Federal architecture

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.

Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia features Federal-style homes and is referred to as "Our nation's oldest residential street," dating to 1702.[1]
Salem Town Hall
Old Town Hall in Salem, Massachusetts (dating from 1816–17).
Hamilton Hall (Salem)
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.

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


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]

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.[4]

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.[5]

See also


  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. ^ Creating Your Architectural Style. Pelican Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-4556-0309-1.
  5. ^ 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

  • Craig, Lois A., The Federal Presence: Architecture, Politics and National Design. The MIT Press: 1984. ISBN 0-262-53059-7.

External links

Advance Mills, Virginia

Advance Mills, also known as Fray's Mill, is an unincorporated community in Albemarle County, Virginia.

It is a historic mill village dating from 1810. The community was built by the Fray family, who moved there in 1833. A historic district including its area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.The community first became known as "Advance Mills" in 1888, and the traditional story is that the name was coined by John Fray "who claimed that people frequently commented upon all the advances being made there."The National Register-listed area is 85 acres (34 ha) and included 18 contributing buildings and 2 contributing sites and 3 contributing structures. At listing date, the district included a bridge, a dam, a millrace, and four houses.The site of the mill and the site of a general store remain; the mill itself and the supply store were destroyed by fire in the 1940s.Significant contributing properties in the historic district include:

Advance Mills Bridge, crossing Rivanna River

Advance Mills Supply building site, lying below what is now the Advance Mills Store

Advance Mills General Store

J. M. Fray House, the best-preserved house in the district, c. 1810



Bank barn

other outbuildings

the Gaines Fray House (II), from 1921, an American Four Square, just south of the store on west side of 743

Gaines Fray House (I)

A. G. Fray mill site

Bank Barn, 1/4 mile west of Rivanna River crossing

Ballard House, c.1900, an "I-house"

Carolina Hall

Carolina Hall is a historic residence in Mobile, Alabama, United States. It was built in 1832 in a Federal style and later altered to a Greek Revival style. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 1973.

D. Horace Tilton House

The D. Horace Tilton House is a historic house at 379 Albion Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The 1-1/2 story wood frame house is a well preserved small Federal-style house built in the later years of the 18th century, when the area was part of Stoneham. Four bays wide, its front door has a later Greek Revival surround, around which time its upper-level windows may also have been added. The house belonged to D. Horace Tilton, a shoemaker.The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Deacon Daniel Green House

The Deacon Daniel Green House is a historic house at 747 Main Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It is a ​2 1⁄2-story wood-frame house, with a gable roof and clapboard siding. It was built early in the Federal period (1750-1785), and is one of a few surviving examples of a local architectural variant, three bays wide and four bays deep. The house was occupied by Deacon Daniel Green in 1785, who moved to South Reading (as Wakefield was then known), from Stoneham.The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Emanuel Building

The Emanuel Building, also known as the Bank of Mobile and Staples-Pake Building is a historic commercial building in Mobile, Alabama, United States. The three-story masonry structure was built in 1850 and then remodeled several times over the next century. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 21, 1978.

Emerson–Franklin Poole House

The Emerson–Franklin Poole House is a historic house at 23 Salem Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Built about 1795, it was in the 19th century home to Franklin Poole, a locally prominent landscape artist. Some of its walls are adorned with the murals drawn by Rufus Porter. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Farmington (Louisville, Kentucky)

Farmington, an 18-acre (7.3 ha) historic site in Louisville, Kentucky, was once the center of a hemp plantation owned by John and Lucy Speed. The 14-room, Federal-style brick plantation house was possibly based on a design by Thomas Jefferson and has several Jeffersonian architectural features.

Goshen, Connecticut

Goshen is a town in Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 2,976 at the 2010 census.

Hollingsworth House

Hollingsworth House is a historic home located at Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. It was built in 1854, and is a two-story, five bay, Federal style frame dwelling. A seven-room addition was constructed in 1906 or 1908. The front facade features a two-story, full width, portico.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Hunt–Morgan House

The Hunt–Morgan House, historically known as Hopemont, is a Federal style residence in Lexington, Kentucky built in 1814 by John Wesley Hunt, the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies. The house is included in the Gratz Park Historic District. The Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum is located on the second floor of the Hunt–Morgan House.Other notable people who resided at Hopemont include John Wesley Hunt's grandson, General John Hunt Morgan, a general in the Confederate Army. Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, the first Kentuckian to win the Nobel Prize, was born in the house in 1866.

The House has many beautiful architectural features, including the Palladian window with fan and sidelights that grace its front façade. In 1955 the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation was formed to save this home from impending demolition. The organization restored the home to its Federal appearance.The Hunt–Morgan House is located on the corner of Mill and Second Streets, at 201 N. Mill Street, in Gratz Park in Lexington.

The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation still maintains the Hunt-Morgan House. In addition to providing tours, they also host events, including art shows and weddings.

Isaac Roosevelt House

The Isaac Roosevelt House is located on Riverview Circle in Hyde Park, New York, United States. It was the main house of Roosevelt's Rosedale estate on the Hudson River. His grandson Franklin spent a lot of time there as a child, when it was the home of his uncle John.

It was built in a late application of the Federal style, with some later Italianate touches added. In 1993 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Marshallton, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Marshallton is an unincorporated community and federal historic district in West Bradford Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is one of three historic districts in West Bradford Township that are on the National Register of Historic Places. The village is largely known for its historic buildings, some notable restaurants, and the nearby Highland Orchards, a pick-your-own orchard offering a variety of produce year round and very popular for its apples and pumpkins as well as products made from the same. Highland Orchards is a frequent field trip destination for local schools, especially in the fall.

The Marshallton Historic District encompasses 65 contributing buildings and 3 contributing sites. It includes the separately listed Humphry Marshall House, Marshalton Inn, and Bradford Friends Meetinghouse.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House, also known as the Massachusetts Statehouse or the New State House, is the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located in the Beacon Hill/Downtown neighborhood of Boston. The building houses the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) and the offices of the Governor of Massachusetts. The building, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, was completed in January 1798 at a cost of $133,333 (more than five times the budget), and has repeatedly been enlarged since. It is considered a masterpiece of Federal architecture and among Bulfinch's finest works, and was designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance.

Moross House

The Moross House is a house located at 1460 East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the oldest surviving brick house in the city; it was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1971 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Petersen House

The Petersen House is a 19th-century federal style row house located at 516 10th Street NW in Washington, D.C. On April 15, 1865, United States President Abraham Lincoln died there after being shot the previous evening at Ford's Theatre, located across the street. The house was built in 1849 by William A. Petersen, a German tailor. Future Vice-President John C. Breckinridge, a friend of the Lincoln family, once rented this house in 1852. In 1865, it served as a boarding house. It has served as a museum since the 1930s.

Presidential Townhouse

The Presidential Townhouse is a U.S. government-owned building located at 716 Jackson Place NW in Washington, D.C., reserved for the exclusive use of former Presidents of the United States during visits to the capital. Purchased by the government in the late 1950s and used for various purposes, it became the Presidential Townhouse in 1969 by order of President Richard Nixon. The furnishings were very sparse until it was refurbished using private funds during the administration of President George W. Bush. The five-story building includes two dining rooms, multiple bedrooms, and space for a Secret Service detail in the basement.Ongoing maintenance of the townhouse is provided by the funds set aside for the office support and security protection provided to former presidents.

Suell Winn House

The Suell Winn House is a historic house at 72-74 Elm Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The house was built c. 181314 for Major Suell Winn, a local farmer, and is one of the best representatives of Federal-style architecture in Wakefield. It is a ​2 1⁄2-story wood-frame structure, with two interior chimneys, a five-bay facade, and an elegant doorway with sidelight windows and an architrave. An ell extends the house to the right. Winn, a native of nearby Burlington, was killed crossing the railroad that divided his landholdings, after attending a town meeting where he protested the need for improved crossing signals at that location.The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Thomas Askren House

Thomas Askren House is a historic home located at Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. It was built between about 1828 and 1833, and is a two-story, Federal style brick I-house. It has a side gable roof and a rear ell. Also on the property is a contributing outbuilding.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

William Stimpson House

The William Stimpson House is a historic house at 22 Prospect Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The 2.5 story timber-frame house was built sometime before 1795, probably by William Stimpson, son of the local doctor. It has conservative Federal styling, most notably due to its central chimney rather than the more typical twin chimneys of the period. The building's internal layout and two kitchen fireplaces suggest that it was built as a two-family residence.The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Early Republic
Mid-19th century
Late-19th to mid-20th century
Post-World War II to current

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.