Spanish Colonial Revival architecture

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The Spanish Colonial Revival Style (Spanish : Arquitectura neocolonial española) is an architectural stylistic movement arising in the early 20th century based on the Spanish Colonial architecture of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. [1]


In the United States, the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in San Diego, highlighting the work of architect Bertram Goodhue, is credited with giving the style national exposure. Embraced principally in California and Florida, the Spanish Colonial Revival movement enjoyed its greatest popularity between 1915 and 1931.

In Mexico, the Spanish Colonial Revival in architecture was tied to the nationalist movement in arts encouraged by the post-Mexican Revolution government. The Mexican style was primarily influenced by the Baroque architecture of central New Spain, in contrast to the U.S. style which was primarily influenced by the northern missions of New Spain. Subsequently, the U.S. interpretation saw popularity in Mexico and was locally termed colonial californiano.

Today, tract home design in Southern California and Florida largely descends from the early movement. The iconic terracotta shingles and stucco walls have been standard design of new construction in these regions from the 1970s to present.

Development of style

Mediterranean Revival

Spanish Colonial Revival style residence Spanish-mission-style.jpg
Spanish Colonial Revival style residence
Lighthouse of La Serena, Chile, was built in 1950 as part of Gabriel Gonzalez Videla's Plan Serena that introduced a neocolonial theme to the city centre La Serena lighthouse.jpg
Lighthouse of La Serena, Chile, was built in 1950 as part of Gabriel González Videla's Plan Serena that introduced a neocolonial theme to the city centre

The antecedents of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style in the United States can be traced to the Mediterranean Revival architectural style. For St. Augustine, Florida (a former Spanish colony), three northeastern architects, New Yorkers John Carrère and Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings and Bostonian Franklin W. Smith, designed grand, elaborately detailed hotels in the Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Revival styles in the 1880s. With the advent of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (Carrère and Hastings, 1882), the Alcazar Hotel (Carrère and Hastings, 1887) and the Casa Monica Hotel (later Hotel Cordova) (Franklin W. Smith, 1888) thousands of winter visitors to 'the Sunshine State' began to experience the charm and romance of Spanish influenced architecture. These three hotels were influenced not only by the centuries-old buildings remaining from the Spanish rule in St. Augustine but also by The Old City House, constructed in 1873 and still standing, an excellent example of early Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Mission Revival

Kelso Hotel and Depot; Mojave Desert, Southern California Kelso railroad depot.jpg
Kelso Hotel and Depot; Mojave Desert, Southern California

The possibilities of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style were brought to the attention of architects attending late 19th and early 20th centuries international expositions. For example, California's Mission Revival style Pavilion in white stucco at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, [2] and the Mission Inn, along with the Electric Tower of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1900 [3] introduced the potential of Spanish Colonial Revival. They also integrated porticoes, pediments and colonnades influenced by Beaux Arts classicism as well.


By the early years of the 1910s, architects in Florida had begun to work in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. Frederick H. Trimble's Farmer's Bank in Vero Beach, completed in 1914, is a fully mature early example of the style. The city of St. Cloud, Florida, espoused the style both for homes and commercial structures and has a fine collection of subtle stucco buildings reminiscent of colonial Mexico. Many of these were designed by architectural partners Ida Annah Ryan and Isabel Roberts. Another significant example of the emerging popularity of Spanish Colonial Revival can be seen in the architecture of south Florida's Coral Gables, a planned city established in the 1920s that prominently incorporates the style.


Santa Barbara County Courthouse is regarded as a prime example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture Santa Barbara County Courthouse CA.jpg
Santa Barbara County Courthouse is regarded as a prime example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture

The major location of design and construction in the Spanish Colonial Revival style was California, especially in the coastal cities. In 1915 the San Diego Panama-California Exposition, with architects Bertram Goodhue and Carleton Winslow Sr., popularized the style in the state and nation. It is best exemplified in the California Quadrangle, built as the grand entrance to that Exposition. In the early 1920s, architect Lilian Jeannette Rice designed the style in the development of the town of Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County. The city of Santa Barbara adopted the style to give it a unified Spanish character after widespread destruction in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. The County Courthouse designed by William Mooser III and the Arlington Theatre designed by Edwards and Plunkett are prime examples. Real estate developer Ole Hanson favored the Spanish Colonial Revival style in his founding and development of San Clemente, California in 1928. The Pasadena City Hall by John Bakewell, Jr. and Arthur Brown, Jr. , the Sonoma City Hall, and the Beverly Hills City Hall by Harry G. Koerner and William J. Gage are other notable civic examples in California. Between 1922 and 1931, architect Robert H. Spurgeon constructed 32 Spanish colonial revival houses in Riverside and many of them have been preserved.


