Ca. 1800 Federal: style advice

gardenwheelsMay 27, 2008

Hi folks, I'm beginning renovation on a ca. 1790-1801 brick house in the Hudson Valley. (Just beginning research to get a tighter dating.) It's good-sized but simple, e.g. just a fan light and flat fluted columns at the main door, no side lights etc. And while some interior detail survives, a lot is gone, so I'll have to replace. For instance, most old doors long gone, and the fireplace surrounds replaced with garish brick. (Luckily I've got a great contractor who renovated another house for me a few years back.)

Here's the thing. It's easy to find images and drawings for quite fancy urban federal houses. But I'm having trouble finding examples of simpler federal interior detailing to imitate.

Any thoughts about books or sites that might help?

When I can figure out how to post images here I'll put some up.

Thanks, Chris (Wheelervirgil)

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Chris, 2 suggestions - check out She's posted lots of pictures of numerous styles. And post on the forum at oldhouseweb dot com. There are other old home owners on that forum who have homes like yours.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 7:34AM
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You can check out historic real estate sites. Here's one of my bookmarks:

This house is a lot like mine. It's a bit newer than your 1800 federal, but it is in a simple style. Some updates, but a lot still in tact.

Here is a link that might be useful: PA late federal farmhouse

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 12:35PM
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There a number of good books on the historic architecture of the Hudson Valley. Some are geared toward the Dutch traditions but most do show some of the transition to Georgian style which is where your house probably fits in.

I can list some for you, if you like.

You may also get some good ideas from looking at books on the architecture of New England.

Are you in the Lower, Mid, or Upper Hudson area - (county?) Some of the counties have books devoted to local architecture, which helps.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 3:23PM
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To really figure out what is right for your home you need to know a bit about the first family to live in it and what was going on in your part of the world at the time the house was built.Knowing who they were, what they were about and what was happening specifically in your area might give you some hints as to what Federal details they might have PICKED to used.
A trip to your local history museum or society might help you more than you know.

No style lives in isolation. What the books and historians tell you is right is only right to a point. They have to generalize, to be specific would be too complex for any one book. The best guide you will find will be other homes in your neighborhood and what you can find out about what was happening in your own area when the house was being built.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2008 at 5:07PM
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The Hudson Valley in 1800; what a time in its history! And just as important as the year is where along the river you are - where the people who lived there came from and when.
All the advice already posted is excellent. I will only add that the Federal details may have come from NYC and south, Philadephia, Baltimore, Annapolis for example, not New England.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 7:54AM
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Yep, I know mine came at least in part from NYC because I know who lived here and where they came from. I also have influences from the far south of New Orleans in this house even tho much of the house is Federal style.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 3:05PM
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Friends, Thanks for these useful suggestions. The house is in Athens NY, Mid-Hudson Valley. It was a prosperous, never large, village on the west bank of the Hudson opposite the town of Hudson. The major 19th century money seems to have come from shipbuilding, though there was also brick and stoneware manufacture. Luckily, Greene County has a good historical society and library, so I hope to learn more about the house's early history once I make my move in July.

Best, Chris

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 7:23PM
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