For the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups and for all who want to know more about their community -- here, at last, is a book that makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture.
Concentrating not on rare landmarks but on typical dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods all across the United States -- houses built over the past three hundred years and lived in by Americans of every social and economic background -- the book provides you with the facts (and frame of reference) that will enable you to look in a fresh way at the houses you constantly see around you. It tells you -- and shows you in more than 1,200 illustrations -- what you need to know in order to be able to recognize the several distinct architectural styles and to understand their historical significance. What does that cornice mean? Or that porch? That door? When was this house built? What does its style say about the people who built it? You'll find the answers to such questions here.
This is how the book works: Each of thirty-nine chapters focuses on a particular style (and its variants). Each begins with a large schematic drawing that highlights the style's most important identifying features. Additional drawings and photographs depict the most common shapes and the principal subtypes, allowing you to see at a glance a wide range of examples of each style. Still more drawings offer close-up views of typical small details -- windows, doors, cornices, etc. -- that might be difficult to see in full-house pictures. The accompanying text is rich in information about each style -- describing in detail its identifying features, telling you where (and in what quantity) you're likely to find examples of it, discussing all of its notable variants, and revealing its origin and tracing its history.
In the book's introductory chapters you'll find invaluable general discussions of house-building materials and techniques ("Structure"), house shapes ("Form"), and the many traditions of architectural fashion ("Style") that have influenced American house design through the past three centuries. A pictorial key and glossary help lead you from simple, easily recognized architectural features -- the presence of a tile roof, for example -- to the styles in which that feature is likely to be found.
Virginia Savage McAlester
About Virginia Savage McAlester
Virginia McAlester is a graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and attended Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a founding member and past president of Preservation Dallas (formerly called the Historic Preservation League, Inc.) and of Friends of Fair Park, a support group for the Fair Park National Historic Landmark in Dallas, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. She serves on the Dallas Landmark Commission and is an Adviser Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Lee McAlester, a geologist by profession, is Chairman of the Geology Department at Southern Methodist University and was formerly Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences there. He is the author of several geology textbooks as well as numerous scientific monographs and papers. He has an active interest in architectural history and has been involved in many Dallas preservation projects.
Together the McAlesters are the authors of A Field Guide to American Houses (available in Knopf paperback), Discover Dallas/Fort Worth, and Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles. The National Trust awarded them a Preservation Honor Award for creating A Field Guide to American Houses, and they have recently received the Texas Society of Architects' Flowers Award for excellence in interpreting architecture through the media.
How to Use This Book
Looking at American Houses
Style: The Fashions of American Houses
Form: The Shapes of American Houses
Structure: The Anatomy of American Houses
Pictorial Key and Glossary
Colonial Houses (1600-1820)
Early Classical Revival
Romantic Houses (1820-1880)
Victorian Houses (1860-1900)
Eclectic Houses (1880-1940)
Anglo-American, English, and French Period Houses
Mediterranean Period Houses
American Houses Since 1940
For Further Reference
A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester