Georgian 1698-1720
Georgian style is based on formal rules of
symmetry with classical details

 
Longfellow House
1759

 

Georgian style refers to a style originating in England in the 1600's based on forms following the classical principals of design developed by Andrea Palladio during the Italian Renaissance. In the mid 1600's, architects Indigo Jones and Christopher Wren began designing buildings using Palladios' design principals. This style became wildly popular in England, replacing the medieval.

 

Private Residence
 By 1700 Georgian designs reached the American colonies in the form of architectural manuals and pattern books. In the 1700's New England had a building boom. Wealth was accumulating along the Eastern seaboard with wealthy captains, merchants, shipyard owners, and mill owners creating a new class of 'first families" in the colonies. Many people were visiting England and there was free travel between the colonies. The Colonists looked to England for precedents of fashion and taste. New standards of sophistication and elegance were developing and those who wanted to display status, wealth and taste were eager to have the new Georgian style home.
This new style involved new concepts of living. The multiplication of rooms led to increased specialization of rooms into separate rooms for sleeping, cooking, dining and so forth. Fireplaces in the living quarters became smaller and more efficient, since they were used for heating only and the large hearth could be confined to the kitchen only. Comfort, convenience and privacy were beginning to play a role in the colonists' lifestyle as they increased their wealth.

 
Pre Georgian 1698
Private Residence

 


Private Residence
New England Georgian style is adapted to its immediate surroundings and climate as well as the puritan influence, which resulted in an less ornamentation and a smaller scale than Georgian style in other colonies.
Exterior finish: would have been unpainted shingles, or clapboards. Later painted white or yellow or red. Roof was wood shingle. Cornice at the roof was usually decorated with dental molding (tooth like cuts). The windows almost touched the cornice or roof. Very little overhang of roof. Double hung windows with 12 over 12 panes or 9 over 9. Comers could be decorated with quoins. (Quoins are usually found in masonry work but Northern Georgian wood structures simulated them in wood). Front door had a triangular pediment or a flat pediment and pilasters. Sometimes there was an extended pediment supported by columns to form a front entrance.
Our South Shore towns have a great many Georgian style homes remaining from the 1700's. Fortunately they have remained private residences and some have been changed very little.
During the late 1800's Georgian style was revived and builders modified the style to accommodate the more modern lifestyle and taste of the new century. Now we have examples of original Georgian and Georgian "revival" homes and buildings as well to consider, With time and practice you will be able to spot the original from the revival. There also exist 20th century reproductions (some well executed and some not so).


Back to Architecture

As the Georgian period progressed Exterior ornamentation increased but remained uniquely New England style. Lower Main Street in Hingham has interesting examples of Georgian (although Hingham's predominant style is Federal). One is a double gambrel house (double front to back) with quoins and one is a wood siding carved to look like stone. Most homes we can observe, however, are simple straightforward, solid ones.
Interior stairway: early 1700's - short, steep, turning flight butted against the center chimney contrived to occupy as little space as possible. As time passed the front door entered into a larger and larger front hall and the stairway became a grand affair with carved balustrade and banisters.

Interior finish: Gradually the chimney was banished from the center of the house to make way, for the grand hallway that ran the entire depth of the building. Now, there were two rooms on each side of the hall way, each separated by a fireplace.
The carpenter's box now had to contain a variety of tools he had not been accustomed to using, for home construction: chisels and gouges of every description and a whole range of molding planes. A window was no longer finished when he had completed framing it; it required capping with cornices. Moldings were required for every wall where they met the ceiling, and he still had to fit molded panels to fireplace walls or possibly all four walls. He might ornament the fireplaces with classical details and place a chair rail along the walls. The carpenter relied on pattern books from England and picked out elements as suited him or his client.
Floors: Early: wide pine unfinished, often sprinkled with fine sand that was left on and swept out and replaced periodically. Later: floors were painted and stenciled, some had a Floor cloth painted to look like carpet and finally carpets, which had started out as furniture covers became floor covers.
The interior reflected the new lifestyle of the Colonists in New England and was interpreted in our own unique way.