American Historical Housing Structure

American architecture has changed throughout its history. The architectural designs have several characteristics that make them uniquely beautiful. Some of historical housing architectures include art deco, colonial revival, federal ones, Richardsonian Romanesque, Georgian, and Federal. This paper will discuss Richardsonian Romanesque and federal architectural designs. These are some of the most popular ones. The architectural designs have several differences and similarities. They evolved from ancient architectural types as Americans have altered them to suit their needs. The architectural designs highlight the impact of ancient Greek and Roman architecture on American one. Their refinement and personalization led to the development of the Richardsonian Romanesque and federal styles. 


Federal Style

The federal style exemplifies the architectural designs between 1780 and 1840. It derives its roots from the Georgian type, which was the predominant one of the colonial period. The progressive European ideas on architecture helped in inspiring the federal-style architectural design. It is one of the major reasons as to why most historians perceive this type as simply a refinement of the Georgian style. A close comparison of these two designs shows that this assumption may be true. The term federal is related to the period in the American history when Americans were developing and perfecting the federal system of government. It also refers to the buildings that were constructed during the construction boom following independence. Designers incorporated several variations of the popular European architecture.  

Robert Adam, one of the most popular architects of the Great Britain, is an individual who is credited with the development of the federal style. Adam’s type was greatly influenced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Federal style buildings can be found in all cities in eastern America. Tudor Place and Decatur House are some of the easily recognizable residences related to this type. 

A federal style house may be termed as a square or rectangular box that has two or three stores high and is being two rooms deep. However, some federal type buildings are larger and have been modified with various features that make them unique.  

The Beall-Dawson House at 103 Montgomery Avenue in the Rockville historic district is one of the constructions that exemplify a federal style house during the period in question. It shows how this architectural design has shifted from the rigid axial symmetry of the Georgian type buildings. In most federal-style houses, the exterior decoration is confined to the porch or entry element. In addition, the columns and moldings that use the architectural design are usually narrower and simpler than those of Georgian constructions. 

The decoration of the federal style houses also has geometric concepts. They are either elliptical, circular, and have fan-shaped motifs. Their entrance highlights the wealth of owners. The door of the house is fairly simple. However, the ornamentation around the entrance is grand. The houses have an elliptical fanlight or fan-shaped window that is at the top of the door. There are also long rectangular windows on either side of the entrance. In addition, they have a Palladian window that is directly above the door. It gives the house a symmetrical look. All other windows of the federal-style house are as well symmetrically aligned.  The entries of houses that use this  design have curved steps, which have iron railings. There was a variation in the material that used to construct federal-style houses, which depended on their location. Federal-style houses in the Northeast are usually made of clapboard. On the other hand, Southern constructions of this type are usually made of brick. The Urban North federal style buildings are also made of brick since their dwellers liked to construct fireproof homes. Famous constructions of this type include the Oval Office, the University of Virginia, Otis House Museum, and the Davenport House. 

Richardsonian Romanesque

The Richardsonian Romanesque architecture is named after Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the most popular architects of the 19th century. The architectural design was inspired by  ancient Romans. However, Richardson’s personal interpretation and adaptation of  architecture led to creating an original style of architecture. He was fascinated with medieval designs. As such, he strived to evoke a sense of permanence in his constructions. Use of stone helped in achieving this goal. He used proportion, massing, and masonry to portray a visual weight of buildings that seemed to be anchored to the earth. Despite the fact that this style was not new, Richardson’s innovativeness helped in bringing a new sense of order and proportion in the American architectural design. The Trinity Church in Boston is one of the most famous buildings that exemplify the Richardsonian Romanesque style.  

Constructions that incorporated this architecture were made using solid masonry. However, in some instances, the stone was mixed with brick. The application of solid masonry made it more expensive to build the Richardsonian Romanesque buildings compared to using other materials such as wood. The stones used in making buildings were usually square-shaped. They also had rough exposed faces. Limestone, sandstone, and granite were also applied to make the Richardsonian Romanesque buildings.  

These constructions with a hipped roof that had lower cross gables. The topping as well had many large square masses being capped by a hip roof. The last basic form of the Richardsonian Romanesque building was the townhouse. It had a mansard roof. Front gabled toppings were as well common among the townhouses. A significant number of Richardsonian Romanesque buildings had round polygonal towers. In most instances, the tower roofs were conical or pyramidal. 

Having windows and doors with wide and rounded arches were setting Richardsonian Romanesque buildings apart from other types of constructions. The arches were true semi-circles that did not incorporate other types. They generally rested on free-standing short columns or such ones being amalgamated into the surface of walls. The entrance of most Richardsonian Romanesque buildings had arched tops and small columns on both sides. They usually had bricks arranged in a certain pattern. These constructions had decorative patterns being incised on the walls to highlight their façade. 

