In the ‘90s hit movie “Father of the Bride,” Steve Martin has a beautiful family; a loving wife, a successful business, and a daughter about to be married.
After a busy day at work, he pulls up in a roadster, to a picturesque white colonial on a shady tree-lined street. What dad wouldn’t want to be Steve Martin in that movie, and live in that gorgeous house? Movies portraying the American Dream often use the Colonial Revival architectural style as their home base.
Some other well-known Colonial Revival movie homes: “Gone With the Wind,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Home Alone,” “Wedding Crashers” and most recently, successful advertising executive Don Draper’s home in the cult TV show “Mad Men.”
What is it about the Colonial Revival that is so incredibly appealing? Found throughout the North Shore, what we see most often are Center Entry Colonials. In the early 1880s, throughout America, there was a push toward historic preservation and as a result, Colonial Revivals became quite popular. There was an 1876 Centennial Exhibition at the first World’s Fair which influenced the architects at the time to design homes with a deep understanding of architectural history. The Colonial Revival was born out of that period using some key European design elements.
Favored by wealthy patrons wanting large homes, Colonial Revivals have specific features which make them recognizable: two full stories, a center chimney and an open hall and stairway, which makes for an impressive entrance. The main doorway usually possesses some architectural accents as well as iron hinges and hardware, which helped keep the cold and possibly, animals out of the house. One typically finds an impressive staircase, marble fireplace surrounds, a gable roof, and my personal favorite feature, a large portico. The houses are symmetrical with a center doorway and matching left and right wings.
I would love to have attended the University of Virginia to be close enough to admire Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and Virginia’s Colonials. And don’t forget, one of the most important Colonial Revival homes in the country. Its residents are wealthy, bright, successful, and seem quite happy; that is the home of President and Mrs. Obama: The White House.