Henry Hobson Richardson is the architect by which the Richardsonian Romanesque home style found its name. Prior to this new style being developed, Richardson mainly designed in the Victorian style of Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Stick. It wasn’t until around 1880 that Richardson designed the first Romanesque, that being the rectory (the home of the priest or minister) for his church in Boston. He would die six years later only executing a small number of homes in this style, but during the 1880’s it became a popular style for large public buildings. Richardsonian Romanesque house plans were, at that time, expensive to build because of the solid masonry construction plus the masonry technique was very limited. For this reason, it never became a common Victorian style for homes and very few were built even after the revival following a publication of Richardson’s life and work. Some examples are seen throughout the country but most are clustered in the northeastern part of the country.
There are several features that help to identify Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. They are always built with masonry veneer usually having some rough-faced square stone incorporated. Decorative wall patterns are created with combined use of stone and brick using complementary colors. Windows are recessed (due to stone thickness) with a single pane of glass per sash often being grouped in three or more. Colonnettes on each side of arched windows are common also. Wide rounded Romanesque arches (the signature mark) are usually present appearing at porches, or above windows, or over entryways. These arches are supported by massive piers or compressed looking columns if not engaged directly to the wall surface.
Towers are another feature seen in majority of Richardsonian Romanesque house plans. Tower shapes may be polygonal or square, but round towers with conical roofs are most common. Dormers appear in many examples usually being parapet and gable; however, hipped dormers as well as eyebrow dormers occur also.