Neo-Classical Architecture

Essay by djmorris7014University, Bachelor's July 2010

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During the 1700s, architects began to turn away from elaborate Baroque and Rococo styles. The classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome became a model for restrained Neoclassical, or Neo-classical, styles.

A reinterpretation of the principles of Classical architecture in the late 18th and the early 19th century, and beyond. This term often includes the Federal style, Classical Revival style, and Greek and Roman orders; sparing application of ornamentation, and unadorned roof line, and an avoidance of moldings. The term Neoclassical style is occasionally used as a synonym.

Toward the end of the colonial period, architectural styles based on a more precise study of ancient Roman and Greek buildings were beginning to appear in Europe. This shift in taste coincided with the American Revolution, and the neoclassical style became closely identified with the political values of the young republic. In interior decoration, the Adam style, as it was then popularly known in England, was soon translated to American use through the pattern books of Asher Benjamin.

A more monumental aesthetic, which became known as the Federal style, was typical of the work of Charles Bulfinch in Boston and of Samuel McIntire in Salem, both of whom were among the growing number of native-born designers. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson gave serious thought to architecture and were deeply involved in the planning and building of Washington, D.C. Both statesmen looked to the classical world as the best source of inspiration. Jefferson's conception of the Roman ideals of beauty and proportion was elegantly expressed in his design for the Virginia state capitol at Richmond (1785-1789).

The South built great mansions during the antebellum period, often with two-story colonnades, such as Dunleith Plantation in Natchez Miss. (c.1848). In both port cities and small towns there was a subtle shift in...