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Modern western civilization has long recognized that its roots lie in the cultures of classical Greece and Rome, and there have been several architectural movements based in some part upon emulating buildings of ancient times. Sometimes this has been manifested as a direct copying of Greek or Roman buildings. Other styles have been based on designing buildings according to the same rational principles used by classical architects, such as symmetry, balance, and proportion.

In addition to the specific styles it produced, the classical movement also contributed eclectic elements to other different styles. This was particularly the case in the period from around 1900 to 1914, when many houses became simpler and more symmetric, and made use of ornamental dentils and columns. This is sometimes referred to as the Edwardian Classical Revival.

Neoclassical Style

The World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, widely publicized several impressive buildings based on classical themes, and inspired many similar architect-designed buildings in the United States and (to a lesser extent) in Canada over the next half-century. Only a few examples of these are seen in relatively pure form in Victoria, mostly in commercial or institutional buildings. Typically there is a domination of the façade (and sometimes the sides) of the building by a porch that appears to have been taken from a Greek temple. Although the bulk of the building may obviously be a different style, it is usually symmetrical and may have classical details.

Neoclassical

This building at 1600 Quadra (North Park), designed as the First Congregational Church in 1913, is a symmetric brick building fronted by two-storey Ionic columns supporting a wide frieze and a triangular pediment. Classical details are the modillions under the eaves and dentils on the cornice, and the three triangular pediments above the entrance doors.

Homestead Style (Vernacular)

The first North American interest in classical buildings occurred from around 1770 to 1860, after the American Revolution when the republican concept of Rome fired the public imagination in the United States and suggested an architectural model, first for public buildings and then for homes. Well-known examples are the Gone with the Wind columned mansions built in the southern states before the Civil War. This was too early to directly affect developments in Victoria. However, numerous simpler vernacular approximations to these houses were subsequently built throughout North America, particularly in rural areas, and remained popular long after the demise of the formal style. The type ultimately became a favourite for inexpensive working-class houses built on narrow city lots. They are typically 1½ or two storeys tall, with a front-gabled roof and a porch that can be recognized as approximating the form of a Greek temple. For this reason they are also called Temple Houses.
Homestead Style
It is doubtful that the builders of this 1892 house at 2011 Cameron (Fernwood) were thinking of a Greek temple when it was constructed, but its similarity to mid-19th-Century houses that were designed on classical models is clear. It is close to symmetric and has a modestly pitched front-gabled roof, in this case with an incomplete pediment and cornice returns. There is a board frieze under the eaves, while cornerboards represent pilasters. The porch even has three square supports approximating Corinthian columns with stylized fretwork foliage in the capitals.

Georgian Revival Style

Another architectural style based on principles of classicism was Georgian, which began as a favourite for British stately country homes. A few vernacular Georgian homes (for example, Craigflower Manor in View Royal) were built by pioneers in the Victoria area. However, the only surviving examples of the style within Victoria date from the beginning of the 20th Century, when it enjoyed a revival of interest that has continued to this day.

The original Georgian houses were designed by British architects influenced by the classical principles of balance, symmetry, and simplicity as they perceived them in Italian Renaissance buildings. The classic Georgian house is a simple, two-storey, rectangular box with a hipped or side-gabled roof, and door and windows symmetrically arranged on the front façade. It typically has five double-hung sash windows on the top floor, and a central door and four windows at the ground level. The front entrance is the focal point of the façade, drawing the eye by being the most elaborately decorated feature of the house, projecting forward in a gable, or being enclosed by a porch. There are often classical features such as columns, pediments, modillions, or dentils on the house.
Georgian Revival

This Georgian Revival home at 1509 Rockland (Rockland) was built in 1922. Like most Revival houses it deviates somewhat from the original Georgian style: it has one window too many on the top floor. Apart from that it has many of the relevant features, such as symmetry, classical pediments on the dormers, and a door enclosed by a pedimented porch with classical columns. Most Georgian Revival houses in Victoria deviate even further from the norm with features such bay windows, multiple windows, and off-centre doors, not found on original Georgian models.


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