What Makes a House “Greek Revival”?

published Jul 17, 2021
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Maybe you’ve heard the term on a historic walking tour. Or maybe a real estate listing you scrolled through mentioned it. The term “Greek Revival” refers to a specific architectural style in the U.S. — but could you pick it out of a lineup? Here’s how to tell what makes a home Greek Revival.

What makes a home Greek Revival?

Some of the most iconic homes and buildings in America have been inspired by Greek Revival architecture. The style is characterized by a low-pitched roof, a triangular pediment over a porch entry, and most notably Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian columns.  So if you’re wondering if a home is Greek Revival or not, first look for columns and a covered entryway.

The style rose to popularity in the 1830s through the 1860s as Americans became infatuated with Greek culture. Greece was regarded as the birthplace of democracy and classical literature, and Americans were inspired by Greek ideals, which influenced the architectural style during that time. 

Credit: Jack Boucher - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey
The Andalusia, also known as the Nicholas Biddle Estate

Where is Greek Revival architecture most common?

Today, Greek Revival architecture can be found all over America, but it was most popular on the East Coast. During the height of the Greek Revival period, banks, libraries, churches, and courthouses were built with rows of columns that paid homage to Greek temples. 

One of the most well-known examples of a Greek Revival home is Andalusia, the former home of the wealthy Biddle family. Overlooking the Delaware River, the Philadelphia home is now registered with the National Register of Historic Landmarks. The home was built in 1794 by John Craig, who hired architect Benjamin Latrobe to include the soaring white Doric columns. Later, financier Nicholas Biddle married Craig’s daughter and between 1834 and 1836, expanded the home to what it is today. 

As one of the nation’s oldest cities, Philadelphia’s earliest buildings like the Second Bank of the United States and The Philadelphia Museum of Art employ the Greek Revival style, but the aesthetic wasn’t limited to the North. 

The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville was built by architect William Strickland, who was an apprentice to Benjamin Latrobe. The building has both Ionic and Corinthian details. Nashville is also the home to The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, and the building is now an art museum.   

Greek Revival architecture was also widespread in New Orleans. Gallier Hall, the former city hall for just over a century, was the work of architect James Gallier and reflects the Greek Revival style with two rows of Ionic columns in the entryway.  

The nation’s capital, too, is home to buildings inspired by the Greeks. The United States Supreme Court has 16 marble Corinthian columns at its entrance, and America’s most well-known addresses, The White House was built in part using the Greek Revival style with the inclusion of grand Ionic columns. 

Is Greek Revival architecture still popular today? 

Today, the architectural style has influenced modern homes as well. In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the exterior shot of the Banks’ Southern California home was a grand mansion with four columns that held up a decorative porch, and modern homes that employ the Greek Revival style are meant to convey sophistication and class. 

While Greek Revival architecture is seen as stately and refined, Greek Revival homes don’t have to be stuffy. Greek Revival homes can be lovingly restored and brought up to date by incorporating other design styles and mixing in contemporary furniture and art to create a warm and inviting space.