Georgian architecture – enduring, popular & a distinctive style

Georgian architecture refers to architectural styles in most English-speaking countries that were popular during the reigns of the four members of the house of Hanover: George I, George II, George III — the English king during the American Revolution, and George IV. This period lasted from 1714 until 1830.

The architecture in England during that period was characterized by geometry, simple decorative elements, and symmetry, inspired by the Classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, as revived in Renaissance architecture. The work of the greatest British architect of all time, Sir Christopher Wren, who built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, is associated with the Georgian architectural style.

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Middle-class Georgian house in Salisbury, England, with minimal classical detail. Photo Credit

Georgian homes demonstrated simplicity in design and high-quality construction in contrast to the poorly built homes that preceded the era. These homes have a more dominating, formal appearance and typically feature a decorative pediment supported by classical columns, paired chimneys, and usually a third story, or at least the appearance of one.

The interior of the houses was simple and elegant, often with Roman-derived stucco ornamentation. During the Georgian era, wallpaper became the preferred method of covering interior walls. The houses had high ceilings and a formal, geometrical floorplan.

Kedleston Hall by Matthew Brettingham and Robert Adam, one of the great English country houses. Photo Credit

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Sutton Lodge, Sutton, London, once used by the Prince Regent, George IV of the United Kingdom. Photo Credit

The 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, who was responsible for the revival of Classical architecture, was an inspiration for Georgian architects. The houses of this period included Classical elements such as columns and a wide roof. However, at the end of the 18th century, with the rise of industrialization, there was a pressing demand for housing in town and city centers. Georgian architecture came to be standard and started adapting to smaller houses, becoming the first mass-manufactured housing. Towards the end of the era, houses shifting into more ornate styles.

Westover Plantation – Georgian country house on a plantation on the James River in Virginia. Photo Credit

Georgian houses have a hip roof, sometimes with dormers, that the English architect Christopher Wren made popular. The windows are tall and large with thin, refined glazing bars.  The entrances are decorated with arched tops, pediments, and ogee caps. The materials used for the construction varied from wood with clapboard to stone and stucco. But, in general, Georgian style usually meant brick constructions.

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Georgian architecture was one of the most popular residential architectural styles in the United States. Georgian houses have a boxy exterior, with multiple, symmetrically placed windows on the façade. To enter the symmetrically arranged rooms inside, a front door was placed in the center, with an elaborate pediment or small entry porch. Houses in this style typically have a hip or moderately pitched gable roof.

The Western side of the Rose Hotel, located on Main Street near the waterfront in Elizabethtown, Illinois, United States. Built in 1812, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Image of Stephen D. Lee House in Columbus, Mississippi.

 

Built in 1928, this Georgian-style house is representative of the many houses built around this time in the Park Tract. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Photo Credit

A Georgian-style colonial house was imported from pattern books brought over from England, during the colonial days. They played an important role in disseminating Georgian style. The manuals focused on design details for doors, windows, fireplaces, and molding elements, and soon the Georgian style became the most popular design style for self-builders, perhaps because it is cheaper to build compared to more ornate styles. Georgian styles were characterized by elegance and simplicity of design, generally used by the upper and middle classes. It is an era that greatly inspired many of the house features desirable today.