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Feb. 20, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Another eclectic
Traditions merge in this Eclectic Classical Revival. (Brian Marshall/Niagara Now)

Different countries can have separate and distinct architectural traditions. Even countries as closely linked as Canada and the United States can diverge in both expression and experience when it comes to architectural styles.

Consider late 17th and early 18th centuries, during which Americans moved from the Colonial Georgian to Federal to Early Classical Revival and then to Greek Revival, while in Canada, we shifted from a much more conservative Georgian expression to Neo-classical and from there into Greek Revival.

On occasion, these differing evolutions can be the source of some confusion and the term Neo-classical is a prime example. In Canada, the term refers to a style with Roman-influenced elements popular from 1815 to 1845, but in the U.S., Neo-classical is one of the Eclectic expressions of the early 20th century. Incidentally, on this side of the border, that’s called Eclectic Classical Revival.

Developed during the mid-years of the Eclectics, their Classical Revival designs tended to illustrate the flexible approach typical of that period.

These houses ranged in size from relatively modest to monumental. Most early designs were based fairly closely on the mid-1800s Greek Revival criteria with an emphasis on hipped roof and correctly proportioned Ionic or Corinthian columns supporting a full-height entry porch.

However, in very short order eclectic designers introduced variations on the theme using building forms more commonly associated with other styles, which they appointed with classical elements.

Over time, even these elements were simplified; the porch could be a single storey, occasionally wrapping two or three walls or the entire house, supported by simple, slender columns. In truth, the Eclectic Classical Revival quite quickly became an amalgam of Georgian, U.S. Federal, Neo-classical and Greek Revival traditions.

The home shown in the photograph illustrates this merging of styles. Its building form and main entry, complete with its broken pediment atop the surround, leans heavily on the American Federal style.

The full-height porch with its closed pediment and Tuscan columns draws directly on both Neo-Classical and Greek Revival styles.

And despite the classical appointments, the two-level end wall colonnades sheltered under extensions of the gable roof (unique in my experience) I can only attribute to the creative flexibility of the Eclectic school.