Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson is known as the father of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture, so much so that the term Richardson Romanesque is synonymous with the more correct term, Romanesque Revival.
It is a rugged, muscular architecture, perfect for the power and might of the high Victorian age of the robber barons, captains of industry, and grand money makers a highly confident architecture for a confident time in history.
The architecture is characterized primarily by the use of brick and stone, with round Roman arches, embellished with squat columns, lines of windows, recessed entrances, towers with capped roofs, heavy massing, and often with the use of rusticated, that is rough hewn stone blocks.
Richardson’s first Romanesque building, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane was built in 1870, and his masterpiece was Boston’s Trinity Church, built in 1872-77.
The style proved immensely popular throughout the country, and soon civic buildings, churches, and huge mansions followed, designed and improved upon by a number of architects, most famously Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.
In New York, specifically in Brooklyn, row houses soon followed the public buildings and the mansions, as the style easily lent itself to the constraints of a smaller faÃ§ade, while still allowing for great variety in ornament and an abundance of detail.
Important ornamental features of this style are carved Byzantine Leaf ornament, ornate stained glass windows and elaborate ornamental ironwork, all designed to soften the baronial nature of this architecture.
At its grandest, this is an architectural style tailor made for the wealthy, at its simplest, an elegant and sedate style perfect for a rowhouse streetscape.
Many of Brooklyn’s finest architects were masters of the Romanesque Revival style, especially at its zenith in the mid 1880’s through early 1890’s. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Brooklyn has one of the largest concentrations of Romanesque Revival buildings in the United States.
Names that are commonplace in our historic districts: Montrose Morris, CPH Gilbert, James Naughton, PJ Lauritzen, the Parfitt Brothers, William Tubby, Mercein Thomas, JC Cady, Magnus Dahlander and George P. Chappell, as well as many more, all designed masterpieces of Romanesque Revival architecture throughout Brownstone Brooklyn.
Together they form a formidable and impressive body of work that helps define the uniqueness of our Brownstone neighborhoods. Here is but a small sampling of the Romanesque Revival style in Brooklyn.Take a look.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]