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Italianate 1840-1885



The variety of Italianate interpretations is great, but this is perhaps the most frequently seen in New England; it is the center-hall plan common in Georgian and Federal houses but on a slightly larger scale. This example is embellished with quoins at the corners, returns at the eaves and large bay windows. It stands in Grafton, MA.


The Italianate style derives from palace and villa architecture of the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century.

In New England the Italianate style house is usually of wood, although brick and stone examples can be found. Three types are most frequently seen: the traditional two story, five bay centered entrance house with a gabled roof parallel to the street to which a verandah has been added across the front; the nearly square two story three bay house with very wide eves supported on brackets and with a flat roof; and the villa form composed of several interlocking blocks grouped around an off-center square tower. All these variations will have the wide bracketed eaves, low pitched roofs, large windows, sometimes set in pairs with ornamental caps, and long one story porches with sawn decorative fretwork on the front. Bay windows are common as are two panel entrance doors. Although these houses are wood frame, they are not built with heavy posts and beams as most buildings were before the Civil War. Lighter "balloon framing: is used, allowing much more complex floor plans and roof patterns for this and all the subsequent domestic styles.


The octagon house, the invention of Orson S. Fowler in the 1850s, is an American house form not frequently seen. Fowler was not concerned with matters of style, but the octagon's popularity during the height of the Italianate period means that most octagon forms are also Italianate in style. The interest in octagons, touted for their economy and sunlit rooms, was over by the 1870s. Awkward-shaped rooms were hard to furnish. This example is in Gardner, MA.



Ornamentation is drawn from Classical sources generally, but not consistently. Quoins are often seen at the corners of exterior walls, but Romanesque and other styles are also used. Exterior colors may vary from white to pastels to earth tones. Trim is not usually picked out with separate colors.

The style is relatively common, and, with Gothic Revival, initiated the interest - for those who could afford it - in living outside of cities on carefully landscaped estates.

  This is a plain version of the cubical three-bay Italianate with a subordinate wing. Becasue the entrance is off-center, the floor plan resembles that of the three-bay Greek Revival house. The plainness of the wide cornice and broad overhang, contrasted with the delicate porch, make an arresting design. (Photo by James Mathews)  

  Several interlocking blocks characterize this famous house in Newport, RI, designed by Richard Upjohn in 1845, the Edward King House. It is unusual because the arched windows suggest the Romanesque style, not often seen in domestic work. But the flat-roofed towers and bracketed eaves are essential Italianate elements.