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How did Neoclassical architecture influence the style of public and domestic architecture in the United States during the late-18th and early-19th centuries? 

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In the years after the Revolutionary War, architecture became a powerful way to express the enthusiastic and romantic ideas of a liberated republic. It makes sense that architecture became a foundational way to demonstrate American independence: after all, America was expanding rapidly, and new public, commercial, and federal buildings were...

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In the years after the Revolutionary War, architecture became a powerful way to express the enthusiastic and romantic ideas of a liberated republic. It makes sense that architecture became a foundational way to demonstrate American independence: after all, America was expanding rapidly, and new public, commercial, and federal buildings were needed to keep up with demand. The earliest architecture of the revolutionary period—like its literature and art—relied on classic Greek and Roman vocabulary, with tall columns, majestic domes, and solid, broad foundations. This was known as Neoclassical architecture.

By the 1780s, as confidence in the longevity of American independence was growing, the style of architecture began to shift slightly. This brand-new American government needed brand new buildings, and their brand new ideology needed brand new architecture, and through a dynamic mix of Neoclassical style and Enlightenment-inspired American thought, Federalist architecture was born.

Federalism was a uniquely American form of architecture, and it dominated the design of both public and private buildings between the 1780s and 1840s. While it was fundamentally inspired by Greek and Roman architectural language, as demonstrated in neoclassical American architecture, Federalist architecture was meant to demonstrate the stability, strength, and longevity of American democracy. For example, many Federal-style entrances featured a central entry point (indicating balance and stability), and a half-circle "rising sun" above the door (indicating the rise of the American nation).

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The style of neoclassical architecture of the early republic was so prevalent that it is often also referred to as the federal style. Classical ideas were hugely influential in the laws and political ideas of the young United States. The founders of the country were eager to incorporate neoclassical ideas into many aspects of the new country. What better way to represent this visually than through public architecture.

The architecture of the state was to mirror the founding philosophy of the country. Important buildings, such as the US Capitol Building, the Treasury, and the White House, were built to appear like classical temples of good and proper government. Eighteenth-century excavations of well-preserved Roman ruins in places like Pompeii and Herculaneum provoked a lot of interest in the architectural style.

These grand public buildings were meant to evoke the same ideas that influenced the country's founders. This was still true for later generations. Even later buildings, such as the Supreme Court Building, which was built in the early twentieth century, continue to employ neoclassicism in their design.

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Neoclassical architecture had an enormous influence on the archicture in the United States during the late-18th and early-19th Centuries.  The Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, were heavily influenced by ancient Greece and Rome, and preferred architectural styles that reflected the archeological discoveries that had been taking place in those regions earlier in the century.  Two of the most prominent examples of neoclassical architecture in this country are the United States Capitol and the White House, but the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, and, not surprinslgy, the Thomas Jefferson memorial.

The prevalence of neoclassical architecture in the United States can be seen almost every state, not just in local federal buildings like post offices, but also in state government buildings, especially capitol buildings, and also in some major art museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Throughout the United States, one or more of the neoclassical styles of architecture can be found, whether "federal architecture," "breaux arts," "classical revival," or "Greek revival," all can be located  in major cities in most states.  The importance of ancient Greek political thought and of the wave of republicanism in ancient Rome were clear in both the drafting of key documents founding the United States, and in the manner in which major buildings would be designed.

District of Columbia

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