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Gothic Revival Architecture

Gothic revival architectureGothic revival architecture has its origin in England in the mid 1700’s. This style was built in America from around 1840-1870. Most of the surviving Gothic revival house plans are found in the northeastern states. They are less common in the southern states especially in the gulf coast region where Greek Revival house plans dominated the landscape of the south during the 1840’s and 1850’s. The Civil war and reconstruction resulted in a decline in building during the final stretch of the Gothic style influence which explains the lack of a strong presence in the south.

Alexander Jackson Davis is the first American architect to really push Gothic principles and architecture. He also published the first house plan book in this country which was dominated by examples of Gothic house plans. Davis book was the first to show three dimensional views complete with floor plans. This was unique given that previous publications had only shown details, parts, pieces and occasional elevations of houses. However, Andrew Jackson Downing, a friend of Davis, was the one who ultimately had more success in promoting Gothic revival house plans and architecture with pattern books and endless public speaking and awareness about the style.

Gothic revival architecture was mainly applied to rural houses because both Davis and Downing emphasized its suitability as a rural style that had harmony with the natural landscape. Furthermore, it stressed the high multiple gables and wide porches which did not fair well in the urban narrow lots. There are a few example of urban Gothic revival house plans in the country but, most urban houses of this era where Greek Revival architecture or Italianate architecture.

Characteristic of Gothic revival architecture includes steeply pitch roofs, usually with steep cross gables. Front gabled (main roof) or hipped are less common but are used. Gables commonly have decorative verge boards and the wall surface extend into the gable or gables. Windows are commonly seen extended into gables (with or without the pointed arch or Gothic shape pointed arch. One story porches (entry or full length) are usual and commonly supported by flattened Gothic arches.