A Gorgeous Greek Revival Row House in Fairmount, Philadelphia

You just never know what’s going to happen during your long training run for the Philadelphia half marathon!

Philadelphia is one of the great row house cities in the United States, and maybe the world (we like to imagine it so, lol!). Certainly, there is a great diversity of row homes here, representing centuries of architectural styles. So, it’s easy to find great row homes while you’re out and about.

Still, it’s always a nice surprise when you not only find a superb example but also have the owners invite you in, even though you’re sweaty and they have a party to prepare for.

Meet Joe and Steve’s very elegant Greek Revival row house! Here, Joe is tending to his garden; just before inviting me in!

Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

What caught my eye in particular are the lush window boxes and the iron work around the parlor floor and entrance. A house from this period doesn’t have to have small-pane windows but it’s just a lovely touch, referencing the city’s rich Federal architectural past. I walked closer to get a better look and saw the door which is just beautiful! The iron work on the door is very cohesive with the railings around the window box.

Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Joe said that the house used to be gray, pretty much inside and out. They decided to paint the 1896 Greek Revival row house a crisp white. Against the white, the green shutters contrast and punctuate the facade nicely. Most of the garden in the front is also green, giving a very coordinated face to the street.

It’s a typical feature of Greek Revival row homes to have a small foyer leading into the hall. Like many houses in this style, the hall and stairs go along the side of the home. These entryways always have wonderful tile or wallpaper and this is no exception. Look at that molding! The window above the door would have opened, allowing for heat to escape. It’s always hard to capture the scale of a space but those are quite high ceilings.

Entrance - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Here is the first look into the house. The owners have maintained the original layout of the home. Joe told me that when they bought the home in 1987, the owner had requested they keep the home a single dwelling and it remains as such to this day. He also mentioned that throughout the home, the molding is largely original.

Stairs - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Turning around before moving on, you can see the foyer and doors from the inside looking out. One thing to notice is that the interior light is very muted. Although the house does have electrical lights (naturally!) and can be perfectly bright, the owners have plenty of indirect lighting options which creates a very period feel to the lighting in the home.

Entryway and hall - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

After walking into the hall, to the right is the doorway into the parlor. Although having the door and the stairs on the left of the house leaves the house asymmetrical, once you enter the formal rooms, the elements, such as these windows, are symmetrically placed. Unfortunately, my iPhone doesn’t take the best photos when the room is dark and the windows are bright and sunny, so some of the details are lost.

One thing to note is that when you have a parlor floor, or when the first floor of a home starts a few feet above street level, you can have lovely full-height windows without losing too much privacy to sidewalk traffic, except for curious runners.
Parlor - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
The back half of the parlor contains a grand piano which illustrates the scale of the room. Despite having plenty of space, you can see that this room multitasks as a formal parlor, library, and music room in true row house style.

I’ve got better light in this photo so you can see the molding and plaster work on the ceiling. The red wallpaper fits appropriately with the original period of the home. Victorians were very keen on wallpaper, which was the fashion on both sides of the pond. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask if the wallpaper was based on an original design.
Parlor - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Through the door is a small passage Joe that calls the gallery. The art displayed through the home is really an incredible collection and every small area holds a treasure. The home practically frames the art.

Continuing on, the next room is the formal dining room. Again, the wallpaper is really on-target for the period. Joe said that when they purchased the home, all the walls were gray and all the trim was white. Although they agreed not to alter the layout, they did liven up the walls.

