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, 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.



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]