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Architectural Glossary

While many buildings exhibit characteristics of defined historic architectural styles (e.g., Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival), others were simply identified as “vernacular,” meaning a structure without any specific stylistic attributes, though still typical of its time and place.

Some terms like “Victorian” and “Colonial” denote a period, not a style. For example, the term “Victorian architecture” actually refers to styles that emerged in the period between 1830 and 1910, during the reign of Queen Victoria. The Victorian era spawned several well-known styles, including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Stick style, Romanesque, and Shingle style.” Similarly, “Colonial” is generally a period and a “Center Chimney Colonial” is more thank like a Georgian style building.

The following descriptions, in chronological order, are aligned with the terminology contained in Virginia and Lee McAlester’s Field Guide to American Houses (New York, 1984), and Steven Phillips’ Old House Dictionary (Washington, D.C., 1992). Explanations of the most frequently used stylistically terms are as follows.

Prepared by Phil Esser.