Federal architecture

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Central Pavilion, 1793-94, by Charles Bulfinch, at the Tontine Crescent, Boston Charles Bulfinch, Tontine Crescent.jpg
Central Pavilion, 1793–94, by Charles Bulfinch, at the Tontine Crescent, Boston

Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in the newly founded United States between c. 1780 and 1830, and particularly from 1785 to 1815. This style shares its name with its era, the Federalist Era. The name Federal style is also used in association with furniture design in the United States of the same time period. The style broadly corresponds to the classicism of Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Regency architecture in Britain and to the French Empire style.

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Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia features Federal-style homes and is referred to as "Our nation's oldest residential street," dating to 1702 Phila-elfrethsalley.jpg
Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia features Federal-style homes and is referred to as "Our nation's oldest residential street," dating to 1702
Massachusetts State House (1798, in a drawing by Alexander Jackson Davis, 1827 Massachusetts State House 1827.jpg
Massachusetts State House (1798, in a drawing by Alexander Jackson Davis, 1827
Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts (dating from 1816-17). Salem Town Hall.jpg
Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts (dating from 1816–17).
Hamilton Hall was built in 1805 by Samuel McIntire in Salem, Massachusetts. Hamilton Hall (Salem).jpg
Hamilton Hall was built in 1805 by Samuel McIntire in Salem, Massachusetts.

In the early American republic, the founding generation consciously chose to associate the nation with the ancient democracies of Greece and the republican values of Rome. Grecian aspirations informed the Greek Revival, lasting into the 1850s. Using Roman architectural vocabulary, [2] the Federal style applied to the balanced and symmetrical version of Georgian architecture that had been practiced in the American colonies' new motifs of neoclassical architecture as it was epitomized in Britain by Robert Adam, who published his designs in 1792.

Characteristics

American Federal architecture typically uses plain surfaces with attenuated detail, usually isolated in panels, tablets, and friezes. It also had a flatter, smoother façade and rarely used pilasters. It was most influenced by the interpretation of ancient Roman architecture, fashionable after the unearthing of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The bald eagle was a common symbol used in this style, with the ellipse a frequent architectural motif.

The classicizing manner of constructions and town planning undertaken by the federal government was expressed in federal projects of lighthouses, harbor buildings, and hospitals. It can be seen in the rationalizing, urbanistic layout of L'Enfant Plan of Washington and in the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 in New York. [3] The historic eastern part of Bleecker Street in New York, between Broadway and the Bowery, is home to Federal-style row houses at 7 to 13 and 21 to 25 Bleecker Street. The classicizing style of Federal architecture can especially be seen in the quintessential New England meeting house, with their lofty and complex towers by architects such as Lavius Fillmore and Asher Benjamin. [4]

This American neoclassical high style was the idiom of America's first professional architects, such as Charles Bulfinch and Minard Lafever. Robert Adam and James Adam were leading influences through their books. [5]

Legacy of Federal architecture in Salem, Massachusetts

In Salem, Massachusetts, there are numerous examples of American colonial architecture and Federal architecture in two historic districts: Chestnut Street District, which is part of the Samuel McIntire Historic District containing 407 buildings, and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, consisting of 12 historic structures and about 9 acres (4 ha) of land along the waterfront.

Architects of the Federal period

Modern reassessment of the American architecture of the Federal period began with Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and the Early Republic, 1922. [6]

See also

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Neoclassicism Western cultural movement inspired by ancient Greece and Rome

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Charles Bulfinch was an early American architect, and has been regarded by many as the first native-born American to practice architecture as a profession.

Mansion large dwelling house

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Samuel McIntire American architect

Samuel McIntire was an American architect and craftsman, best known for the Chestnut Street District, a classic example of Federal style architecture. Born in Salem, Massachusetts to housewright Joseph McIntire and Sarah (Ruck), he was a woodcarver by trade who grew into the practice of architecture. He married Elizabeth Field on October 10, 1778, and had one son. He built a simple home and workshop on Summer Street in 1786.

Alexander Parris American architect

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Chestnut Street District United States historic place

The Chestnut Street District is a historic district bounded roughly by Bridge, Lynn, Beckford, and River Streets in Salem, Massachusetts. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and enlarged slightly in 1978. The district contains a number of architecturally significant works of Samuel McIntire, a builder and woodworker who had a house and workshop at 31 Summer Street, and who designed and built a number of these houses, and others that display the profits made in the Old China Trade by Salem's merchants. The district is a subset of a larger locally designated McIntire Historic District.

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References

  1. Historical marker on Elfreth's Alley
  2. The design vocabulary of Federal architecture is accessibly illustrated and contrasted with Greek Revival in Rachel Carley, The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture 1994, ch. 5 "Neoclassical Styles", p. 90ff.
  3. For the federal government's role in Federal architectural style and its symbolism, see Lois Craig, ed. The Federal Presence: Architecture, Politics and Symbols in United States Government Building (Federal Architecture Project, Cambridge: MIT Press) 1978, chs. 1–3, with brief text and extended captions to multiple illustrations.
  4. http://www.colonialarchitectureproject.org/index?/category/2250-religious
  5. Creating Your Architectural Style. Pelican Publishing. p. 89. ISBN   978-1-4556-0309-1.
  6. It "established a generation ago a scholarly basis for subsequent study of early American architecture", observes Hugh Morrison, in the Acknowledgments prefacing Early American Architecture From the First Colonial Settlements to the National Period (1951, repr. 1987), p. xiii.

Further reading