Classical Architecture the Foundation of a New Nation
After the revolution ended, the newly independent American’s wanted to create their own culture distinct from the British culture they had just escaped. This included the clothes they wore, the literature they read, the artwork, music, and furniture. The most visual of the changes is the architecture in the buildings that were being built. In order to show their new power and potential they had as a country, American’s followed a Classicism style which was used by the great Greek and Roman empires, an idea which was pointed out it Richard Bushman’s introduction Public Culture and Popular Taste in Classical America from Classical Taste in America.1 Many of the new buildings, from public buildings to the homes of the middle class, showed off elements of Classicism to show their support in the changing of the new American culture.
Classical architecture is very distinct. The buildings are built almost entirely of marble, giving them a white color. They are often lined with columns and each column decorated with what is called orders. Some orders can be very plain, while others are more detailed, such as those found on the Capitol Building. Not every building was made with marble or had columns, but many of the buildings built in the 19th century had classical elements to it.
At its peak from 1800 to 1840, Bushman states, classicism affected more object, reached more deeply into American culture, and more profoundly shaped national symbols than any previous international style.2 National leaders helped shape this ideal need for a classical style by wanting American culture to represent exactly what the constitution was to represent of the American people. Leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wanted America to symbolize strength and unity between the individual states. Along with these two ideas, Classicism brought with it two more important ideal: perfect beauty and austere patriotism.3
The founder of the new society and culture were appealed by classical styles. They wanted beautiful buildings and art to join the ranks of the great civilizations.4 Jefferson was at the forefront of leading the movement when designing the new capitol city, Washington DC. In the construction of buildings like the Capitol building, you can see the classical patterns, resembling Roman buildings. Other buildings following classical patterns were rejoiced and considered in good taste. A critic of the first Bank of the United States, which was built in Philadelphia in 1798, said, “this is the first building of any consequence, wherein true taste and knowledge has been displayed."5
Jefferson was fond of the Classical architecture that took hold in the early 19th century. While valuing patriotism, he was more interested in finding exemplars of ideal beauty to guide American art and architecture.6 Jefferson, founder of University of Virginia, implemented his vision for classical architecture into the founding buildings.7 As more colleges were being founded to bring better to education to the new nation, they followed along with Jefferson's vision of using Classical architecture on the buildings. You can see examples of this right here at College Park. While most of the buildings are made brick instead of marble, many of them have columns lining the font of the buildings as many classical buildings did.
Among other new aspects to American culture, was the emergence of a middle class. There were people who were neither high status aristocrats nor were they poor workers and farmers. There was a class of people with a bit more income than those ordinary workers. The middle class people had their own cultural ambitions.8 They wanted fashionable goods, furniture, and clothing. The homes they lived in also displayed their cultural ideas. Middle-class people were the ones to bring simplified versions of high-style objects into their homes, immensely enlarging the