits and pieces from various earlier periods. Now, architects had to become architectural historians in order to successfully suggest a specific earlier period.

Most architectural offices had a library with the White Pine Series or books on English parish churches or farm houses in Normandy. The former, a magazine that began as an advertisement series for white pine lumber and developed into a useful reference work, assisted in promulgating the revival of early American architecture by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), which began its recording activities in 1933. The first HABS drawings were produced by architects, and the fact that so many of their sheets resemble actual working drawings reflected not only their training, but also their intention that the drawings be used in constructing new houses based on earlier precedents.

The majority of models for period houses were farm or rural structures: English cottages, Spanish haciendas or New England farmhouses.

Frequently built on large, newly plotted suburban lots and incorporating many contemporary ideas of interior arrangement and planning, typical period houses were far more spacious than earlier revival structures.

Like Shingle Style and Prairie School houses, period houses had an intimate relationship with the landscape. Often sprawling across the width of a lot, period houses had two yard areas, a formal front and an informal back yard. Rarely did a period house not have a rear terrace, porch or patio.

Churches: The period house was not an isolated phenomenon. Many churches built at the same time boasted details and proportions taken directly from examples built centuries before, either in America or in Europe.

Country houses: Another manifestation of the same spirit that produced period houses and churches was the country house. Larger than their city cousins, these mammoth houses were the centers of complexes that included stables, barns, guest houses,gardeners' cottages and similar structures. In the most developed examples, an overall architectural theme pervaded the group. The era that made these estates possible ended in the 1930s, and few of them survive in their original capacity

The interiors of both period and country houses had fewer rooms than their 19th-century predecessors, but the rooms were much larger and space flowed more freely Often, especially in smaller period houses, the dining room was replaced by a dining area at one end of an oversized living room - an arrangement reflecting both the open planning and the more informal lifestyle of the times.

Although derived from historical precedent, the period house was a distinctive architectural development that was basically American. And, although the full flowering of the style occurred several decades ago, mutants of the species can be found today along the curving streets of almost any suburban development.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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