Ridge Ave Roxborough Historic District

Greek Revival Architecture


The Greek Revival style of  architecture was the dominant style for American domestic architecture  between about 1825 and 1850. Archaeological investigations of the  Classical World including Ancient Greece in the early nineteenth century  as well as Greece’s war for independence (1821 to 1830) aroused  interest in Greek architectural forms in the United States. Americans  associated the forms with their new democracy. Philadelphia was the  first city in the United States to adopt the Greek Revival style, as  evidenced by Benjamin Latrobe’s Bank of Pennsylvania of 1801 and William  Strickland’s Bank of the United States of 1818. Pattern books and  carpenter’s guides by Asher Benjamin, Minard Lafever and others spread  the style. Greek Revival buildings typically have gabled or hipped roofs  of shallower pitches than their predecessors, broad cornices, and entry  or full-width porches supported by classical columns.


The Valentine Keely House at  8144 Ridge Avenue is the most stylistically pure Greek Revival building  in Roxborough (Figure 24). Built in 1844, the symmetrical, five-bay  Valentine Keely House has a portico supported by Doric columns, a hipped  roof with a shallow pitch, and half-height third-floor windows  separated by a string course from the façade below to give the  appearance of a classical entablature. Advances in roofing technology in  the early nineteenth century, especially the development of metal  roofs, allowed for roofs with shallower pitches. Earlier cedar shake  roofs required a steep pitch to effectively shed water. With the  shallower pitched metal roofs, rooftop dormers gave way to half-height  third-floor windows, creating more usable space in garrets. The  half-height third-floor windows became a hallmark of houses constructed  in rural areas around Philadelphia in the decades leading up to the  Civil War.


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Numerous examples of Greek Revival houses with half-height third-floor  windows can be found along and around Ridge Avenue. The houses are  usually three or five bays wide and often have open, full-width front  porches. They are built of Wissahickon schist, which is either left  uncovered or finished with smooth stucco. They often have double,  gable-end chimneys. Good examples can be found at 5635 Ridge Avenue and  7101 Ridge Avenue (Figure 25).


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This information has been posted by RMWHS with the permission of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.