THERE are basically but two fundamental types of architecture, and all the numerous sub-styles are variations of these two. They are the Classic with its child, the Renaissance, and that marvelous expression of national and ideal socialism, the Gothic, which has come to be accepted essentially, though not necessarily, as church architecture.
The Greeks invented the custom of undressing before retiring, an invention of as much importance as the telephone. When the Romans absorbed the Greeks, they took this most domestic of habits, the night dress or undress, and it developed the private side of Roman life to a very great degree, giving the Roman homes a new spirit of domesticity and privacy with architecture to correspond - courts, semi-private and private, surrounded by rooms for the members of the family.
And later, when the unspeakable Turk took over unto himself the city of Constantinople, in the middle of the fifteenth century, he forced the later Greek with his ancient culture westward again to Italy, and this migration added a new inspiration to the jaded minds of the architects of Europe, at that time exhausted by excesses in the use of the flamboyant type of Gothic. So we have the Renaissance and another impetus to the development of refined architecture along classic lines.
France discovered the Renaissance in Italy about the time of Francis I and developed it amazingly in the chateaux. But the French were not then a domestic type of people, and their palatial chateaux can mean little to the home-builders of America; whereas the Englishman built for his wife and family, and later, when colonizing, wife, baby, axe and gun were with him. So that his interpretation of the Renaissance is a fine expression of dignity, truth and domestic virtue. This is the Georgian or Colonial, the only type for our kind and for our children. The Englishman had got it from the French and the Italian, but he inoculated it with the spirit of the hearth, and made it his forever. During the reign of the bourgeois Georges in England, the people themselves set the pace in style development. These kings were uneducated, coarse-grained and foreigners - and, because of this, exercised no influence over the development of the style then being analyzed and used by such men as Christopher Wren, Chambers and Jones. These men studied in France and Italy, and the works of Palladio, Vignola and the other Italian worthies became household tomes. The Roman and Grecian orders were studied and applied with a freedom that was truly British. England is full of the results - doorways, over-mantels, cornices and what not, but, best of all, the planning of the homes of this period reached the highest point in domestic architecture. Utilitarianism and Art were happily married, and My Lady received in a real reception-room. The dining-room and withdrawing-room and the parlor took their proper places, and performed their natural functions. My Lady's boudoir was as domestic and proper, let us hope, in every sense, as the kitchen and butteries.
First and second floor plans, the home of Mr. Joseph Y. Jeanes, Villa Nova, Pa.
Charles Barton Keen, architect.
Floor plans of the Hoadley homestead, Englewood, N. J. J. Acker Hays and Charles W. Hoadley, architects.
This style and this period belong to us - we call it Colonial - and, as we study it, we can see the human qualities sticking out of it everywhere.
For a gentleman of taste, for a lady of discernment, the Colonial is the only fitting environment. In it there is no deceit or sham. It will ring true throughout your time, and, if properly developed and studied, the style will grow and take to itself new dignities and new beauties, as it comes through new interpreters. It was in this way that the quaint, local characteristics of the Colonial we know, grew through the idiosyncrasies of the architects or joiners of that time. They studied the old authorities for the law, and when they became pastmasters of these laws they used their own individual invention as they jolly well pleased.
The limitations of the time also had much to do in creating sub-types. For example, it was impossible to make glass in large sheets, so we have small panes as a characteristic of the style. They were limited also in pigments, using most frequently reds or yellows, though the charming, home-loving atmosphere of most of the work of this period is better expressed in the white.
I venture to say that most of you who read this have, at some time or other, dreamed of retiring for your mellow dotage to some old white clapboarded house, set a little back from the street, with elms shading the front, a fence of square pickets, cut along the top in sweeping curves, and a swinging gate, chained and balanced in its swing with an old cannon ball. Hollyhocks, petunias, verbenas and old-fashioned pinks border the herring-bone brick walk up to the portico - a pediment portico or one with upper balcony, it matters little. You insist, however, on having the fluted Doric or Corinthian columns, with flat pilasters against the wall framing the arched doorway - an elliptic arch, please, with radiating divisions in iron and little lead roses at the intersections.
Will you have a brass knocker or do you prefer a cut-glass door-knob, with the wire running to the back of the beflowered hall and ending in a coil of wire and large brass bell? Let's have both. And then, as we enter, we are de-lighted with the sweet incense of the rose jar, which seems to come from every corner; and then the delicate Adam hat table, presided over by the old gilt mirror with the curved and broken pediment, and the flamboyant eagle seems to reflect our pleasure. I often wondered, as a boy, why that eagle looked so happy and yet never moved.