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The Italianate House Style

Most Popular Style in the USA, 1840 - 1885


Victorian Italianate style Dr. Henry Ridgely House

This Victorian Italianate style home was built for Dr. Henry Ridgely in 1869. It is located at 6 South State Street, Dover, Kent, DE. See a larger view.

Historic American Buildings Survey, LOC HABS DEL,1-DOV,10-1
Of all the homes built during the Victorian era, the romantic Italianate style became the most popular. With their nearly-flat roofs, wide eaves, and massive brackets, these homes suggested the romantic villas of Renaissance Italy. The Italianate style is also known as Tuscan, Lombard, or bracketed.

History of Italianate Architecture

The Italianate style began in England with the picturesque movement of the 1840s. For the previous 200 years, English homes tended to be formal and classical in style. With the picturesque, movement, however, builders began to design fanciful recreations of Italian Renaissance villas. When the Italianate style moved to the United States, it was reinterpreted again to create a uniquely American style.

During the Victorian era, emerging styles captured a large audience via widely-published house pattern books packed with building plans and home building advice. Prominent designers and illustrators such as A.J. Downing, Calvert Vaux, and Alexander Jackson Davis published many plans for Italianate style homes. By the late 1860s, the fashion had swept through North America.

Why Builders Loved the Italianate Style

Italianate architecture knew no class boundaries. The high square towers made the style a natural choice for upscale homes of the newly rich. However the brackets and other architecture details, made affordable by new methods for machine production, were easily applied to simple cottages.

Historians say that Italianate became the favored style for two reasons:

  • Italianate homes could be constructed with many different building materials, and the style could be adapted to modest budgets.
  • New technologies of the Victorian era made it possible to quickly and affordably produce cast-iron and press-metal decorations.
Italianate remained the preferred house style in the USA until the 1870s. Italianate was also a common style for modest structures like barns and for larger public buildings such as town halls, libraries, and train stations. You will find Italianate buildings in nearly every part of the United States except for the deep South. There are fewer Italianate buildings in the southern states because the style reached its peak during the Civil War, a time when the south was economically devastated.

After the 1870s, architectural fashion turned toward late Victorian styles such as Queen Anne.

Italianate Features

  • Low-pitched or flat roof
  • Balanced, symmetrical rectangular shape
  • Tall appearance, with 2, 3, or 4 stories
  • Wide, overhanging eaves with brackets and cornices
  • Square cupola
  • Porch topped with balustraded balconies
  • Tall, narrow, double-paned windows with hood moldings
  • Side bay window
  • Heavily molded double doors
  • Roman or segmented arches above windows and doors

Pictures of Italianate Style Houses


Similar House Styles

  • Renaissance Revival: This Italian-inspired style is often confused with the Victorian Italianate style.
  • Second Empire: Like houses in the Italianate style, Second Empire homes often feature a high, square tower.
  • Beaux Arts: These grand and elaborate buildings often embraced Italianate ideas.
  • Victorian Architecture: A review of the most important styles from the Victorian era
  • Neo-Mediterranean: 20th century builders re-visit Italianate themes.

Italian Renaissance Architecture

Explore these resources to see the historical roots of Victorian Italianate architecture. References
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