The quaint and picturesque town of Woodstock, Vermont is quintessential New England, full of American history and natural beauty, but the architecture is not the modest, practical colonial style you might expect to find in this part of New England. Many of Woodstock’s original residential and commercial structures from the 1800s are quite grand and vary in style; these include the house at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, several historic homes on The Village Green and French's Block which fronts Main Street and houses a number of charming shops. Read on to learn more about Woodstock’s myriad architectural gems.
Popularized between 1700 and 1780, Georgian homes are noted for their symmetry and orderliness. The style was named for England’s first four King Georges in honor of their classic features and elegance without being ostentatious. Georgian homes typically feature many evenly-spaced windows and symmetrical chimneys; a hallmark of this architectural style is the application of the golden ratio, which allows for eye-pleasing symmetry. Typically, the homes are constructed from brick or stone, sometimes with stucco rendering, and are built two stories high. Georgian buildings will occasionally feature additional stories with dormer windows and lower ceilings.
Georgian-style homes were originally popular in the English countryside as well as cities like London and Dublin, where townhouses were constructed to mirror the pastoral Georgian feel. As New England was developed, more Georgian homes were built throughout the region; many college campuses in the area also feature stately examples of Georgian architecture. The style differs from many of its predecessors with its spaciousness and purposeful construction which allows for lots of natural light to flood into the home.
Georgian architecture was also a very popular style for churches and other community gathering places, which benefit from lots of light and space. The style remained popular in the United States until the post-Revolutionary War period, when Americans turned away from anything British, choosing instead to favor the Federal-style — especially when constructing the White House.
This architectural style would eventually go on to experience a revival in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many suburban homes were built in the Georgian style during this time to achieve an elegant and stately feel; today, there are some gorgeous examples of this style located off Woodstock’s town center, known as The Green.
The Village Green, Woodstock
The Village Green, Woodstock
Another iconic and quintessentially East Coast style is the Federal architectural style. Popularized in the late 1700s and early 1800s just after the American Revolution, Federal architecture is technically a form of its predecessor, the Georgian style, but with a few marked differences. While Federal homes also feature symmetrical elements and are typically square or rectangular with two to three stories, the windows are laid out in vertical or horizontal lines rather than grouped. Palladian-style windows are quite popular in the Federal style, one of the only more decorative elements to the typically simple exteriors.
Homes built in the Federal architectural style are typically made with either clapboard or brick. Brick was a more common material for homes in the city that required extra fireproofing. Federal home entrances don’t usually feature a front porch. While the entry would be simple and plain, there might be some decoration surrounding it like an iron balcony, molding, or brass hardware. Natural light remains important in Federal-style homes, with gabled roofs and dormers to let the sunshine flood into upper levels and attics.
Mountain Avenue, Woodstock
Elm Street, Woodstock
Popular in the United States between approximately 1825 and 1860, the Greek Revival style strives to emulate hallmarks of simple and elegant ancient Greek architecture. Greek Revival rapidly spread from the East to the West Coast, becoming one of America’s first dominant national styles of architecture. The style’s popularity in the 19th century was likely due to an increase in Greek archaeological investigations combined with Americans’ growing aversion to British influences. One of the first major examples of Greek Revival architecture in America was Philadelphia’s Bank of the United States, constructed in 1818, which made the style a symbol of economic security. Greek Revival-style New England churches, townhouses, and elegant country homes were soon to follow.
Hallmarks of the Greek Revival style include stylish Grecian doorway moldings, window frames, and of course, the iconic columns in the front of the house supporting the porch roof. Greek Revival homes typically feature a Greek temple-style facade with wood or stucco columns, painted white to invoke the look of ancient Greek marble. The buildings are rendered in stucco, wood, brick, or brownstone and feature Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian detailing. Doors and front porches are elaborate, and the roofs are gently sloping and feature gable fronts.
The interiors of Greek Revival homes are striking as well. These homes feature simple and relatively open layouts with graceful proportions and tall windows and doors, perfect for letting lots of light in. Ornate plasterwork ceilings matched with plain plaster walls complete the look, while ceiling mantels are often decorative and made from some type of marble. Gorgeously restored examples of the Greek Revival style can be found throughout the town of Woodstock, particularly near the town center.
When you picture New England architecture, the Colonial Revival style is often one of the first examples that come to mind. After the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, the nation experienced a renewed interest in Colonial architecture, including the early English and Dutch houses built up and down the East Coast. Inspired by the iconic colonial homes of the time, architectural firm McKim, Mead & White designed the Appleton House in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the H.A.C. Taylor House in Newport, Rhode Island, which served as prime examples of the Colonial Revival style.
Colonial Revival homes built during this time period were not often historically accurate, exaggerating some of the most-admired elements of the original colonial homes. The style was influenced by previously popular styles like Georgian and Federal, leading architects to add features like multi-pane sash windows and colonial door surrounds. Gambrel roofs and second-story overhangs were also popular additions during the revival. Further into the 20th century, architectures put more research into authentic colonial architecture, leading to the construction of more accurate Colonial Revival homes between 1915 and 1953. During this time period, however, the country faced financial hardships due to the Great Depression and World War II, which lead to a simplification of the architectural style.
Unlike some of the previous architectural styles, which are featured throughout New England in the form of banks, churches, and other public places, the Colonial Revival style is predominantly used for private residences. Hallmarks of the Colonial Revival style include an accentuated front door, slender columns forming an entry porch, fanlights and sidelights, tall Palladian windows, facade symmetry featuring a centered door and aligned windows, and one-story wings with a flat roof and embellished balustrade. Gable or gambrel roofs are common, and the interior plans are not symmetrical, typically more open than their historical predecessors. Often a Colonial Revival-style home will feature elements from several Colonial styles, making for some eclectic homes scattered throughout the New England area.
The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller House, Elm Street, Woodstock
An offshoot of the Victorian architectural style, Queen Anne homes became quite popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Queen Anne style melded together various elements from the Victorian and Romantic styles and was just as popular in England as it was in the United States. As with the Colonial Revival style, Queen Anne architecture is featured predominantly for private residences rather than commercial buildings; in fact, at the tail end of the 19th century, Queen Anne was the most popular residential architecture style in the United States. It was particularly popular with wealthy individuals who had earned their money during the Industrial Revolution, but middle-class and working class families also resided in homes that reflected the style as well, albeit in smaller, folksy cottages.
The most common characteristic of a Queen Anne home is a mansard roof that rests like a crown on decorative brackets. Other typical hallmarks of the Queen Anne architectural style include tall windows, projecting central pavilions, iron roof cresting, spindlework porches, patterned shingles, and even stained glass windows. Typically, Queen Anne homes have steep and pointed roofs that can lend an asymmetrical look to the structure, giving it the cute and eye-pleasing feel of a gingerbread house.
These pleasant homes are common throughout New England. An exceptional example can be found in Woodstock’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park at the Marsh-Billings House.
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