The neocolonial companion building (1940s) to the colonial Mexico City palace of the ayuntamiento (1720s) New Federal District Building (Mexico City).jpg
The neocolonial companion building (1940s) to the colonial Mexico City palace of the ayuntamiento (1720s)
INBA-catalogued house built in the colonial californiano style in Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico City. Villa in Lomas de Chapultepec.jpg
INBA-catalogued house built in the colonial californiano style in Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico City.

The Spanish Colonial Revival of Mexico has a distinct origin from the style developed in the United States. Following the Mexican Revolution, there was a wave of nationalism that emphasized national culture, including in architecture. The neocolonial style arose as a response to European eclecticism (favored during the Porfiriato). The 1915 book La patria y la arquitectura nacional by architect Federico E. Mariscal (es) was influential in advocating viceregal architecture as integral to national identity. [4] During the government of President Venustiano Carranza (serving 1917 to 1920), tax exemptions were offered to those that built houses in a colonial style. [5] In the early 1920s there was a surge of houses built with Plateresque elements; such as grotesques, pinnacles and mixtilinear arches (es). [5]

Secretary of Education José Vasconcelos (who shaped the cultural philosophy of the post-Revolution government) was an active promoter of neocolonial architecture. [6] Traditional materials such as tezontle, cantera and Talavera tiles were incorporated into neocolonial buildings. [5]

The colonial-era National Palace was significantly altered between 1926 and 1929: the addition of a third floor and changes to the facade. The modifications were done in a manner corresponding to the original style. Similarly, the colonial Mexico City government building was remodeled in the 1920s and a neocolonial companion building was built in the 1940s.

Colonial californiano

The style, as developed in the United States, came full circle to its geographic point of inspiration as in the late 1930s, single-family houses were built in Mexico City's then-new upscale neighborhoods in what is known in Mexico as colonial californiano (Californian Colonial). That is, a Mexican reinterpretation of the California interpretation of Spanish Colonial Revival. [7] Many houses of this style can still be seen in the Colonia Nápoles, Condesa, Polanco and Lomas de Chapultepec areas of Mexico City. The Pasaje Polanco shopping court is an example of the style's application in commercial architecture.


Gota de Leche Building in Manila. Gota de Leche 07.jpg
Gota de Leche Building in Manila.

After colonial rule by Spain for over 300 years, and for the most part being administered under the province of New Spain (Mexico), the Philippines received Iberian and Latin-American influences in its architecture. By the time the United States conquered the Philippines, the Mission-style and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture also arrived, with inspirations from California. American architects further developed this style in the Philippines, given the Philippines' Spanish heritage, but at the same time modernizing the buildings with American amenities.

The best example of the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and California mission style is the famed Manila Hotel designed by William E. Parsons and built in 1909. Other examples exist throughout the country such as Gota de Leche, Paco Market, and thousands more, especially in the churches and cathedrals throughout the country.


Influential Australian architects such as Emil Sodersten and Professor Leslie Wilkinson brought back styles from Italy and Spain in the early 20th century convinced that Mediterranean styles would be well-suited for the Australian climate and lifestyle. Mediterranean style became popular in places like Sydney suburbs Manly and Bondi in the 1920s and 1930s. One variant, known as Spanish Mission or Hollywood Spanish, became popular as Australians saw films of and read in magazines about the glamorous mansions in that style that Hollywood movie stars had. Spanish mission houses began to appear in the wealthier suburbs, the most famous being Boomerang, at Elizabeth Bay. [8] [9] The Plaza Theatre in Sydney is a celebrated cinema in the style.


In the 1930s, numerous houses in Spanish Revival style were built in Shanghai, particularly in the former French Concession. Although Shanghai was not culturally linked to the Spanish-speaking world, these buildings were probably inspired by Hollywood movies, which were highly influential in the city at the time. Local architectural magazines of the period like The Chinese Architect and The Builder regularly printed detailed examples of the style for local builders to copy and implement.

