Compared to many architectural styles, Neoclassical architecture isn't especially prominent among homes in Massachusetts. This stately style was largely reserved for banks, libraries and other public institutions. Still, many homes incorporate elements of Neoclassical design, and you can find Neoclassical homes in some areas of New England. If you are interested in buying a home that has Neoclassical elements, or if you are just curious about this type of architecture and want to know more, Boston City Properties is here to help.
Following several decades during which Baroque and Rococo architecture dominated the landscape, many Europeans wanted to get back to basics. For inspiration, they turned to the architectural styles of classical antiquity, including those of Greek and Roman cultures. And thus, Neoclassical architecture was born. Indeed, it did not arise in the States. It was prominent around Europe for some time before making its way here. Once residents of the New World caught wind of it, however, they quickly latched on. After all, what better way to demonstrate to the world that their new country was just as good as England than by adopting this stately, classical style of architecture?
Neoclassical architecture initially gained prominence in France and England during the 1750s. Loosely based on building designs from the Roman Empire, it was characterized by large pediments and numerous columns. Simple geometric forms dominated the design of this architectural style, and Greek and Roman details were usually featured throughout. More than anything, Neoclassical design was about grandeur of scale. Buildings in this style stand out dramatically. They are imposing. However, they are not overly ornamented. In fact, blank walls play a prominent role in the design of such buildings.
If you are having trouble imagining what a typical Neoclassical building might look like, simply take a stroll through Washington, DC. Because the nation's capital is home to so many government agencies, it is also home to many imposing buildings--and many of them are designed in the Neoclassical style. Some would argue that they are modeled more closely after Greek Revival architecture, but those two styles are largely interchangeable. Neoclassical buildings generally boast dramatic columns, much like those that you will find on the Lincoln Memorial and on other buildings and landmarks around DC.
What about Boston and Massachusetts, though? Well, this entire region is home to many fine examples of Neoclassical architecture. However, it was fairly rare for actual homes to be designed in this style. Down south, it is possible to find plantation homes and other massive estates that boast Neoclassical designs. In Massachusetts and New England, however, you must generally look to public buildings for examples of this particular architectural style. Such buildings aren't just found in large cities like Boston. Many smaller towns and cities built libraries, post offices, courthouses and other buildings in this design. Neoclassical architecture adds a stately and elegant touch to virtually any community.
Some of the most prominent features of Neoclassical architecture include:
• Large pediments - In Neoclassical design, large pediments--the triangular upper portion of a building that sits atop a series of columns--are par for the course. Sometimes, pediments are ornamented with patterns and other designs. Many times, however, they are intentionally left blank, as blank space is a major feature of Neoclassical design.
• Numerous columns - Series of large columns are typically featured on Neoclassical buildings. When a home has several columns like these as well as additional Neoclassical features, it might be considered to be in the Neoclassical style. As far as the types of columns that are used, that varies from one building to the next.
• Geometric forms - You won't find a lot of busy, ornate details on Neoclassical buildings. The emphasis here is on cleanness and simplicity, so geometric shapes are abundant. From the overall shape of the building--typically square or rectangular, but some are circular or even octagonal--to the shapes of various elements within it, geometry is key. In this way, buildings like these achieve an eye-pleasing look.
• Blank walls - To enhance the dramatic style of their columns, the walls on Neoclassical buildings are typically left blank. When taken as a whole, these blank expanses nicely balance out more dramatic features like large columns.
• Grandeur of scale - Neoclassical buildings are meant to be imposing. This is one of the many reasons why Neoclassical architecture isn't typically featured on everyday homes. Especially during colonial times, homes simply weren't that big. Even today, it is fairly unusual for modern homes to be built in this particular style.
Although Neoclassical architecture isn't nearly as ubiquitous in New England as other styles, it is still prevalent enough to be found to some degree in most areas. Numerous communities in Massachusetts boast public buildings that were inspired by this architectural style. These include the Old Attleboro Post Office, the Fitchburg Historical Society, the Massachusetts State Armory and the Arlington Reservoir. This type of architecture mostly rose to prominence in New England during the 1700s and 1800s. Public buildings that were constructed during this era often incorporate at least a few Neoclassical touches into their designs.
So, why did people become so enamored of Neoclassical style? In addition to being very pleasing to the eye, this style's roots stretch all the way back to antiquity. In this way, Neoclassical architecture reflects values that have formed the basis of modern society. By designing their buildings in this style, newcomers to America were showing the world that their country was, indeed, a major player on the world stage. When you visit a town or city that has this type of architecture, you definitely come away with the impression that it is a well-established, very successful society. Just like modern Americans, early Americans cared what the world thought about them, and the stately and elegant style of Neoclassical architecture really spoke to them.
If you would like to check out some great examples of Neoclassical architecture in greater Boston, you have plenty of options. The Second Brazer Building on State Street in Boston is a prime example. Located across from the Old State House, it is one of the best examples of Neoclassical design in the city. The Old South Building on Washington Street is another great example. Elsewhere, the Victory Theater in Holyoke, Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester and the post office in Westfield are all excellent examples of this unforgettable architectural style.
Odds are that you aren't necessarily looking to buy a home that is designed in the Neoclassical style. Very few such homes exist in Massachusetts, and those that do tend to be large homes or even mansions. However, if you would like to live in an area that features lots of beautiful examples of Neoclassical architecture, Boston City Properties can help. Sign up to get free, instant access to our searchable listings. From there, you can zero in on homes in specific areas that meet your specific requirements. We also have knowledgeable real estate professionals throughout the state, and they can help you locate communities and homes that suit your needs. For more information, call Boston City Properties.