Italianate, 1850-1890

The Old House Web
Italianate was one of the most popular Victorian-era housing styles from the mid- to late-1800s. Homes in this style ranged from modest two-story town houses to ornate mansions of sea captains and other wealthy entrepreneurs.

Inspired by villas of Italy -- or at least pictures of them, since few American architects traveled abroad -- the style is defined most by the use of single or paired decorative brackets under wide cornices.

The homes were typically two to three stories in height, with flat or hip roofs, bay windows with inset wooden panels, corner boards and two over two double-hung windows. The windows often had curved or molded window caps.

Pennsylvania Italianate
This Franklin, PA, house has classic Italianate features -- wide cornice, brackets, curved window caps, cupola and original front porch with square columns.

-- Venango Economic Development Corporation


Italianate House Details

Italianate details

-- Drawing from the National Park Service


Decorah, Ill. House
Details from an Italianate house in Decorah, Iowa, showing paired brackets and window trim.

-- Photo by the Paint Quality Institute


McGee House
This 1864 house in Aurora, Illinois, shows shows the classic wide cornice and brackets of an Italiante. The Queen Anne style porch is not original, and was added sometime between 1890 and 1916. At the same time, the original pairs of narrow windows were removed and replaced by wider windows with the stained glass inserts.

-- Photo by Brian McGee


Homes and commercial buildings in Italianate style were built throughout the country.In New England, they often were homes to ship's captains. One fine example of such a houseis the Southard House in Richmond, Maine.

The Historic American Building Survey describes the mansion, built in 1855 by prominentRichmond shipbuilder Thomas J. Southard, as "designed in the manner of thePhiladelphia architect Samuel Sloan...(with) heavily bracketed cupola and broadlyoverhanging eaves, 2 stories high, rectangular with a hipped roof, tall cupola and one anda half story el on the east side."

Southard House
The Southard House in Richmond, Maine, is one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture in the state, according to the Historic American Building Survey.


Inside, the home is was grand as the outside. When the house was documented for theHABS in 1971, many of the original features were still present, despite the buildings usefor many years as a nursing home.

Southard House
Bracket and entry detail

(Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Southard House
The main door from the inside, with its arched top and side and over lites.

Southard House
The lites are painted with with scenes commemorating Southard's daughter, Delia, who was lost at sea in 1851.

Southard House
Carved white marble fireplaces in one of two front parlors.

Southard House
Plaster medallion and moulding in the library, the most ornate room in the house. A gas-light chandelier, has been electrified.

Southard House
The main staircase, at the end of the main hall sprials to the second floor. Not visible in picture are nooks for statuary.

Southard House
Another view of the library, showing wallpaper believed to be original to the house. It features silver classical figures set against florid designs.

Southard House
Details of wallpaper and statuary in library.

-- All photos of Southard House from the HABS files.

Row HouseMany Italianates were much more modest than theSouthard House, of course. Elements of the style were also widely used in commercial brickbuildings at the time.

This row house, in Washington, D.C., is typical of commercial Italianate buildings,with simple curved window caps and brackets.

This story is part of an occasional series by The Old House Web on housing styles inAmerica. Clickhere to see other stories on housing styles.

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