The Romantic Gothic Revival

Both Jefferson and Latrobe, although primarily builders in the classical style, were interested in that Gothic revival which accompanied the birth of the Romantic movement on the Continent. About 1840, Richard Upjohn planned Trinity Church in New York City on a design copied from English examples. James Renwick built St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York between 1850 and 1879. As Gothic detail more easily lent itself to the prevailing wooden house construction than did Greek classicism, there were built after 1840 a succession of domestic buildings in various medieval styles. Small frame churches were designed with pointed windows and spires. The invention of the jigsaw and its use by romantically inclined builders led to the adoptions of an ornament suggestive of the old-fashioned lacy valentines. Steamboats that plied the great inland waterways carried this flamboyant ornament through the Middle West.

The most appropriate use of the Gothic appears in a number of modern churches -- particularly the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York, by Ralph Adams Cram; the National Cathedral at Washington, by Vaughn, Bodley, and Frohman; and the Riverside Church in New York, by Henry C. Pelton, Allen, and Collens. Several of the large universities, notably Princeton, Yale, and Chicago, have attempted an adaptation of the English Collegiate Gothic, designed to lend to the halls of learning a proper atmosphere of medieval enlightenment.

The end of the Civil War found an eclecticism in American architectural styles such as no other culture had ever faced. Houses were hastily thrown together by contractors without professional training, who used stock patterns turned out en masse by the planing mills. They catered to the individual desires of the highly imaginative Americans, each of whom considered himself an architect. As a result, in the new, rapidly developing communities of the Middle West and the suburbs of the Eastern cities, many streets furnished complete museums of building styles. These included Swiss villas, Egyptian or Greek temples, and Romanesque castles. The Queen Anne style and the Italian Gothic vied with Elizabethan and Renaissance.

No comments: