19th Century, Antebellum Architecture

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An antebellum plantation household: including the South Carolina low country …

By Anne Sinkler Whaley

Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), American architect, worked in the Federal style. Born in Boston and educated at Harvard University, Bulfinch was influenced by British architect Christopher Wren. Bulfinch’s most important design was The Massachusetts State House. Benjamin Latrobe, a British architect who migrated to the US, designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, the first Greek revival style. This style became very important from 1820 to 1860. Pierre Charles L’Enfant worked with Thomas Jefferson in the planning of the city of Washington, D.C. Classical and Federal styles dominated the early republic. Architects of this period were generally amateurs.

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19th Century Antebellum Architecture, Thomas Jefferson, Greek Revival

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Thomas Jefferson greatly influenced the commission of American architectural design. In addition to being the third President of the United States, he was often called the “Father of American Architecture.”

According to Monticello.org, Jefferson said,“Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements.” He spent much Detail of Portico Pediment showing Palladian half-window or lunette).of his life “putting up and pulling down,” most notably during the forty-year construction period of Monticello. Influenced by his readings of ancient and modern architectural writings, Jefferson gleaned the best from both his reading and from his observations in Europe, creating in his architectural designs a style that was distinctively American.

“Father of our National Architecture”

As Secretary of State, Jefferson was responsible for the design of the Federal City in Washington, D.C. Working with Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Jefferson helped to lay out the city and had a voice in selecting the plans of many of the first government buildings in America. Jefferson used this opportunity to “improve the taste of his countrymen” by “presenting them models for their study and imitation.” When he was selected to plan the Virginia State Capitol, for instance, he wrote that it was “a favorable opportunity of introducing into the state an example of architecture in the classic style of antiquity.” It is in part because of Jefferson’s influence that our federal buildings set an American precedent for the neoclassical style. For this reason, architectural historian Fiske Kimball called Jefferson “the father of our national architecture.”

“The Hobby of My Old Age”

Along with Monticello, Jefferson the architect is best known for his plans for the University of Virginia. Jefferson designed the initial buildings as an “academical village” in which students and professors would live, learn, and teach in community. The original buildings were planned not only as housing for students and professors, but also as models of architecture. Jefferson designed the most ambitious of the original buildings, the Rotunda, on the model of the Roman Pantheon. Today the University’s grounds are recognized as one of the most beautiful and important college campuses in the country.

(from Monticello.org)

GREEK REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE

Thomas Jefferson’s architectural palette was influenced by the book, “The Antiquities of Athens” and he introduced the style of architectural design to America, a style that proliferated government buildings across the country and homes in the American south.

The Greek Revival was an architectural movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, predominantly in Northern Europe and the United States. A product of Hellenism, it may be looked upon as the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture. The term was first used by Charles Robert Cockerell in a lecture he gave as Professor of Architecture to the Royal Academy in 1842.[1]

The term is indicative of how highly self-conscious practitioners of the style were, and that they realised they had created a new mode of architecture. he taste for all things Greek in furniture and interior design was at its peak by the beginning of the 19th century, when the designs of Thomas Hope had influenced a number of decorative styles known variously as Neoclassical, Empire, Russian Empire, and Regency. Greek Revival architecture took a different course in a number of countries, lasting until the Civil War in America (1860s) and even later in Scotland. The style was also exported to Greece under the first two (German and Danish) kings of the newly independent nation.(Wikepedia)

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson appointed Benjamin Henry Latrobe as surveyor of public building in the United States. Latrobe went on to design a number of important public buildings in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, including work on the United States Capitol and the Bank of Pennsylvania.[6]

Forks of Cypress by William Nichols, Lauderdale County, Alabama, shaded by its peripteral Ionic colonnades (burned 1966) Latrobe’s design for the Capitol was an imaginative interpretation of the classical orders not constrained by historical precedent, incorporating American motifs such as corncobs and tobacco leaves. This idiosyncratic approach was to become typical of the American attitude to Greek detailing. His overall plan for the Capitol did not survive, though much of his interiors do. He also did notable work on the Supreme Court interior (1806–07) and his masterpiece, the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Baltimore (1805–21). Even as he claimed that “I am a bigoted Greek in the condemnation of the Roman architecture…,” he did not seek to rigidly impose Greek forms, stating that “[o]ur religion requires a church wholly different from the temple, our legislative assemblies and our courts of justice, buildings of entirely different principles from their basilicas; and our amusements could not possibly be performed in their theatres or amphitheatres.”[7] Latrobe’s circle of junior colleagues would prove to be an informal school of Greek revivalists, and it was his influence that was to shape the next generation of American architects.

Temple Row at Sailors’ Snug Harbor.

Synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina

The second phase in the development of American Greek revival saw the pupils of Latrobe create a monumental national style under the patronage of banker and hellenophile Nicholas Biddle, including such works as the Second Bank of the United States by William Strickland (1824), Biddle’s home “Andalusia” by Thomas U. Walter (1835–1836), and Girard College also by Walter (1833–47). New York saw the construction (1833) of the row of Greek temples at Sailors’ Snug Harbor. At the same time, the popular appetite for the Greek was sustained by architectural pattern books, the most important of which was Asher Benjamin’s The Practical House Carpenter (1830). This guide helped create the proliferation of Greek homes seen especially in northern New York State and the Western Reserves of Ohio. From the period of about 1820 to 1850, the Greek Revival style dominated the United States and could be found as far west as Springfield, Illinois. not only for the better greek architecture hes helped many people throughout the world have a better understanding on how real buildings have a scturctured base.

Other notable American architects to use Greek Revival designs included Latrobe’s student, Robert Mills who designed the Monumental Church and the Washington Monument, as well as George Hadfield and Gabriel Manigault.[6]

In Canada, Montreal architect John Ostell designed a number of prominent Greek Revival buildings, including the first building on the McGill University campus and Montreal’s original Custom House, now part of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum. The Toronto Street Post Office, completed in 1853, is another Canadian example.

You can find many recreations of Greek architecture around the world still!

[edit] Polychromy

Hittorff‘s reconstruction of Temple B at Selinus, 1851.

See also: Polychrome

The discovery that the Greeks had painted their temples had a profound influence on the later development of the style. The archaeological dig at Aegina and Bassae in 1811-12 by Cockerell, Otto Magnus von Stackelberg, and Karl Haller von Hallerstein had disinterred painted fragments of masonry daubed with impermanent colours. This revelation was a direct contradiction of Winckelmann‘s notion of the Greek temple as timeless, fixed, and pure in its whiteness. In 1823, Samuel Angell discovered the coloured metopes of Temple C at Selinunte, Sicily and published them in 1826. The French architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff witnessed the exhibition of Angell’s find and endeavoured to excavate Temple B at Selinus. His imaginative reconstructions of this temple were exhibited in Rome and Paris in 1824 and he went on to publish these as Architecture polychrome chez les Grecs (1830) and later in Restitution du Temple d’Empedocle a Selinote (1851). The controversy was to inspire von Klenze’s Aegina room at the Munich Glyptothek of 1830, the first of his many speculative reconstructions of Greek colour.

Hittorff lectured in Paris in 1829-1830, that Greek temples had originally been painted ochre yellow, with the moulding and sculptural details in red, blue, green and gold. While this may or may not have been the case with older wooden or plain stone temples, it was definitely not the case with the more luxurious marble temples, where colour was used sparingly to accentuate architectural highlights. Similarly, Henri Labrouste proposed a reconstruction of the temples at Paestum to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1829, decked out in startling colour, inverting the accepted chronology of the three Doric temples, thereby implying that the development of the Greek orders did not increase in formal complexity over time, i.e., the evolution from Doric to Corinthian was not inexorable. Both events were to cause a minor scandal. The emerging understanding that Greek art was subject to changing forces of environment and culture was a direct assault on the architectural rationalism of the day.

[edit] Influence

With the rise of architectural historicism in the mid-19th century it is no longer possible to speak of a Greek revival movement, where the Doric is employed it is as another self-consciously anachronising style. The San Francisco mint (completed 1874) is a case in point. Yet Greek culture and Greek design motifs continued to exert a powerful hold on late Victorian imagination and beyond. Peter Behrens‘s Haus Wiegund (1911–12), for example, echos the austere classicism of Gilly and Schinkel. Further north we find a resurgent interest in rationalism dressed in the neoclassical style; Nordic Classicism. If the idiom has fallen out of favour since World War II it is thanks to its association, rightly or wrongly, with the pastiche classicism of Albert Speer which still provokes controversy as witnessed in Léon Krier‘s provocative essay “Krier on Speer”.[8]

19th Century, Antebellum Architecture, Historical Fiction

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THE FIRST AMERICAN ARCHITECT

Charles Bulfinch

From Wikepedia

(August 8, 1763 – April 15, 1844) was an early American architect, and has been regarded by many as the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession.[1] Bulfinch split his career between his native Boston and Washington, D.C., where he served as Commissioner of Public Building and built the intermediate United States Capitol rotunda and dome. His works are notable for their simplicity, balance, and good taste, and as the origin of a distinctive Federal style of classical domes, columns, and ornament that dominated early 19th-century American architecture. According to Boston College researchers, Bulfinch traveled throughout Europe between 1785-1787 where he was advised by Thomas Jefferson. Involved in the planning of much of old Boston; his churches are influenced by the Englishman Sir Christopher Wren. From 1817 to 1830 he was in charge of the design of the Capitol in Washington.

Early life

Bulfinch was born in Boston to Thomas Bulfinch, a prominent physician, and his wife, Susan Apthorp. He was educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard University, from which he graduated with an AB in 1781 and Master’s degree in 1784.

 

Thomas Bulfinch (father of Charles), ca.1757

He then made a grand tour of Europe from 1785-1787, where he was influenced by the classical architecture in Italy and the neoclassical buildings of Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Adam, William Chambers and others in the United Kingdom. Thomas Jefferson became something of a mentor to him in Europe, as he would later be to Robert Mills.[2]

 

Hannah Apthorp (Mrs. Charles Bulfinch), ca.1788

Upon his return to the United States in 1787, he became a promoter of the ship Columbia Rediviva‘s voyage around the world under command of Captain Robert Gray (1755–1806). It was the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. In 1788 he married Hannah Apthorp, his first cousin. Their sons include Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867), author of Bulfinch’s Mythology, and Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch (1809–1870), Unitarian clergyman and author.

[edit] Career

 

Massachusetts State House, completed 1798

 

Bulfinch’s first building was the Hollis Street Church (1788). Among his other early works are a memorial column on Beacon Hill (1789), the first monument to the American Revolution; the Federal Street theater (1793); the “Tontine Crescent” (built 1793–1794, now demolished), fashioned in part after John Wood‘s Royal Crescent; the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut (1796); and the Massachusetts State House (1798).

Over the course of ten years, Bulfinch built a remarkable number of private dwellings in the Boston area, including Joseph Barrell‘s Pleasant Hill (1793), a series of three houses in Boston for Harrison Gray Otis (1796, 1800, 1806), and the John Phillips House (1804). He built several churches in Boston, of which New North (built 1802–1804) is the last standing.

Serving from 1791 to 1795 on Boston’s board of selectmen, he resigned due to business pressures but returned in 1799. From 1799 to 1817 he was the chairman of Boston’s board of selectmen continuously, and served as a paid Police Superintendent, improving the city’s streets, drains, and lighting. Under his direction, both the infrastructure and civic center of Boston were transformed into a dignified classical style. Bulfinch was responsible for the design of the Boston Common, the remodeling and enlargement of Faneuil Hall (1805), and the construction of India Wharf. In these Boston years he also designed the Massachusetts State Prison (1803); Boylston Market (1810); University Hall for Harvard University (1813–1814); the Meeting House in Lancaster, Massachusetts (1815–17); and the Bulfinch Building of Massachusetts General Hospital (1818), its completion overseen by Alexander Parris, who was working in Bulfinch’s office at the time the architect was summoned to Washington.

Despite this great activity and civic involvement, Bulfinch was insolvent several times starting in 1796, including at the start of his work on the statehouse, and was jailed for the month of July 1811 for debt (in a prison he had designed himself). There was no payment for his services as selectman, and he received only $1,400 for designing and overseeing the construction of the State House.

In the summer of 1817, Bulfinch’s roles as selectman, designer and public official coincided during a visit by President James Monroe. The two men were almost constantly in each other’s company for the week-long visit, and a few months later (1818) Monroe appointed Bulfinch the successor to Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764–1820) as Architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (The Capitol Building had been partially burned by the British in 1814.) In this position he was paid a salary of $2,500 per year plus expenses.

As Commissioner of Public Building, Bulfinch completed the Capitol‘s wings and central portion, designed the western approach and portico, and constructed the Capitol’s original low wooden dome to his own design (replaced by the present cast-iron dome in the mid-1850s). In 1829 Bulfinch completed the construction of the Capitol, 36 years after its cornerstone was laid. During his interval in Washington, Bulfinch also drew plans for the State House in Augusta, Maine (1829–32). He returned to Boston in 1830, where he died on April 15, 1844, aged 80, and was buried in King’s Chapel Burial Ground in Boston. His tomb was later moved to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1943, a United States Liberty ship named the SS Charles Bulfinch was launched. The ship was scrapped in 1971.

[edit] Gallery of designs

1st Harrison Gray Otis House, 141 Cambridge Street

2nd Harrison Gray Otis House, 85 Mount Vernon Street

Faneuil Hall expansion.

Tower, Arlington, Massachusetts, formerly atop Boylston Market

Bulfinch’s gravemarker, Mount Auburn Cemetery

Joseph Coolidge House, Boston, c. 1792

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An antebellum plantation household: including the South Carolina low country …

By Anne Sinkler Whaley

Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), American architect, worked in the Federal style. Born in Boston and educated at Harvard University, Bulfinch was influenced by British architect Christopher Wren. Bulfinch’s most important design was The Massachusetts State House. Benjamin Latrobe, a British architect who migrated to the US, designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, the first Greek revival style. This style became very important from 1820 to 1860. Pierre Charles L’Enfant worked with Thomas Jefferson in the planning of the city of Washington, D.C. Classical and Federal styles dominated the early republic. Architects of this period were generally amateurs.