Greek Revival Houseplan
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 in democratic liberty we might ascend beyond the Greeks in achievement and refinement … an ascension nearly accomplished in the early 20th Century.
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.
Typically, 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.
The “Orders” refer to the ordering, organizing principle of a Classive building. 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.
Greek Revival Characteristics
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.
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“.
Greek Revival Houseplan, Salamis Features
This handsome, well-measured house is an eloquent updating of the Greek Revival that suits comfortable, contemporary living within 2,300 square feet The home boasts three cozy fireplaces, four shady porches, a generously homey kitchen, and there is an in-law or office-suite for family business or extended family. The Master Suite has everything a mom and dad could want: a main floor location (the children are tucked in the upstairs); there is a hearth-like fireplace, a personal porch, a walk-in closet with pull-down racks, his-and-her sinks, and a Greek bathing shower … Wow! Too, the home has a beautiful Erechtheion-like central portico with flanking wings of Doric porches – simplicity and beauty in one stroke.
Greek Revival Houseplan, #18, The Salamis
2,391′ Square Feet
1,815′ First Floor
576′ Second Floor
3 ½ Bathrooms
670 Guest Suite/Work Room
Living Room 16’-0” x 24’-0”
Common Room 24’-0” x 16’-0”
Country Kitchen 8’-6” x 14’-0”
Pantry 8’-6” x 4’-10”
Watercloset 8’-6” x 4’-10”
Foyer 8’-0” x 8’-0”
Stair Hall 7’-6” x 24’-0”
Master Bedroom 17’-3” x 16’-0”
Walk-in Closet 6’-3” x 10’-0”
Bathing Suite 8’-0” x 14’-0”/6’-0’ x 12’-0”
Garage 23’-0” x 25’-6”
Bedroom 2 15’-6” x 10’-6”
Bedroom 3 15’-6” x 13’-0”
Bathroom 8’-0” x 8’-0”
Stair Hall 8’-0” x 15’-6”
In-Law Suite 23’-0” x 22’-6”
Walk-in Closet 8’-0” x 6’-5”
Bathroom 8’-0” x 6’-5”
Attic 8’-0” x 6’-5”
Central Portico 26’-0” x 10’-0”
Front, Side Porticos 25’-0” x 6’-0”
Rear Portico 9’-2” x 29’-6”
first floor powder room
upstairs bedrooms & bath
in-law suite or home-office
extensive bathing suite
Heated Square Footage 2,391′
Main Floor 1,205’-6”
Second Floor 1,152”-6”
Ext. Wall Construction Wood Clad over stick frame
Roof Framing beam and truss
Roof Pitch 6:12 (25%, ¼ pitch)
Ceiling Main 9’-0”
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