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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > The Land 1780-1820 > Private Space
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Private Space : Separating the Public from the Private


Changes in architecture and interior arrangement of private homes in the 1800s reflected cultural, economic and political developments. "Front" rooms such as parlors and dining rooms served as places to display the fashionable ceramics and furnishings that represented civility and gentility in this period. The parental bed, once considered an essential part of a well-furnished "best room," was moved to a more private chamber. Parlor furniture, including chairs, carpets and sofas, replaced it. Drawing distinctions between public and private spaces within the home was part of a larger movement among many Americans to separate the domestic and private from the public realm.

Classical architecture enjoyed immense, international popularity at the turn of the nineteenth century. These architectural forms carried special meaning to Americans in particular, who self-consciously modeled and compared their political institutions with those of classical Rome and ancient Athens. Neoclassical designs appeared throughout the United States in this period.

Public buildings such as meetinghouses and town houses were among the first buildings built in this style. Private homes quickly adopted at least some of the new fashion. Even middling farmers chose to build or renovate existing homes in the pilastered, Greek Revival style, spurning the advice of some elites who urged them to build more humble, English-style cottages instead. For advice, builders could turn to The Country Builder's Assistant by Asher Benjamin, an American-born architect. The architectural features in Benjamin's book were extremely popular, especially in the Northeast. First published in 1806, Benjamin's book was in its sixth printing by 1827. Emulating Athenian temples, edifices were "turned," and gable end entrances replaced the older, side door entrances on the long side of a building. Along with the pediments, pilasters and cornices came distinct interior public and private spaces. Hallways made it possible to enter a room without passing through another, ensuring greater privacy. Sitting rooms removed eating and other, less messy activities from the kitchen. This division of private and public space complemented the increasing separation within the household between the masculine and feminine spheres.


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Coleman- Hollister House

photographer   Benjamin F. Popkins (1822-1905)
date   1890-1899
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
process/materials   glass plate negative
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1997.08.03.33

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See Also...

Memorial Hall

"Greenfield High School for Young Ladies"

Greenfield, Mass Birds-Eye View

"The Country Builder's Assistant, Fully Explaining The Best Methods For Striking Regular And Quirked Mouldings:"

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