Design elements

The Woodward Condominium (built 1910) in Washington, D.C. 2311 Connecticut Ave.JPG
The Woodward Condominium (built 1910) in Washington, D.C.

Spanish Colonial Revival architecture shares some elements with the earlier Mission Revival style derived from the architecture of the California missions, and Pueblo Revival style from the traditional Puebloan peoples in New Mexico. Both precedents were popularized in the Western United States by the Fred Harvey and his Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Depots and Hotels. The Spanish Colonial Revival style is also influenced by the American Craftsman style and Arts and Crafts Movement.

Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is characterized by a combination of detail from several eras of Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial, Moorish Revival and Mexican Churrigueresque architecture. The style is marked by the prodigious use of smooth plaster (stucco) wall and chimney finishes, low-pitched clay tile, shed, or flat roofs, and terracotta or cast concrete ornaments. Other characteristics typically include small porches or balconies, Roman or semi-circular arcades and fenestration, wood casement or tall, double–hung windows, canvas awnings, and decorative iron trim.

Notable architects

One of the most accomplished architects of the style was George Washington Smith who practiced during the 1920s in Santa Barbara, California. His own residences El Hogar (1916, a.k.a. Casa Dracaena) and Casa del Greco (1920) brought him commissions from local society in Montecito and Santa Barbara. An example landmark house he designed is the Steedman estate Casa del Herrero in Montecito, now a registered National Historic Landmark and restored historic house—landscape museum. Other examples are the Jackling House and Lobero Theatre also in California.

In California

Bertram Goodhue and Carleton Winslow initiated the style as the dominant historical regional style in California; they also influenced Hawaiian architecture in the 1920s. Notable in Californian architecture were the following architects: [10]

In Florida

In Florida notable architects include: [10]

In Hawaii

Current notable architects

El Sueno designed by Kevin A. Clark El Sueno designed by Kevin A. Clark.jpg
El Sueño designed by Kevin A. Clark

In California

Structural form

List of example structures

Stanford University's main quad Stanford University 1978.jpg
Stanford University's main quad
Quapaw Baths BathhouseRow Quapaw Baths NPS 1985.djvu
Quapaw Baths
Plaza del Lago Plaza del Lago IMG 7452 (cropped).jpg
Plaza del Lago

See also

Related Research Articles

Architecture of the United States Broad variety of architectural styles

The architecture of the United States demonstrates a broad variety of architectural styles and built forms over the country's history of over two centuries of independence and former Spanish and British rule.

Bertram Goodhue American architect

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue was an American architect celebrated for his work in Gothic Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival design. He also designed notable typefaces, including Cheltenham and Merrymount for the Merrymount Press. Later in life, Goodhue freed his architectural style with works like El Fureidis in Montecito, one of the three estates designed by Goodhue.

Panama–California Exposition

The Panama–California Exposition was an exposition held in San Diego, California, between January 1, 1915, and January 1, 1917. The exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, and was meant to tout San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships traveling north after passing westward through the canal. The fair was held in San Diego's large urban Balboa Park.

Mediterranean Revival architecture

Mediterranean Revival is an architectural style introduced in the United States in the waning nineteenth century variously incorporating references from Spanish Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, Italian Renaissance, French Colonial, Beaux-Arts, Arabic Andalusian architecture, and Venetian Gothic architecture.


Plateresque, meaning "in the manner of a silversmith", was an artistic movement, especially architectural, developed in Spain and its territories, which appeared between the late Gothic and early Renaissance in the late 15th century, and spread over the next two centuries. It is a modification of Gothic spatial concepts and an eclectic blend of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Lombard decorative components, as well as Renaissance elements of Tuscan origin.

California Pacific International Exposition

The California Pacific International Exposition was an exposition held in San Diego, California during May 29, 1935–November 11, 1935 and February 12, 1936–September 9, 1936. The exposition was held in Balboa Park, San Diego's large central urban park, which had also been the site of the earlier Panama-California Exposition in 1915.

Churrigueresque Baroque architecture style in Spain

Churrigueresque, also but less commonly "Ultra Baroque", refers to a Spanish Baroque style of elaborate sculptural architectural ornament which emerged as a manner of stucco decoration in Spain in the late 17th century and was used up to about 1750, marked by extreme, expressive and florid decorative detailing, normally found above the entrance on the main facade of a building.