The massive building requirements of Richardsonian Romanesque houses made them suitable for grand, public structures, which included courthouses and train stations. Some of the Richardsonian Romanesque constructions that inspired the diffusion of the style into other buildings included the Trinity Church in Boston, the Allegheny County Courthouse and the Pittsburg jail. The design gained its quick popularity such that it was the most common type of public buildings construction for churches, libraries, courthouses, and train stations during the 1870s and 1880s. It was also the design of choice for residential mansions of the society’s elite.  

Comparison of Richardsonian Romanesque and Federal-Style Architecture

Both the Federal-style architecture and Richardsonian Romanesque one are inspired by European trend. The first one is a refinement of the Georgian architecture being inspired by the Greek and Mediterranean constructions. On the other hand, the Richardsonian Romanesque design is derived from the ancient Roman one. However, buildings made using the architectural designs have several different features. For instance, federal style houses are usually two store buildings that have a rectangular construction. On the other hand, Richardsonian Romanesque constructions are grand houses that may be several stored. 

Richardsonian Romanesque buildings also have a masonry construction. They as well have a semicircular arch in all wall openings and decorations. On the other hand, federal style buildings have elliptical, circular, or fan-shaped hatchways. Furthermore, the Richardsonian Romanesque buildings have massive load bearing walls. They are usually cut or have a rusticated structure to portray the weight of structures. The massive buildings are done using asymmetrical forms with different patterns. It contrasts with the federal style houses, which are more symmetrical. Their windows are arranged in a symmetrical manner. Federal style buildings also have raised foundations whereas Richardsonian Romanesque constructions do not have this type of floor. Their load-bearing walls are not raised. 

The columns of Richardsonian Romanesque buildings highlight the weight they are supporting. In addition, these houses have exaggerated symmetry. It is achieved by using projections, towers, chimneys, and turrets. The groupings of windows also help in highlighting the thickness of walls. It contracts with the federal style buildings that are symmetrical and not exaggerated. Federal style houses do not have any of the features such as towers and turrets, which strive to exaggerate the symmetry of the Richardsonian Romanesque ones. 

The major factors that have led to the halting of constructing Richardsonian Romanesque constructions are the style used load-bearing masonry instead of wood structure using temporary types. It has increased the building costs of Richardsonian Romanesque houses compared to alternatives. It is in comparison to federal style constructions, which are relatively cheap to build. Despite the fact that the materials used to construct federal style buildings varied from one location to another, these houses were not created using heavy masonry. They were constructed using wood in the areas where lumber was abundant. It helped in reducing the total costs of buildings. 

As mentioned above federal style architecture was simply a refined Georgian one. On the other hand, Richardsonian Romanesque design was neither the sophistication of the Georgian architecture or any other type. Richardson has personalized the ancient Greek and Roman types to develop a new architectural trend that suited the tastes and preferences of North Americans. The style was reminiscent of the grandeur of North America. It is one of the major factors that made the elite prefer the Richardsonian Romanesque design in constructing urban houses. Previously, the authority preferred the federal style architecture.  


After gaining independence, Americans associated themselves with ancient democracies of Greece and the values of Romans. As such, the Roman architecture greatly influenced them. It led to the refinement of the Georgian style that used to be practiced in American colonies prior to independence. The refinement of Georgian design led to the emergence of new motifs of neoclassical architecture being highlighted in Britain by Robert Adam.

Despite the fact that federal construction trend traces its roots in the Georgian one, it is significantly different from Georgian. It had plainer surfaces. In addition, these ones reduced details. The federal architecture also had a smoother façade and used supports very rarely. This architectural design characterized the first professional American architects. 

The Richardsonian Romanesque tradition was spread by the westward movement of artisans and craftsmen being mainly Italians and the Irishmen. It began in the East, near Boston. Richardson built the Trinity Church there, which helped in spreading the ideals of this trend. The Richardsonian Romanesque architecture started losing its popularity in the East while simultaneously gaining its favor in the west. It facilitated its westward movement. The style ultimately vanished in the early years of the 20th century. The high cost of construction of Richardsonian Romanesque buildings was one of the major factors leading for this style to disappear. In addition, the architectural design could not be fit with steel structures starting to gain it popularity in the early 20th century. 


The Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and the federal one define some of the most iconic buildings in the US. The Trinity Church in Boston is one of the major buildings displaying this trend. On the other hand, the Oval Office is one of main constructions to show the federal style architecture. The buildings highlight the architectural history of the US. However, all these two designs copy some basic ideals of previous histories. They highlight the impact of the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as Europeans. The ancient architectural designs have not only influenced North America. They have as well impacted the construction trends in other regions across the globe. However, there is no place where it had a significant impact such as in North America. It led to the altering of the architectural landscape of North America. Personalization and refinement of the ancient architectures triggered the development of new architectural styles. It is a major factor facilitating the evolving of these construction trends over time.

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