LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 18: COLONIAL REVIVAL, 1880-1955
Colonial Revival architecture is like a classic Oxford shirt — it never goes out of style! Although the movement began soon after the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, the style never took off until the end of the Queen Anne era in 1910. Since then, there have been several waves of Colonial Revival washing across the American landscape.
It is estimated that from 1910 to 1930, 40% of all homes constructed in the United States were designed in the Colonial Revival style. Based on the aesthetics and charm of historic Georgian and Federal style architecture, Colonial Revival became popular for residences, churches, schools, libraries, banks and businesses alike.
Although exterior materials included shingles and wood clapboard siding, brick became the popular material of choice. This was especially true after 1920, when it was applied as a surface veneer over economical wood-frame construction. Roof shapes were typically simple gable forms, gambrel or hips.
Examples of Colonial Revival design in Lancaster [photos]
It is estimated that from 1910 to 1930, 40% of all homes constructed in the United States were designed in the Colonial Revival style. Based on the aesthetics and charm of historic Georgian and Federal style architecture, Colonial Revival became popular for residences, churches, schools, libraries, banks and businesses alike. From 1890 to 1930, examples of Colonial Revival building design left their mark around Lancaster County. See some examples by clicking the arrows to move through the photos.
Various dormer designs were applied to the roofs, with the pediment being the most common. Windows were a nod to the historic Federal style, with six-over-six, double-hung sashes being most prevalent.
Front doors were centered and prominent in accordance with the Georgian principles of symmetry and balance from the 1700s.
Lancaster is no exception when it comes to embracing our country’s most enduring style. Colonial Revival has always been in high demand by homeowners since its inception in the 1880s, through to, and including, today. It was popularized by the growing number of planned residential communities applying Colonial Revival designs to their one- and two-story homes.
Prior to the conclusion of World War II, most residences and public structures were designed by architects and constructed by “old world” craftsmen using the highest quality materials and building techniques available. The postwar era ushered in speed and efficiency to increase production and satisfy the growing demand for the so-called Greatest Generation’s need for housing. This resulted in quality being sacrificed in the areas of details and materials used.
Our most notable examples of Colonial Revival can be discovered on the west side of Lancaster, including residences, churches, collegiate and other public structures. Even Lancaster’s most renowned architect, C. Emlen Urban, designed both of his personal residences in the Colonial Revival style. His successor, architect Henry Y. Shaub, followed suit with his 1929 Colonial Revival residence on Wheatland Avenue. We may want to think of Colonial Revival as our “comfort food” style — our grilled cheese sandwich on a cool autumn day!
Why was 1955 identified as an end to the Colonial Revival era?
The Mid-Century Modern architectural style grew in popularity, as evidenced by the growing number of split-level and bi-level residences populating the suburbs, offering a new and fresh design alternative for the homeowner.
Why is Colonial Revival so popular in Lancaster County?
The most likely reason is the deep historic connection to the authentic Georgian and Federal styles of architecture in the community, in concert with the conservative heritage of the early settlers.
What other revival styles will be revealed in future columns?
Tudor Revival, French Revival, Spanish Revival, Egyptian Revival and Eclectic Revival are just a few of the revival styles that can be found in Lancaster!
This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, a local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. Email GScott@rlps.com.