- Colonial architecture is the term used for the style and type of building imported by colonizers in a "foreign" land. Thus, it can refer to the English styles of architecture that were first introduced on the East Coast of the United States, called the Georgian and Federal styles, or the Dutch Colonial homes of German immigrants also found in the United States; yet it can refer more broadly to the Spanish Colonial styles found across the south and southwestern United States and in Mexico and South America. Colonial architecture was also introduced into India by the English and Portuguese, into South Africa by the Dutch, into parts of Togo and Cameron by the Germans, and into Libya by the Italians, while French Colonial style is found in many places, including New Orleans.Because most of these imperialistic tendencies, excluding those from antiquity, emanated from Europe in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, Colonial architecture is typically a European-styled construction with classical motifs, yet with strong regional variations. American Colonial architecture began, then, when the Pilgrims first arrived in North America and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1620. The earliest settlers quickly built wood homes with limestone walls and thatched roofs that were simple variations on European models, but were reinforced against the cold weather with wattle and daub—that is, thatch and woven branches held together with clay and packed between the timber walls. Houses were then covered with clapboards on the exterior. Large fireplaces, small windows with glass panes, and steeply gabled wood-shingled roofs were all used in northeastern dwellings. Strikingly different from Native American dwellings, these homes were instead modeled on rural English homes.One well-preserved house from this time is the Parson Capen House in Topsfield, Massachusetts, from 1683. This house is unusual in that it is a two-story home with a central room at both levels where the fireplace was located, and then two flanking rooms on either side of the main living areas. Other good examples of the Colonial style of architecture include the Turner-Ingersoll House, also called the House of the Seven Gables, in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Paul Revere House in Boston, both of which were also built before 1700. The Turner-Ingersoll House, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 publication of The House of the Seven Gables, was originally a two-story, two-room house built with cross gables. Built in 1668 by Captain John Turner, it faced the Salem Harbor and was added to over the generations, culminating in the Georgian style that Hawthorne knew. The Paul Revere House, a U.S. National Landmark, was built in the 1680s but also subsequently re-modeled in the Georgian style; it was inhabited by the Revere family from 1770 to 1800.Colonial architecture also included French, Dutch, and Spanish architectural elements to the original English Colonial style found in the United States, bringing an increased diversity to North American architecture. Spanish Colonial architecture is seen in the San Xavier del Bac Mission outside Tucson, Arizona, which was built in the 1780s by Franciscans on the site of an earlier Jesuit church. The huge white church rises up from its spare desert surroundings to create a powerful image of Catholic authority. The three-part façade consists of two bell towers that flank a central portal aedicule that is not painted white but is instead carved in an intricate, Spanish Chur-rigueresque style. This richly organic sculptural style, which recalls Gothic and Moorish influences, can be found across Spain in the Baroque and Rococo eras and is most notably seen on the portal of the Hospicio de San Fernando in Madrid, built by Pedro de Ribera in 1722.The continued popularity of these Colonial styles can also be seen in the Colonial Revival style, which began on the East Coast in the 1890s, and the Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission styles found during the same time in California, all of which continued through the next several decades of the 20th century.
Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. Allison Lee Palmer. 2008.