Italianate-style architecture emerged on the American scene in the mid-nineteenth century from about 1840-1870. The style borrows and accentuates architectural characteristics from the Italian Renaissance, such as overhanging eaves, large projecting cornices, tall and slender arched windows, and heavy double doors. The typical Italianate building also features a low-pitched or flat roof, a square tower, and decorative cast-iron flourishes. Oftentimes, the first floor has been constructed from cast iron, while the higher floors are made of brick or stone. In America, these houses typically boast a wide variety of balconies, porches, and various wings. Viewed as the ultimate sign of modernity and wealth, Italianate style was the style of choice for America’s growing middle class, in part because it could be made to fit a variety of budgets. The fancier iterations of Italianate style feature Corinthian columns, while the more modest ones might be made entirely from cast iron or brownstone. Italianate architecture is sprinkled throughout the city, with the style having a particularly strong presence in Brownstone Brooklyn and the SoHo-Cast Iron District. Here are some impressive examples of Italianate architecture in New York City:
Brownstones are so iconic to Brooklyn’s architectural landscape that they sometimes become an afterthought, a timeless presence on the city’s ever-changing streets. But brownstone homes actually have a rich cultural history; they were originally inspired by the 16th-century Italian palazzo, which effectively transformed the Roman temple into a family-style home. For a good look at Italianate-style brownstones, roam the streets of Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Fort Greene.
Odd Fellows Hall
165-171 Grand Street between Centre and Baxter Streets
New York, NY 10013
Built between 1847-1848 by the famous architectural firm Trench & Snook, this building was one of the first Italianate-style structures to grace the city. Architect Joseph Trench is known for bringing the style to New York, while his partner John B. Snook would go on to build many of the cast-iron Italianate buildings in the neighborhood. As was so characteristic of the Italianate style in America, the building shows a great concern for classical architecture, geometry, and proportion. Each of the two primary facades has five bay windows and four Corinthian pilasters. The building was home to The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a mutual aid and fraternal organization dedicated to helping vulnerable members of society.
Kitchen, Montross & Wilcox Store
85 Leonard Street between Broadway and Church Street
New York, NY 10013
This building was constructed in 1861 for a dry goods company. Today, it’s one of the few surviving buildings to boast cast-iron decorations by the famous James Bogardus. It has the typical repetitive forms of Italianate palazzos with an emphasis on overhanging eaves and projecting ornamentation, as well as balconies and heavily accented windows.
47 5th Avenue between 12th Street & Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003
This Italianate mansion was completed in 1853. It features the typical imposing entrance of a Venetian palazzo, with a heavily-decorated doorway approached by a large stoop. It also boasts elaborate cast-iron balconies and a flat roof with an overhanging eave and brackets. French windows on the first floor and sharply-articulated windows on the higher floors further accentuate the style. Like many Italianate homes, it was made with cost-effective brownstone.
95 Prospect West at 5th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Built from 1854-1857, this building was a crowning achievement of Jackson Davis, one of the city’s leading Italianate architects. It was built upon a hill on the enormous private estate of real estate and railroad tycoon Edwin Clark Litchfield, to serve as his family home. It was later condemned when the construction of Prospect Park began. This building’s ornate Italianate facade features elaborate towers and cupolas, balconies, overhanging eaves, and Corinthian columns.
E.V. Haughwout Building
490 Broadway at Broome Street
New York, NY 10012
Modeled after a 16-century Venetian library, the E.V. Haughwout Building is a premier example of Italianate-style architecture in the Soho-Cast Iron District. Built by architect John Gaynor in 1857, this five-story cast-iron building is an example of an inexpensively produced cast-iron version of the Italianate palazzo tradition. Note the 92 arched windows, built to better showcase the building’s southwestern view. Trademark signs of the Italianate style also include the Corinthian columns, the balconies, the flat roof, and the dramatic overhanging eaves. The building opened its doors to the public in 1857 as Eder V. Haughwout’s Fashionable Emporium, a luxury home furnishings retail store and factory. It would later become home to the world’s first functional passenger elevator.