Italianate Architecture in the United States

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The Italianate style holds a specific place within the 19th century Classical style.  Just like many other architectural styles, this one developed within a much larger style, yet has such distinct features and decorative elements it is in a class all its own.  The basis of this style is 16th century Italian Renaissance, but many buildings and monuments built under this style also exhibit Palladianism and NeoClassicism.  Because of this, the Italianate style is also sometimes called the Neo-Renaissance style.

This style started at the very beginning of the 19th century in Great Britain by the British architect John Nash.  His first project in this style was a small country house in a small village in the West Midlands portion of the country. This was possible by adopting certain aspects of both the Regency and Victorian styles.  Nash passed the torch to another British architect in the 1830’s, Sir Charles Berry.  Some of Berry’s creations had such a uniqueness of their own that they have been dubbed “Berryesque”.  Many of these buildings incorporated less of the Palladian style an more of an Italian Renaissance feel despite the overall rustic look of most of Nash’s buildings.

Like many other architectural styles that originated in the United Kingdom, the Italianate style quickly spread throughout Europe and parts of the globe.  Around the same time that Nash was making a name for himself the Italianate style was making a name in the United States.  From 1840 to the 1890’s is when it was at the height of popularity, and was promoted primarily by architect Alexander Jackson Davis.

The United States used the style mostly to build houses, and unfortunately few of them still stand today.  The oldest example of this style is the home of a former governor of North Carolina John Motley Morehead.  This home is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The popularity of Italianate architecture in the time period following 1845 can be seen in Cincinnati, Ohio, the United States’ first boomtown west of the Appalachian Mountains. This city, which grew along with the traffic on the Ohio River, features arguably the largest single collection of Italianate buildings in the United States in its Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood, built primarily by German-American immigrants that lived in the densely populated area.

Kohn Coleman born in Michigan – received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2000 – currently leads several online companies and ventures.