Sarasota Times Building United States historic place

The Sarasota Times Building is a historic site in Sarasota, Florida. It is located at 1214–1216 1st Street. On March 22, 1984, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The three-story asymmetrically-massed, stucco and cast stone façade, Mediterranean Revival structure was designed by architect Dwight James Baum. It is significant to Sarasota's heritage for its role as a newspaper established in 1899, and also for its architectural merits.

Pueblo Revival architecture Architectural movement

The Pueblo Revival style or Santa Fe style is a regional architectural style of the Southwestern United States, which draws its inspiration from traditional Pueblo architecture and the Spanish missions in New Mexico. The style developed at the beginning of the 20th century and reached its greatest popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, though it is still commonly used for new buildings. Pueblo style architecture is most prevalent in the state of New Mexico.

George Washington Smith (architect) American architect and painter

George Washington Smith,, was an American architect and painter. He is noted particularly for his work around Santa Barbara, California, and for popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style in early 20th Century America.

Casa del Herrero United States historic place

Casa del Herrero is a home and gardens located in Montecito near Santa Barbara, California. It is an estate designed and constructed in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture, and is considered one of the finest examples of the style. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and made a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009. Today the entire 11-acre (4.5 ha) site is owned and operated as a historic house museum and garden by the non-profit Casa del Herrero Foundation, with the goal of restoring and preserving the house and grounds.

Architecture of San Antonio

Architecture in the American city of San Antonio, Texas comes from a wide variety of sources, but many of the city's buildings reflect Texas' Spanish and Mexican roots; with some influence from French builders, among others. Relatively rapid economic growth since the mid twentieth century has led to a fairly wide variety of contemporary architectural buildings.

Carleton Winslow

Carleton Monroe Winslow, also known as Carleton Winslow Sr., was an American architect, and key proponent of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in Southern California in the early 20th century.

Mission Revival architecture Architectural movement and style

The Mission Revival style was an architectural movement that began in the late 19th century for a colonial style's revivalism and reinterpretation, which drew inspiration from the late 18th and early 19th century Spanish missions in California. It is sometimes termed California Mission Revival, particularly when used elsewhere, such as in New Mexico where historically there were other Spanish missions that were not the same architecturally.

Lutah Maria Riggs

Lutah Maria Riggs was an American architect who worked for several decades in the Southern California region. She was the first licensed female architect in Santa Barbara, and the first woman in California to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

Richard Smith Requa was an American architect, largely known for his work in San Diego, California. Requa was the Master Architect for the California Pacific International Exposition held in Balboa Park in 1935–36. He improved and extended many of the already existing buildings from an earlier exposition, as well as creating new facilities including the Old Globe Theater.

California Quadrangle United States historic place

The California Quadrangle, California Building, and California Tower are historic structures located in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. They were built for the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition and served as the grand entry to the Expo. The buildings and courtyard were designed by architect Bertram Goodhue. They were added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1974. They now house the Museum of Us.

Architecture of Jacksonville

The architecture of Jacksonville is a combination of historic and modern styles reflecting the city's early position as a regional center of business. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there are more buildings built before 1967 in Jacksonville than any other city in Florida, but it is also important to note that few structures in the city center predate the Great Fire of 1901. Numerous buildings in the city have held state height records, dating as far back as 1902, and last holding a record in 1981.

William J. Gage was an American architect. He designed many buildings in Los Angeles County, California, including Beverly Hills and Bel Air.

Michael Burch American architect

Michael Bauman Burch is a Southern California-based architect. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA). A fourth generation Southern Californian, Burch was raised in Pasadena, CA, and educated at the University of California, Berkeley and the Yale School of Architecture. He has taught at the University of Southern California. Burch founded his firm, Michael Burch Architects, in 1986. He was the original co-curator of an exhibition for the Getty Institute's Pacific Standard Time on the Spanish Colonial/Mediterranean Revival style. Burch's work has appeared in 20 books on the style, including the cover of "the definitive statement on the subject". He was invited to present the work of his firm at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020, as well as at Moscow's Schusev Architecture Museum in 2020. He has been described as "the greatest living practitioner of the Spanish Colonial/Mediterranean Revival style". In addition to numerous American Institute of Architects awards, his firm has received three Palladio Awards, the sole national award for traditional architecture.


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Further reading