Guide to Townhouse Architectural Styles

Posted August 24th, 2017 by Richard Pretsfelder, Sophie Smadbeck

When shopping for a townhouse, it’s important to be educated in common architectural language surrounding townhome styles. Doing this can help identify architectural preferences and dislikes, as well as helping gain an understanding of common terms that will come up throughout your search.

Federal-style townhouses were most popular from 1780 to 1830. The style tends to be simple with few ornate details. These townhomes are usually two or three stories with dormer windows. The facades are usually flat with stone windowsills. 249 East 71st Street is a classic Federal-style townhouse, with its stately brick façade and simple details.

Greek Revival townhouses, which were most popular from 1830-1850, often have a brick upper façade and brownstone base. The entryways are often pronounced with pilasters and windows surrounding the door. Architectural elements are simple and bold, reminiscent of Greek motifs. 516 State Street, with its brick upper façade, is an example of a Greek Revival style home.

The Italianate architectural style became more popular than Greek Revival by the Civil War due to industrialism making building materials more affordable and efficient., and remained a common architectural style until around 1870. The façade is usually brownstone, and the entry usually consists of a raised stoop and arched double doors. 29 Schermerhorn Street is an Italianate brownstone in mint condition.

The Neo-Grec style is characterized by classic and stylized details that are more angular than details in Italianate architecture. This style was popular from around 1860-1875. 154 Hicks Street is a 5-story, 5,500 square foot Neo-Grec home on a historic block in Brooklyn Heights.

In the period of from 1840-1860, the Gothic Revival Style was most popular. Architectural elements of this style include large expanses of glass, pointed spires and vaulted ceilings/roofs. An example of this style is 313 West 80th Street, which is one of six houses built in its row of the same style by the architect Charles H. Israels.

The Queen Anne style, popular from 1870-1890, typically consists of a variety of materials and textural elements. The façade is asymmetrical and usually contains bay windows and dormers. 16 East 82nd Street is a Queen Anne style townhouse with intricate façade details, including three round-arched windows and a steep roof with two gabled dormers.

Renaissance Revival and Beaux-Arts styles were both common from the 1880s through the early 1900s. These styles tend to be more classical, with ornate details such as wrought-iron balconies and formal entryways. An example of Renaissance Revival is 29 West 75th Street, which was designed with a brownstone façade and metal cornice in 1892 by George M. Walgrove.

36 East 61st Street is an example of the Beaux-Arts style, with its limestone and red brick façade and center entry.

Check out my listings for more examples of each architectural style, and follow my social media for updates on the townhouse market on the Upper West Side!