Rowhouses make up much of the city’s historic residential housing stock, and today can sell for well into the millions. Did you know, though, that not every rowhouse is the same? That there are many different styles, each with their own unique design and history? We’ve compiled here a guide to these styles, so next time you’re admiring one of these beautiful architectural gems you’ll know what type of rowhouse you’re looking at—and just think how that will impress your friends!
Federal-style rowhouses are some of the oldest and most coveted in New York City. Built in the early 1800s, they feature simple architectural details inspired by that of ancient Greece and Rome. A tell-tale sign of a Federal building is Flemish bond—a brick pattern that alternates header/stretcher. They are two to three stories with a basement and half-story attic that features dormer windows. Stoops are low with cast-iron handrails, and the wood cornices typically feature dentil moldings. Other features are evenly placed six-over-six windows with simple masonry lintels and square door surrounds.
Built between 1830 and 1850, Greek Revival rowhouses are influenced by classical Greek design and have a touch more boldness than Federals. Three to three-and-a-half stories, they have flat roofs, wood cornices with dentil moldings, and six-over-six wood windows. The buildings’ bases are brownstone with a brick upper facade, and stoops are medium height with cast-iron railings. Doorways are framed by pilasters, sidelights, and rectangular stone enframements.
The Gothic Revival rowhouse is influenced by medieval style and sprung up around the city between 1840 and 1860. Similar in proportion and style to the Greek Revival and Italianate design, Gothic Revival is set apart by pointed arches around the doorway and more ornate stone window lintels.
Unlike the Italianate style, Neo-Grec features masculine forms and sharp, angular lines. Usually three to five stories high with a basement, Neo-Grec homes have a high stoop with heavy, cast iron railings. The rowhouse style gained popularity around 1865 and features a large, striking doorway with a pedimented hood and a double-leaf wood door. The most impressive element of the Neo-Grec rowhouse is its carved detailing, which usually appears around the doorway and on window surrounds and sometimes even directly on the building’s brownstone surface.
The Second Empire rowhouse, popular beginning in 1860, is similar to the Italianate style, but features decorate, curved window lintels and doorways and, most notably, mansard roofs. Usually made of slate, the mansard roof is punctuated by a row of windows with more ornate lintels and pediments than those on the building’s brownstone façade.
The Renaissance Revival style focuses on elegant classicism and Renaissance-inspired ornamentation. This style popped up in New York between 1880 and 1920 and featured brownstone or light-colored brick facades, right-angled stoops, and large stone door surrounds. Renaissance Revival homes often have decorative motifs, like wreaths, flower garlands, or fruit, along the cornice and around the windows.
Built between 1880 and 1890, the Romanesque Revival rowhouse stands out amongst the other styles due to its heavy rusticated forms, asymmetry, and visible mix of materials that includes limestone, brownstone, various colors of brick, terra cotta, and granite. Other characteristics are large, chunky semi-circular arches, Spanish tile roofs, stained glass transoms, and Byzantine-style ornamentation.
From the mid to late 1800s, Italianate rowhouses featured prominently in New York City with their feminine ornamentation, organic forms, and symmetry. Taking cues from 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, they are two to four stories high and usually have a full brownstone façade. Stoops are high with decorative cast-iron handrails and recessed entries give way to rounded, double-leaf doors with arched overhangs. Large double-hung, two-over-two wood windows have heavy stone lintels and sills. The Italianate rowhouse is capped off with a boldly projecting ornamental cornice, often supported by square or scrolled brackets.
Perhaps the most whimsical of the rowhouse styles, Queen Anne homes were constructed between 1870 and 1890 with asymmetrical, eclectic details that replaced the popularity of the Second Empire style. The Queen Anne rowhouse has a variety colors, textures, and materials and uses Terra Cotta ornamentation to add to the fanciful façade. Projecting bay windows, painted balustrades, right-angled stoops, and a mix of window pane size are other elements of the Queen Anne. Another distinctive feature is the gabled roof, typically with dormer windows and chimneys.