The Greek Revival is often considered the first truly American style of architecture and arose out of the young nation’s desire to identify with the ideals of the ancient Greek Republic. Earlier styles were inspired by English building design and frequently built from English “pattern books.” The War of 1812 helped lessen English design influences and sympathy for Greece’s struggle for independence in the 1820s further led to its development.
Popular from the early 1820s through 1860, it began with public buildings in Philadelphia and quickly became a popular style for homes. Greek Revival homes are patterned after Greek temples with a symmetrical shape, low roof lines, columns and pediments. Triangular gable ends which usually face the street are symbolic of a temple pediment while the flat horizontal board which runs across the length of the gable represents the classic entablature. Corner boards or pilasters take the place of temple columns. Entries are often framed with columns.
Commercial and institutional buildings designed in the Greek Revival style will often employ pedimented gable ends and corner brick pilasters to simulate the temple appearance. Greek Revival homes can be found in several neighborhoods including the Washington Square and Wannalancit Street Historic Districts while several residential, commercial, and institutional examples can also be found in the downtown area.
Zina Stone House (early 1840s), 105 Chestnut Street
Old City Hall (1830), 222 Merrimack Street, shown prior to its alteration in the 1890s