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Federal Style


Style Overview

The Federal home style emerged in the early days of American independence, and reflected in architecture the same classical ideals from ancient Roman and Greek influences which helped shaped the new style of government. The style is characterized by order and symmetry with windows evenly spaced around a central front door.

The Federal style of architecture departed from the simplicity of Colonial era homes, and is closely related to the Georgian home style, but is more refined. Federal style is often referred to as Adam style in reference to the English architect, Robert Adam, who studied classical Roman and Greek buildings and subsequently published his interpretations of the style.



Strict symmetry typified the rectangular two story structures comprising the Federal home style. The main form is a simple boxy structure, although later renditions often included appendages to either side to accommodate garaging needs. More elaborate Federal homes may also include a third story.


Front Door

Entry doors are relatively simple, and often include an elliptical fan light over the top of the paneled door. Embellishments often include a crown over the door or elaborate side lights to complete the look.



Porches are not common with this style, although curved steps with iron railings often lead to the entry. In some renderings a small portico may be present.



Window arrangements typically consist of four windows on the first floor symmetrically dispersed around the entry, with five windows on the second floor. Windows are double hung sash style with a six over six design where the pains are separated by thin wooden muntins. Flat lintels over these windows are also typical with prominent sills below.

A Palladian window with curved arches is often present on the second floor above the entry. A Palladian window is a three-part window with a larger central window flanked by two smaller windows on either side.



Homes often reflected the availability of building materials and naturally varied by geographic region. Federal style homes in the South often were made of brick whereas in New England they were wood framed and had wood clapboard siding.


Roof & Dormer

Federal style homes most often have low-hipped gable roofs in contrast to the steeper roof pitches of Colonial era homes. Occasional a flat style roof with a balustrade is also seen. Dormers are seen in some renditions but are not necessarily an identifying feature. The window style of the dormers are a better indicator of the Federal style.



Federal homes are not overly ornamented, but have thoughtful placement of architectural elements around the doors, windows, and cornice lines. Embellished cornices with decorative dentil moldings are often present. The symbol of the American eagle was also a common adornment. During the peak of the Federal style, revolutionary sentiment remained strong and military pride could be seen in the detailing of the home.



The interior layout of the home featured a depth of two to three rooms with open stairways that were often curved and classically decorated. Round or octagonal rooms (think of the Oval Office as an example) are often present in Federal style homes.


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