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The Colonial Revival Styles, 1876-1950
The romantic ideals associated with the Tudor and Spanish Eclectic Styles also produced the Colonial Revival Style.
The Centennial Exposition of 1876 fostered a renewed interest in the designs of the early republic, a time when Thomas Jefferson hoped to define an American architecture loosely based on the architecture of the Roman Republic. The final years of the Victorian era saw many homes built which were considered to be inspired by Colonial American antecedents. (To our eyes today, of course, they have so much gingerbread trim that we have a hard time detecting the Colonial elements.)
The Colonial Revival Style has many sub-types and variants. Sub-types include Dutch Gambrel (such as 5451 Morningside) and Georgian. The dominant version in Dallas is based on southern colonial prototypes.
The southern colonial variants usually are symmetric, with the focal emphasis placed on the front door. The porch is relatively small, more of a stoop than a real porch. It typically has turned wood columns, usually of the Roman Doric order. This style was easily produced by the lumber mills of the era.
The roof usually has gables at the sides, rather than in front. The fireplace is placed on the side of the house, never on the front. The entry doorway serves as the dominant design element, since it does not have to compete for attention with a prominent front gable or chimney. The eaves are shallow; they don't overhang much. Many Colonial Revival homes in the M-Street area have wood siding if they were built before the 1920s. Windows are double hung and are usually grouped together, or "ganged."
The houses built between 1915 and 1935 are more accurate recreations of the originals. Major magazines, such as American Architect and Building News, began a series of articles on the original designs and details during that period of time. These articles were widely available, and were copied by architects and builders.
This home was no doubt considered to be "colonial style" when it was built, although its form harkens back to the late Victorian era. It has the low hip roof and broad overhanging eaves which are characteristic of Prairie Style. But the porch pillars and the triangular gable (which looks like it came off an ancient Greek temple), add a Neoclassical flavor to the mix.
This Sears catalog house, described as "Colonial" in the planbook, has a roof which has been carefully detailed to mimic a straw-thatched roof from 1500, long before England had any American colonies. However, the symmetrical arrangement of the facade, the side gables, and the prominent doorway mark it as Colonial Revival.
Relatively few homes were built during the Great Depression, but the Colonial Cottage was a particularly popular style in the suburbs of the 1930s. Many homes were described at the time as "Cape Cod" style. (The side porch on this home is a later addition.) The "powers-that-be" were worried that middle class Americans might turn to Communism, Fascism, or some other political system in response to the economic slump. This was the decade when Texas ladies restored the Alamo, Henry Ford built his so-called Greenfield Village in Michigan, and the Rockefellers restored Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. All were shrines to "traditional" American values. "Early American" virtues and "Early American" styles were promoted in all aspects of American culture in the 1930s, including architecture and the decorative arts.
A two-story "Colonial" home from about 1947. Homes like these were filled with casual furniture in the maple "Early American" style, or with the more formal "Duncan Phyfe" mahogany pieces.