Last Monday my blog was about ranch style homes. Today I’ll describe Federal style homes.
Like much of America’s architecture, Federal style homes have their roots in England. It’s easy to confuse Federalist architecture with the earlier Colonial style homes I discussed in my blog on Monday, Oct. 21. While Colonial homes are square and angular, a Federal style building is more graceful and likely to have curved lines and decorative flourishes. You may see a fanlight or the elegant arch of a Palladian window.
The word name Federal reflects the time period when the style prevailed in a young United States. It was the favored style from about 1780 until the 1830s, and was prevalent farther south of Vermont, along the Eastern Seaboard, from Boston to Savannah.
A Federal style home has a symmetrical facade. The typical form is a simple box shape, usually two to three rooms deep, with a symmetrical arrangement of doors and windows, especially on the front. Additions to the sides and rear of the building are common. The most common embellishment is the addition of a projecting gable, centered on the house’s entry. Sometimes the facade beneath the gable, or pediment, remains on the same plane as the rest of the facade, while sometimes it projects slightly forward.
Federal houses in the northern U.S. tend to be built with clapboard siding, often painted white with details like doors and shutters painted black. In the southern U.S. they tend to be built with brick.
Federal style homes typically emphasize the cornice with decorative molding, most typically tooth-like dentils or block-like projections. A fanlight above the door brings in additional light above paneled doors. They’re often accompanied by sidelights and an elaborate crown. Federal style homes almost always have double-hung windows, typically with six panes per sash. Windows are symmetrically arranged around a central door. The most common window configuration is five on the second story and four on the first. A roofline balustrade, either on top of the main building or on an addition, is another common embellishment. They are typically purely decorative.
Federal style homes are not customary in Vermont, especially in Northern Vermont, where I have my business, Pleasant Valley Real Estate. In fact, I, personally, have never sold one. But I have seen a few.
Please feel free to comment on this blog. I’d love to hear from you. Next week I’ll talk about Capes.
Lea Van Winkle, Owner, Pleasant Valley Real Estate