Building Language: Italianate

Written by on September 25, 2012 in Building Language - 4 Comments
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Italianate details on the Merrill House, 1531 Broadway Street

Italianate. Driving through the older historic neighborhoods of Indianapolis, you will realize that Indy has some amazing examples of the Italianate style. To give you a better understanding of the Italianate, let’s look at the major features of the style.

The Italianate was popular in the United States from approximately 1850 to 1880 – and most notably in towns throughout the Midwest. The style recalls the Italian farmhouse and gained popularity in the US through the pattern books by Andrew Jackson Downing. So, what are the basics of an Italianate?

  • Two or three stories
  • Low-pitched roof with widely, overhanging eaves with brackets
  • Tall, arched windows, often with window hoods
  • Some may feature a square cupola or tower
  • Double doors with elaborate ornamentation
  • Can be brick or wood framed

An original Italianate porch, if present, will be a single-story porch with limited ornamentation. If you see a wrap-around or elaborate porch, it is most likely an addition to the structure.

James Whitcomb Riley Home Museum - 528 Lockerbie Street

One of the most iconic Italianates in Indianapolis is the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home (528 Lockerbie Street).  The house dates from 1872 (within the time frame of the style) and is a typical presentation of the Italianate. The house is a two-story, brick residence with a low-pitched roof. Overhanging eaves allow for brackets, while the windows are tall, arched, and feature limestone hoods. A simple porch is found in the northwest corner of the residence, with a simple balustrade along the top of the porch roof.

Another Italianate example you can’t help but love is found at the Merrill House (1531 Broadway Street) in the Old Northside. The house dates from 1875, typical for an Italianate, and includes many of the typical Italianate features. The residence is two stories with a low-pitched roof. The roof features overhanging eaves with highly ornate brackets. The tall windows are not arched, but they do feature arched lintels on the first floor. The doorway is an excellent example of the Italianate, with elaborate columns flanking the set of double doors. This example illustrates an Italianate without a porch. Most of all – you can’t deny the wonderful character the color scheme adds to this Italianate!

Italianate, Merrill House, 1531 Broadway Street

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

The infill tried to imitate the window designs of Italianate houses in the district.

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About the Author

Raina Regan is an architectural historian employed by the Indiana National Guard. Her work encompasses statewide cultural resources projects with National Register eligible or listed structures. Raina has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Ball State University. Raina is an Indiana import by way of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan and loves the culture and architecture of the Midwest.

4 Comments on "Building Language: Italianate"

  1. Kevin J. Brewer September 25, 2012 at 7:45 am · Reply

    Is the West Residence at Tech High School an Italianate?!/photo.php?fbid=4128956296104&set=oa.10151168868759784&type=1&theater

    • Raina Regan September 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm · Reply

      Sure is! That’s a great example of a brick Italianate.

  2. basil berchekas jr September 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm · Reply

    The Italianate, like the French Mansard, at one time were fairly common around Indianapolis; would love to keep up with this thread…

  3. Fred J. Nowicki October 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm · Reply

    Accurate comments about one of my favorite building styles.

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