Farmer’s (Rural) Greek Revival Architecture

My father bought me this book this summer when we were out looking for furniture at the local antique /used furniture shops in the area. To Grandfathers House we Go – A Roadside Tour of American Homes By Harry Devlin is a beautiful children primer on architecture and although simply written- I actually learned bits I did not know. I did know that Greek revival at the time was referred to as the ‘national style’ because it was associated with the Greek, democratic ideals of our nation. And that the movement in America was was inspired by Thomas Jefferson. But what I did not know that one of the reasons that the ‘greek look’ was so popular was that we as a nation were mad at England for the war of 1812 and were sympathetic to the Greeks who were fighting for their own independence from the Turks. Greek revival style was the first time Americans applied an aesthetic style to architecture defiantly not modeled on the English precedent. It was style of independence and of ‘modernity’. Imagine these rural new towns with log cabins and bare-wood clapboard colonial style houses being replaced by houses that were made to look like shining white stone temples. I can imagine that statuesque pride encapsulated in these new generous proportions must have been very exciting to the nations psyche.

The book also talks about how towns (esp here in New York)were NAMED in Greek revival style – for example Rome, Utica, Athens, Palmyra, Troy, Homer, Syracuse etc.

The appreciation and enthusiasm for the ‘classics’ of ancient Greek culture became viewed as pretentious and mundane as it was applied willy nilly to all aspects of life. It must have seemed silly to some as the ‘magnificence’ of Greek temple design which was first seen in grand public buildings was watered down and applied to the most rural and incongruous of architectural uses. The greek revival era is often quoted as stretching 30 years from 1820 to 1850’s – which I guess when you think that the average life span was 30-45 years in that age – the style was present for almost a life time. in 1850 Greek revival style was starting to be considered archaic, ‘costly and lavish’ especially because buildings were being designed to mimic an already designed style instead of being created to address new architectural needs.

I guess this is why I find rural Greek revival architecture (and rural architecture in general) so interesting. Rural architecture was most always designed by need. Resources of the farms being few, and houses needing to withstand the fierceness of climate led to rural architecture to be far less decorative and more of a direct, unfettered answer to the use and environment. So I guess what some would find absurd – applying a temple design to the farmhouse vernacular, I actually find the most interesting – farm houses demand that they be designed for use above decoration – and the resultant style is a unique and valid group of venacutlar architecture. Around the time of Greek Revival farmhouses was also the Progressive Farmhouse movement – which I plan to discuss in another post.

For further reading on American Architecture : Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850 By William Barksdale Maynard.

Tree story.

So there were 5 pine trees around the back side of the house, probably meant to disguise the long weird facade with no windows, but two of them were growing up against the house and the other three looked as if they were ready to give up. Trees messing up foundations are a big no-no so we thought it best to remove them. Below are before , during and after.
Now before you think I am a giant tree killer, look at what my father was able to do – amazingly my dad was able to replant 4 of them along our border (the 5th one didn’t make it) , and they are growing greener than ever! You can see them in a little row in the bottom picture. I still can not believe it. The Tall one still looks a bit silly because it is all lopsided from growing up against the house. It makes me really happy that we were able to save them.

here they are ( the row of pine trees on the left) this winter. Still going strong! My sister took this shot of the house -look how my dog is staring at her adoringly.

Doors- glossy black or cheery color?

Ive never lived with a glossy black door, they are very London glamorous/ swanky and preppy, and of course practical – but i wonder if in person they are a bit foreboding? Certainly a cheery color greeting you is more inviting?

image from House and Garden

image from House Beautiful

image from domino

image from This Old House

image from Better Homes and Gardens

image from better homes and gardens

My own Photo of house in Buffalo, NY


One of the pluses of my parents farm is that it has many springs that feed numerous ponds and even shares access to a 30 acre lake – did you know that there is no scientific specification between a pond and a lake? there are various reasons people use, whether the body of water is over an acre, whether the pond is a basin of still rain water or is fed by a freshwater springs, the supported wildlife,the depth, whether or not it is deep/ clear enough to have plant life grow on the bottom.In truth a lot of ponds have been renamed lakes in the past couple years because it raises property values to be next to crystal lake as opposed to dishwater pond.

We are planning on making a small pond in the back behind the house -expanding an already wet ditch to fill with water, and also cutting off an old line from a spring house that runs to a cistern in our basement so we can remove the cistern in the basement and some of the dampness as well (the water supply we use now is from a drilled well) Our property is pretty wet already a lot of springs coming out of the hillside, but that way we can harness some of the water and keep it from swirling into the house foundation on its trip down the slope behind the house towards the brook across the road.

Clawfoot Tubs

image from Martha Stewart Living

So you may remember my earlier posts on my bathrooms. They are kind of horrible disturbing messes. Decorno has nothing on my ugly bathrooms, seriously I have only posted one because the others are so bad. Anyways I was lamenting how nothing looks ‘finished’ yet and using one of our sorry bathrooms as an example and guess what?

Joan of For the Love Of A House Is GIVING us a clawfoot tub. Can you imagine? isn’t that just the kindest thing you have ever heard of? This world of blogging is just so amazing. if you haven’t heard of her blog before, they have been doing a delicious remodel on a farmhouse in New Hampshire; really beautiful. So in honor of Joan’s nice offer I am posting some of my favorite claw foot tub pictures below.

image via deocorology



Image from Domino (Amanda Peet’s house)

image from World of Interiors via peak of chic

image via Vintage Chair