Greek Revival: Ann’s Arbor

Visitors to early 19th-Century America sometimes thought themselves to be in little Greek villages, so much had the Greek influenced domestic architecture in the United States.  (see the Greek Revival houseplan, below)  This was especially true in the mid-Western states, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, where entire towns were built in the Greek Revival style.  Must say, ours is not a Greek domestic architecture, ramshackle and haphazard, a door here, a window there, as suits whim, alike the modern.  Ours is a Greek of the Gods, of the temple, domestic, a glorifying of family, of ideals masculine, feminine, humane, the practice of creating civility from tangled forests, of forming gentlemen and ladies from mere men and women.  And there is something Pico-like in climbing Civilization’s Classive ladder, that expectation that by merit, democratic in liberty, we might ascend beyond the Greeks in refinement, in achievement, an ascension nearly accomplished in the early 20th Century.


66 Greek Revival Anns Arbor Tuscan and Doric Plan Elevation 1

Ann’s Arbor, #66 A & B, Tuscan and Doric, Plan & Elevation. M. Curtis, designer


The Greek Revival recalls the glory of Greece, the grandeur of Athens, the wisdom of Socrates, the artistry of Phidias, the literature of Homer, the statesmanship of Pericles and all that is beautiful, good, true.  Athens, the world’s first democracy, is charmingly remembered in each little Greek temple-home that dots the plain, that ennobles the farm, that dignifies the townhouse, Athens, Georgia to Olympia, Washington.*  Foremost of ancient Greek temples, the house of Athena Parthenos, the “Parthenon”, a temple-home recalled in the modern Lincoln Memorial and in other houses, monuments and memorials in the land of Athena’s grandniece, Columbia.

Columbia’s home, Washington, The District of Columbia, though mostly Roman Palladian, was born of the sentiment that America is spiritual heir of Greek philosophy, drama and art, of the Athenian democracy, though a democracy mediated by stabilizing republican restraints.  To honor our Classive patrimony, many American towns boast Greek names; Sparta, Athens, Ithaca, et cetera.  As likely you know, Greek temple architecture is a most chosen form of American civic, sacred, and domestic architecture, because most appropriate.  You will find some rich variation of Greek precedent in practically every town and city of these United States.

Most domestic Greek Revival architecture employs a sparsely appointed façade, bilaterally symmetrical, tripartite (of three parts – middle and two sides … a bottom, middle, top … et cetera), occasionally columned in a typical Order, “Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian”.  Many Greek Revival houses are polychromed in the antique fashion, though most are white, showing Greek Revival geometry to its best advantage.

Greek Revival

Ann’s Arbor, #66C, Ionic, Elevation M. Curtis, designer

The “Orders” refer to the ordering, organizing principle of a Classive building.
  (Please see, below.)  You might think of the Doric as manly, its stout Doric column firmly grounded, heavy, bold, its simple features state plainly structure and use.  You might consider the Ionic, gentlemanly, strong, yet eloquent in refinement, its strength shown in the potential rather than in the employment of force.  Notice the implied energy of the volute, alike Bernini’s David tightened to spring.  Yes, the Ionic is sometimes female, when dressed in those details that adorn, that charm, that delight the wearer and all others.  The Corinthian might be thought the lady of the Orders, ornate, verdant, sumptuous, her capital, Nature’s coronet, her column, a gown.  These days, some will choose to quarrel with the universal feminine, the universal masculine, yet all that is proves compliment in the nature of creation.

* You did, I expect, notice the names “Georgia” for our king, George II, “Washington” for our president, George Washington, “Athens” for Athena, “Olympia” for Zeus … there is a power in names, as in “Salamis” where a small Athenian navy defeated the Great King Xerxes, the massive, overwhelming forces of Persia’s axis of power, a victory for Classive Civilization that allowed the realization of what is beautiful, good, and true.


66 Greek Revival Anns Arbor Corinthian Plan and Elevation Color

Ann’s Arbor, #66D, Corinthian, Plan and Elevation. M. Curtis, designer


Rectangular block, temple-formed and true to each Order (Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian), sometimes plain, sometimes eloquent and refined. Occasionally, in homes sans Order, a harmony of parts achieves the Classive effect.
Roof Features
A low pitched, simple gable alike the temple pediment, though sometimes hipped, occasionally featuring antefix and acroterion.
Trabeated, most often with flat lintels over six-by-six windows.  Ground floor windows are taller than second floor windows; attic windows sometimes mimic triglyphs and metopes.  The surrounds can be heavy or light, and the pure examples approximate the ancient Athenian.  The doors and windows are sometimes shuttered.
Structure and Materials
Walls and columns can be of masonry, brick, or wood; wood being most common.
Space and Floor Plan
A temple-form of one or two stories, though a third, attic story is common in townhouses.  The gable might be sided, showing an almost Georgian façade; or, the front elevation will be gabled alike a pediment.  High-style examples will be full articulated, columned in a particular Order.  Palladianesque examples feature wings upon a central block, a hen-and-chickens.   Seldom does the plan mimic the classical temple, instead drawing its precedent from the Federal or Georgian.
An entry porch with prominent Greek pilasters or columns: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian.  An entablature appropriate to an Order, sometimes articulated, sometimes in broad bands.  Door surrounds are often transomed, occasionally recessed.
In simple homes, ornament might be stripped to bare essentials; in grand homes, ornament is fully articulated.
Most often pure white, though color is sometimes employed, and the rare example will mimic the polychromy of classical temples.
Formal, unless of the farmhouse variety.  In the South, porches are often large, sometimes enwrapping the house.

