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What is Antebellum Architecture?

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Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation is an Antebellum home in Louisiana, copyright © ArtToday

Antebellum Rosalie mansion in historic Southern Natchez, MS, 1823

Antebellum Rosalie mansion in historic Southern Natchez, MS, 1823. Photo by VisionsofAmerica / Joe Sohm via Getty Images.

The Antebellum Arlington Historical Shrine, 1842, Birmingham, Alabama

The Antebellum Arlington Historical Shrine, 1842, Birmingham, Alabama

Archive Photos/Getty Images © Getty Images 2013

Definition:

Antebellum means "before war" in Latin. The term Antebellum architecture refers to elegant plantation homes built in the American South during the 30 years or so preceding the American Civil War.

Antebellum is not a particular house style. Rather, it is a time and place in history. The features we associate with Antebellum architecture were introduced to the American South by Anglo-Americans who moved into the area after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Most Antebellum homes are in the Greek Revival, Classical Revival, or Federal style: grand, symmetrical, and boxy, with center entrances in the front and rear, balconies, and columns or pillars.

Antebellum houses have many of these features:

  • Hipped or gabled roof
  • Symmetrical façade
  • Evenly-spaced windows
  • Greek pillars and columns
  • Elaborate friezes
  • Balconies
  • Covered porch
  • Central entryway
  • Grand staircase
  • Formal ballroom

Examples of Antebellum Architecture

The term Antebellum stirs thoughts of Tara, the palatial plantation home featured in in the book and movie Gone with the Wind. From grand, pillared Greek Revival mansions to stately Federal style estates, America's antebellum architecture reflects the power and idealism of wealthy landowners in the American South, prior to the Civil War. Here are a few examples of Antebellum homes:

See More Antebellum Architecture

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