Architectural Monographs: Greek Revival in Owego, New York

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An architect who was not exactly the biggest fan of the Greek Revival style was sent by the editor of the Architectural Monographs to write a piece on such homes in New York, finding them to have, at least a little bit, an unexpected charm. Author Alexander B. Trowbridge jokes that perhaps seeing such a house was what led to the temperance movement, as a group of drinkers saw ‘certain queer shapes frisking on the roof just above the eaves.’ He writes, “The experience sobered them and the temperance society followed.”

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“Why the citizens of this section of our country chose pseudo-Greek architecture translated rather unintelligently into wood is a secret that disappeared with the whiskers. It is clear, however, that the finest homes of that period indicated an approval of the Greek revival by the best families. Why does the average educated architect dismiss the Greek Revival with a shrug? Is it not because he notes that the translation from the stone architecture of classic days to a white pine treatment was merely badly done?”

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Trowbridge argues that the giant wooden porticoes and pediments in wood are out of scale, and clumsy at times. But from the houses built in this style, something could be learned. Using the Greek style as inspiration, rather than imitating it, is the only way to incorporate such bold and ornamental details into Colonial American architecture, he says.

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Read more at the White Pine Library of Architectural Monographs.

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