Ridge Ave Roxborough Historic District
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.