Ridge Ave Roxborough Historic District

Italianate Architecture


Like the Gothic Revival style,  the Italianate style began in England as part of the Picturesque  movement, a reaction to formal classical ideals in art and architecture  that had been fashionable for about 200 years. The movement emphasized  rambling, informal Italian farmhouses, with their characteristic square  towers, as models for Italian-style villa architecture. The first  Italianate houses were built in the United States in the late 1830s; the  style was popularized by the influential pattern books of Andrew  Jackson Downing published in the 1840s and 1850s. By the 1860s, the  style had completely overshadowed its earlier companion, the Gothic  Revival. Most Italianate examples date from 1855 to 1880. The hallmarks  of the style are low-pitched roofs with wide eaves supported by  decorative brackets; tall, narrow four-over-four or two-over­two  double-hung windows, sometimes arched, often with crowns or other  decorative hoods; cupolas or towers; double doors with bolection  mouldings; and decorative door surrounds and porches elaborated with  brackets.83

“Houghton,” the grand residence  of J. Vaughan Merrick Jr. at 5301 Ridge Avenue, which was built about  1860, is the best example of the Italianate style on Ridge Avenue  (Figure 30). The mansion includes all of the character-defining features  of the Italianate: a tower, bracketed eaves, large porches supported by  square pillars, and four-over-four double-hung windows.

The urban, rowhouse variant of  the Italianate style can be found at the row at 6109 to 6115 Ridge  Avenue. The three-story, mixed-use buildings have bracketed cornices at  the storefronts and rooflines, brick facades with butter joints, and  windows with stone lintels and sills.


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


83 Drawn from Virginia & Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), p. 210-214.