Same Elements Arranged Differently Make "Style"
Every house has a structural frame, roof, siding materials, windows, and doors. The shape, materials, and arrangement of these features, as well as the type of ornamentation, determine a building's style. Houses that have similar characteristics belong to the same style group, Architectural styles flourish for varying numbers of years, overlap with periods of other styles, and subsequently fall out of fashion. It is generally possible to date a house within 20 years by identifying its style, but not always. A house of a particular style could have been built long after that style's era of vogue.
Sometimes it's difficult to assign a stylistic label to a house, since some houses are composites of several styles and others don't exhibit strong characteristics of any style. Simple in form and detailing, these are called "vernacular." Vernacular houses are utilitarian shelters, built by their owners or local builders, and not designed by architects. Vernacular houses may be completely free of ornamentation or may have a few elements of a certain style. Detailing on a vernacular house is always much simpler than on a "high style" house (an elaborate example of a style).
Many architectural styles are represented in Cincinnati. Eighteen of them are identified in this manual. Most of them originated in other parts of the country and reached Cincinnati a few years later. "Pattern books" and "builders' guides," which gave descriptions, illustrations, and construction techniques, were important in educating local architects and builders in new styles.
Identifying the Style of Your House
The first step in identifying the style of your house is to take a good look at the outside. Take note of the roof shape, the arrangement of the windows and doors, the basic shape of the building, the materials, and the details. Keep in mind that your house may have changed since it was built. It may have a different type of siding, ornament may have been removed or added, or windows may have been changed. It is often possible to determine the style of an altered house by its shape and roof type. Knowing the year it was built could be helpful. After considering these factors, look at the different styles in the links above and find the house that most closely resembles yours. Your house will probably not be exactly like any of the examples shown. Look for similar shapes, materials, and details. Then read the description of that style to find out more about its history and specific characteristics.
Federal 1815 - 1840
Greek Revival 1835 - 1860
Renaissance Revival 1845 - 1885 & 1890 - 1915
Gothic Revival 1850 - 1870
Italian Villa 1850 - 1870
Italianate 1865 - 1890
French Second Empire 1870 - 1895
Victorian Vernacular 1870 - 1895
Queen Anne and Shingle 1880 - 1900
Richardsonian Romanesque 1880 - 1900
Chateau 1880 - 1905
Swiss Chalet 1885 - 1910
Colonial Revival 1895 - 1930
Prairie 1905 - 1930
Bungalow 1910 - 1940
Tudor Revival 1910 - 1940
Spanish Mission 1910 - 1940
Art Deco and Moderne 1930 - 1950