NGE >> The Arts >> Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation >> Architecture: Design >> Early Victorian Period, 1850-1895 >> Early Victorian Architecture: Overview
Early Victorian Architecture: Overview
In the forty-five years from 1850 to 1895, architecture in Georgia advanced from simple Greek revival forms to the massive steel-frame skyscraper. In between, architects and builders
In 1850 the most significant architectural style in the United States and Georgia was Greek revival. Important commissions
Savannah was the architectural center of the state, and the city's rich merchants and businessmen invested their cotton wealth in new residences and commercial buildings of a slightly altered Greek revival style changed to suit narrow city lots. With low or flat roofs, symmetrical window placement, raised entrances, and one-story, square-columned porticos, the new buildings were often designed by recently arrived architects such as New York's John Norris. Greek revival buildings included the U.S. Custom House, commercial buildings along Bay Street, and row houses like the Gordon Block and Mary Marshall Row.
Greek revival, however, was not confined to Savannah in the 1850s. In 1856 Charles Sholl and Calvin Fay partnered to design the state mental hospital (Powell Building) in Milledgeville with a soaring three-story portico of the Greek Ionic order. Local builders were also active in the popular style.
Despite the predominance of Greek revival, more romantic or picturesque buildings in Gothic revival and Italianate styles began to appear in this prosperous decade. Decorative Gothic motifs had been added to the state capitol in Milledgeville during the late 1820s, but that did not reflect any widespread use of the pointed arches, asymmetrical ground plans, crenelations, buttresses, steeply pitched roofs and gables, and trellised verandas that were the main characteristics of the style in the 1850s. The most outstanding example of the Gothic style is the 1853 Green-Meldrim House in Savannah by John Norris.
The Italianate style, however, proved more successful than the Gothic revival style because it was easier to build and maintain. Based on Italian Renaissance buildings,
Little significant construction took place in the 1860s. The Civil War and the resulting poverty of the Reconstruction years left scant time for high-style architecture. Railroads, however, were rebuilt and expanded as cotton production slowly returned to prewar levels by 1882. The wealth generated by cotton and the new textile factories provided the cash necessary to build many new buildings during the years following the depression of 1873.
During the 1860s and 1870s, Italianate and the similar Second Empire style with its distinctive mansard roof were frequently used in all types of buildings statewide. Composed of simple, symmetrical blocks, both building types fit well into the new postwar urban settings and could also be expanded as needed with little trouble. The ornamentation could be simple hoods over windows or elaborate quoins, voussoirs, or turned posts and balustrades. Public buildings like Savannah's 1870 police barracks (architect J. H. Boggs), Atlanta's 1869-70 Kimball House Hotel (William H. Parkins), and the 1874 Moore College Building in Athens (Leon H. Charbonnier) were Italianate buildings, the last two with mansard roofs. Much more elaborate was the 1876 Southern Mutual Insurance Company Building in Athens. It had projecting and receding bays in the massive block of the structure and was accented with quoins, heavy window molds, and a mansard roof punctured by large dormers and supported with a bracketed cornice.
By the early 1880s, however, both Italianate and Second Empire styles were decidedly old-fashioned. New ideas, technologies, and architects established new styles of architecture in Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Neoclassical.
In general, architects prospered during this period. Their most popular style was Queen Anne, and striking examples can still be found in almost every part of the state.
In 1883 G. L. Norrman designed a masterpiece in Queen Anne style for Atlanta businessman Edward C. Peters. The central mass of the house is topped by a hipped roof with extensions containing high, peaked gables and adorned with cut-away bay windows, half timbering, carved panels, brackets, turned posts, and foliate capitals. Reflecting its interior arrangement, the dramatic irregularity of the exterior is further emphasized by huge porches, balconies, a shingled skirt roof, and a massive Romanesque-arched porte cochere. The interior rooms encircle a gently rising staircase ascending from a large central hall, and there is an open flow of rooms incorporating the great porches with both the interior and the grounds. The Peters House is the finest example of Queen Anne residential design in the state.
The asymmetry and picturesque characteristics of High Victorian or Queen Anne architecture also found expression in
The real tension in the competition of architectural styles at this time, however, was between Romanesque Revival as expressed by H. H. Richardson and a host of followers, and Neoclassicism espoused by the followers of McKim, Mead, and White of New York. In Georgia the Romanesque
During the 1890s, neoclassicism (including American colonial revival, Beaux-Arts, and classical revival) swept the nation and
Richard D. Funderburke, "G. L. Norrman: New South Architect and the Urbanization of Atlanta, 1881-1909" (Ph.D. diss., Georgia State University, 1997).
Mills Lane, Architecture of the Old South: Georgia, rev. ed. (Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, 1996).
John Linley, The Georgia Catalog: Historic American Buildings Survey (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982).
Elizabeth A. Lyon, Atlanta Architecture: The Victorian Heritage, 1837-1918, 2d ed. (Atlanta: Atlanta Historical Society, 1986).
William R. Mitchell Jr., Landmarks: The Architecture of Thomasville and Thomas County, Georgia, 1820-1980 (Thomasville, Ga.: Thomasville Landmarks, 1980).
Mary L. Morrison, ed., Historic Savannah: Survey of Significant Buildings in the Historic and Victorian Districts of Savannah, Georgia (Savannah, Ga.: Historic Savannah Foundation, 1979).
Gerald Sams, AIA Guide to the Architecture of Atlanta (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993).
Frances Taliaferro Thomas, A Portrait of Historic Athens and Clarke County, 2d ed. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009).
Roulhac Toledano, The National Trust Guide to Savannah: Architecture and Cultural Treasures (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997).
Richard D. Funderburke, Atlanta
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