Here in Massachusetts, our long history of settlement—and a healthy interest in preservation — has resulted in a large number of historic residential structures representing nearly four hundred years of architectural styles. Those that date back to the earliest days of the colony are, for the most part, no longer serving a residential function. But many of the thousands of local houses dating from the late eighteenth into the early twentieth century—commonly referred to as period homes—continue to serve the purposes of their original builders: providing welcoming warmth and shelter to residents, and in many cases, great character and aesthetic appeal to their communities.
At Charlie Allen Renovations, we are committed to the meticulous restoration of our period homes, ensuring that their residents are able to enjoy all the amenities of a thoroughly contemporary home without losing any period appeal. For more than three decades, we have restored and renovated hundreds of historically significant homes, including examples of many important architectural styles. Some of these include:
FEDERAL (1780 – 1820)
This style originated in Scotland and paid tribute to the structures of classic Rome. In Federal architecture, the central fireplace is abolished in favor of multiple chimneys, allowing warming of distinct areas of the home. Removal of the central chimney also allows for the addition of a grand central hallway with stairs to the upper level, often lit by intricately designed windows above the door. Interior rooms have unusual shapes, including circles, hexagons, and ovals. Entrances to Federal homes are more ornate than those seen in earlier structures, often featuring a portico and sidelights on the doorways.
GREEK REVIVAL (1825 – 1860)
In the early days of the United States, many Americans expressed their patriotism by reaching back to an earlier democracy, Greece, for home design inspiration. Greek Revival homes differ from the previous Federal style in both design and placement, with many of these structures placed in a “sideways” position, with their gabled ends facing the street. Gabled roofs are generally low-pitched. Windows in these homes are larger, typically adorned with shutters. Entrance porches sometimes extend the length of the house and around the corner.
ITALIANATE (1840 – 1880)
The Italianate period was one that romanticized our rural heritage, at a time when technological advances were rapidly changing our ways of life. These homes are similar in some ways to Greek Revival structures with subtle differences, including boxy supports in place of columns on porches, the absence of heavy cornice moldings, and the addition of protruding eaves. The roof of an Italianate home is usually flat or very subtly pitched. Windows often feature “hoods” — protruding design elements that shelter the window. Improvements in build machinery made the addition of more intricate decorative elements possible with this new style.
VICTORIAN/MANSARD/QUEEN ANNE (1870 – 1915)
Queen Victoria’s long reign exerted her influence in many ways. Particularly long lasting is the distinctive architecture of the period, which features large, front-facing homes with exceptionally complex decorative exteriors. The use of contrasting colors calls attention to the many eclectic exterior features of these homes, including steep, irregularly shaped roofs, grand porches, turrets, eaves, and multiple bays.
ROW HOUSES & BROWNSTONES (1830 – 1890)
Row houses and brownstones are most commonly seen in urban areas. They are usually three or four stories tall and offer windows in the front and back, with side walls shared by neighboring homes. In Boston and Cambridge, many city blocks feature unbroken lines of row houses, all of similar height and design. A signature element of this architectural style is protruding bow-front and bay windows. Typically, the first floor level features living space, with kitchen and dining in the “garden level” below, and bedrooms above.
ARTS & CRAFTS (1890 – 1930)
The Arts & Crafts (or Craftsman) style of residential architecture began in England but quickly spread to the U.S. These homes were intended to showcase craftsmanship and interesting design on a more modest scale than the then-popular Victorian architecture, allowing the middle class to enjoy homes that were decorative and distinct. These cottage-style homes typically feature a variety of interesting architectural features, including low-pitched peaked gable roofs with exposed rafters, large overhanging eaves, and rustic design elements, including exposed wood beams. Many arts & crafts homes include small porches at the entry with square columns.
TUDOR (1900 -1940)
The Tudor homes of today are sometimes referred to as “mock Tudors,” with their designs inspired by the grand medieval architecture of England’s sixteenth century Tudor dynasty. These stately homes emphasize rustic elements like masonry exteriors, steep roofing, tall and elegant windows, and protruding second-floor windows with decorative paneling beneath. Massive chimneys, patterned brick and stonework, and purely decorative exposed beams are other common Tudor design elements.
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Other period homes include elements of several architectural styles, with more modern additions blurring their historical classification. These homes can be renovated to provide a more consistent historical aesthetic, or simply restored to their original and unique glory.