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Exploring Architecture
Federal Style, 1780-1820 Coleman-Hollister House, Non-Flash Printable Version

Interactive Flash version of this feature

black/white photo of the front facade of the Coleman-Hollister House


Federal Style roofs could be side-gable, centered-gable or, like the Coleman-Hollister House, hipped. This type of roof is very common in New England Federal homes. It is very low and, when looking up from ground level, appears nearly flat. Initially, the Coleman-Hollister House may have had a balustrade at the top.


Because the new Federal Style homes had central halls, the center chimney so common in Post Medieval and Georgian designs, had to go. Instead, architects designed Federal homes with either two symmetrically placed side chimneys (as with the Coleman-Hollister house) or two end chimneys. This also made for more efficient heating, since there could be fireplaces in each room.


Basic Federal Style windows are six-over-six, double-hung, simple and straightforward, with very discreet decoration. The Coleman-Hollister’s Palladian window, located in the second level of the central bay, is a dramatic exception. This window type is, in fact, found on most Federal homes (another hallmark of the style). It helps to give the surface of the building decoration and grace, without interrupting its calm flow.


The front door and its surrounding windows and moldings take center-stage in Federal Style architecture. The Coleman-Hollister’s elliptical fanlight over the front door and side lights just below are hallmarks of the style. The delicate pilasters on either side of the door give the appearance of holding up the fanlight but, in truth, are only decorative elements.


Post and beam, Federal homes like the Coleman-Hollister House were sided with narrow clapboards and framed on either end by trim boards. The clapboards were painted, usually in a pastel color such as yellow, blue or green. By the late 1700s paint had become more affordable and, therefore, more popular. Nearly every home built during this time was painted.


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