Gothic Revival

Architectural Styles in Rensselaer County: 1840s – 1880s

High Victorian Gothic: c. 1865 – 1880
Late Gothic: c. 1890s – 1930s

Fueled by a romantic yearning for the past, Greek Revival architecture was set aside in exchange for the Gothic Revival Style. As Andrew Jackson Downing, a landscape architect and author of The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) noted, “It is in the solitude and freedom of the family home in the country which constantly preserves the purity of the nation and invigorates its intellectual powers.”

The style, as developed by Downing and others, was rooted in the landscape. A Gothic Revival house rose steeply from the ground, with steeply pitched gables and a sharp roof slope. The gable in the center of the facade was a characteristic feature and usually decorated with carved wood trim. Windows varied in size and shape and were often asymmetrically placed.

“What, then, are the proper characteristics of a rural residence?” asked Downing. “The harmonious union of buildings and scenery…utility…expression of purpose…a style marked by irregularity of form and outlines, a variety of effect and boldness of composition.”

Gothic-gable.gif

Narrow shapes and ornamentation emphasize the vertical, giving an impression of heigh: steep, pointed gables and dormers with wooden trim called bargeboards, finials (piece projecting up) with pendant (piece projecting down).

Vertical board and batten siding

Vertical board and batten siding

Tall chimneys with decorated caps

Tall chimneys with decorated caps

Buildings can be symmetrical, but are most often asymmetrical and complex in shape. Porches and bay windows add to the change in shape. A bay window extends from the wall and allows more light and air into a room.

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Main Street, Berlin, NY

Windows may have dripstone moldings (middle top and right), pointed arches and tracery.