*for a detailed history, see “Your House: Style and Period, Greek Revival“.

66 Greek Revival Anns Arbor Four Orders

Ann’s Arbor, #66, Four Orders (A, B, C, D). M. Curtis, designer


Greek Revival, Ann’s Arbor FEATURES

Ann Arbor, a Greekish village, “the Athens of the Midwest”,  was richly defined by the Greek Revival, and the town yet has fine examples of Greek houses and institutions, including its university.  As noted by U of M President, Henry P. Tappan, “Here a new Athens shall arise with its schools of Philosophy and Art, and its Acropolis crowned with another Parthenon.”  First-rate examples of its Greek style can yet be found throughout the county of which it is the seat.  In fact, an almost unique Greek Revival derivative of the region, a central temple block with hipped wings, can be seen in Robert Frost’s Ann Arbor home (now located in Greenfield Village.)  Our three variations of the Greek Revival, “Ann’s Arbor”, ascend from what is now Ann Arbor’s history museum, Kempf House, a prostyle temple-form whose classically detailed window grills dip from the frieze into architrave.  You will notice the typical rectangular block; a correctly proportioned entablature; typically white, clapboard siding; acanthus and palmette window grills.

Ann’s Arbor conforms itself to urbane living: the façade is friendly, the windows are large, the spacious public rooms easily merge into a generous private garden whose fountains, statuary, et cetera are comforted into patterned, local fauna; Nature civilized.  The relaxing garden serves the dinning room and master suite, and a separate roof deck is adjacent to the second floor family room.  Each large bedroom has a private bath and ample closets.  There are both upstairs and downstairs laundries, and plenty of storage space in the many closets and cabinets.  Hidden from the street, a rear two-car garage.  This politely formal home’s small footprint is ideally suited to city or town and is especially appropriate for an infill lot.


Greek Revival

Ann’s Arbor, #66A, Tuscan Elevation. M. Curtis, designer


23’-8”                           Height
25’-8”                           Width
80’-7”                           Depth
2,922                           Squared Feet
1,451                           Main Floor
1,451                           Second Floor
3                                   Bedrooms
3 ½                               Bathrooms
2 car                            Garage


Greek Revival

Ann’s Arbor, #66B, Elevation. M. Curtis, designer

Room Dimensions

First Floor
Living Room             16’-4” x 16’-4”
Dining Room             16’-4” x 14’-0”
Kitchen                      7’-5” x 14’-0”
Laundry                     4’-6” x 7’-6”
Watercloset               3’-0” x 7’-7”
Foyer                          7’-4” x 8’-6”
Stair Hall                    8’-0” x 8’0”
Master Bedroom      16’-4” x 16’-0”
Master Bath              8’-10” x 7’-6”
Walk-in Closet          7’-0” x 7’-6”
Garage                      24’-0” x 22’-10”

Second Floor
Family Room            24’-2” x 16’-0”
Bedroom 2               16’-4” x 14’-0”
Bathroom                 6’-0” x 7’-6”
Walk-in Closet        4’-10” x 7’-6”
Bedroom 3              16’-4” x 14’-0”
Bathroom                 7’-4” x 8’-6”
Stair Hall                  7’-4” x 33’-0”

Front Porch            26’-6” x 11’-0”
Deck                        24’-2” x 22’-10”


The Greek Orders

The Greek Orders


kitchen island
main floor bed & bath
main floor laundry
covered front porch
roof deck garden
rear-entry garage
wheelchair adaptable
suitable for aging in place


Width 25’-8”
Depth 80’-7”
Height 23’-8”
Heated Square Footage 2,922
Main Floor 1,451
Second Floor 1,451
Exterior Wall Const. clapboard on 2” x 6” studs
Ext. Wall Construction
Wood Clad over stick frame

Roof Framing beam and truss
Roof Pitch 4:12
Ceiling Main                          9’-0”

Slab, crawlspace, or basement

Ann’s Arbor, #66D:
Heated Square Footage 2,584 sf
Main Floor 1,268′
Second Floor 1,316′


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66 Greek Revival Anns Arbor Corinthian Elevation wide

Ann’s Arbor, #66D, Corinthian, Elevation. M. Curtis, designer


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