"This book traces the development of American architecture from the age of Jefferson to the antebellum era, providing the first survey of this important period to appear in a generation. W. Barksdale Maynard overturns the long-accepted notions that the chief theme of early-nineteenth-century American architecture was a patriotic desire to escape from European influence and that competing styles chiefly reflected the American struggle for cultural uniqueness. Instead, deep and consistent aesthetic ties, especially with England, shaped American architecture and house designs. Maynard shows that the Greek Revival in particular was an international phenomenon, with American achievements inspired by British example and with taste taking precedence over patriotism." Emphasizing the history of ideas, the book addresses such major themes as the role of the Picturesque, the spread of the rural residence, and the complex uses and meanings of porches. The author draws on wide-ranging primary sources, including English and American "villa books" and contemporary travel narratives. Generously illustrated, the volume reproduces rare historic prints and daguerreotypes of important buildings that in nearly all cases have been demolished or altered.
Considered by some to be a fertile and original period in American architecture, the early 19th century brought an interest in accuracy in period styles, the most prominent being Greek revival and Gothic revival, in addition to the introduction of industrial materials, such as cast iron and larger areas of glass, into commercial buildings. In polished and entertaining prose, independent scholar Maynard argues that the two revivals were more dependent on European cultural hegemony than previous histories would suggest. Especially interested in the country house, whether a stick-style cottage, Italianate villa, or log cabin, the author shares his particular interest in the social function of intermediate spaces, whether they are called porches, piazzas, or verandas. Although the analysis of most of the buildings lacks depth or spatial understanding-indeed, there are very few plans among the otherwise carefully selected historic photographs and illustrations (52 color, 159 black-and-white)-references to writers of the period make this a fascinating and important literary history of the era. As is often the challenge with period histories, depth and breadth are not both attainable, and the author has selected the former. Still, discussion of Federal Hall (formerly the Customs House) in New York and other similarly significant buildings is all too brief. Inconsistent indexing and unidentified illustrations opposite chapter title pages are frustrating and impede the book's usefulness. For larger, more scholarly collections.-Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.