Another really nice touch is the black and white marble floor. This is a very classic look found in many grand historic homes.
Formal dining room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Often, in a row house that hasn’t been overly renovated, you will see fireplaces. Joe says that there are two remaining working fireplaces in the house. Originally, this row house would have had two on each of the main floors and one in the kitchen for cooking. Below is the mantle of the dining room fireplace. The white and blue pottery is very complimentary of the wallpaper.
Formal dining room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
There is nothing like built-in storage!Built-in china cabinet - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Past the dining room is the kitchen which is quite lovely. However, Joe and Steve were getting ready to entertain and were bustling about so no photos. There was a finish on the window that, when the light and colors from the garden shone through, looked like the watery stained glass of a Tiffany window.
Powder room - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Just outside the back door is an oasis of a backyard garden. These personal green spaces never cease to amaze me. Often, although not on this block, the streets don’t have any trees on them and look quite bleak. What happens behind the row homes often more than compensate.
Garden - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

Garden - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia

After visiting the garden, it was back through the house to progress upstairs to view the remaining public rooms.
Entry hall - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
If I had a bathroom like this, I would never leave it. Thanks to all the reflective surfaces, this room practically glows – even without a light on. The windows are leaded stained glass and the light fixture, also glass, is just tremendous. Inadvertently, I’ve taken a selfie in my running gear.
Bathroom - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
More of the fantastic bathroom. I have to say, I spent a good deal of time in the house going “oooh” and “aaaah.” My hosts were very patient and entirely gracious. Here, with the light on, you can get an idea of the reflective surfaces of the mirrored tile and the glazed subway tile. Dazzling would be the best way to describe it.
Bathroom - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Past the office area was originally a walled off area that served as a closet. There was paneling on the walls. One day, Joe shared, he drank a lot of coffee and, with a friend, pulled all of the paneling, as well as the wall, down. When they were done, they were left with a small room, overlooking the roof over the kitchen. His friend built wooden stairs, visible in the lower right corner of the photo, that lead up to french doors and out onto a roof deck. Here is another example of how the house frames the art.
Enclave - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Here are the doors opened and leading out to the roof deck.
Roof deck - Greek Revival Row House, Philadelphia
Finally, I asked if this medallion was original to the house. Joe told me that it was salvaged from the home he grew up in, also an older home painted Quaker gray with white trim, that had been demolished due to fire. It is a touching tribute from one house to another.

Mantle and wall decor - Greek Revival Row House, PhiladelphiaWalking through the house was like taking a journey. Everything has a story, from the house itself to all the carefully curated things within. Considering the Victorians themselves were master collectors, it seems quite fitting that Joe and Steve carry on that tradition.

I can’t thank Joe and Steve enough for sharing their beautiful row home with us!

Modern Row Homes in Philadelphia

During my commute, I’ve watched these row homes grow out of a big hole in the ground. One of these days, I’m going to take pictures in sequence. This particular row has beautiful full height windows on both the second and third floor, and what appears to be a roof deck. From this area, the occupants will have beautiful views of the skyline.

Modern row houses in Philadelphia.

A Collection of Distinguished Doors

For quite some time, I’ve been meaning to share some of the more beautiful doors I’ve seen on row houses. Sometimes, when your house looks like everyone else’s house, your front door becomes your one chance to be expressive.

This is a very fancy Federal-style door. Note the six panels and semi-circular fan light. However, the surrounding treatment is very ornate, almost like a fireplace mantle. It’s hard to see in the photo because of the sunbeam but the panes in the fanlight are decorative as well.

A love door on a row house in Philadelphia.

This is a very ornate example including a leaded glass fanlight. The darkly-stained wooden door is often seen on Victorian era homes in the Italianate style and it is likely this is an upgrade from the original Federal style door. Note the semi-circular fan light.

Philadelphia Row House

This is another revival style home, where the style has been updated to something much more elaborate than the original Federal. To the left, you can see a more traditional Federal style. However, this home had clearly been upgraded with a very fancy doorway and gate while retaining the lovely Flemish bond brickwork.

Philadelphia Row House

No collection of row house doors would be complete without including this Mondrian-inspired door on a turn-of-the 20th Century corner row house.

Philadelphia Row House

Historic Row Houses in Narai-juku, Japan

Kon’nichiwa

I recently noticed that several of our readers are from Japan. I hadn’t really thought too much about Asian row houses and decided to do some research, during which I discovered these lovely historic row houses in Narai-juku Japan, dating from the Edo period (1603-1868).

The great thing about this row is that it’s a “Nationally-designated Architectural Preservation Site” and has been preserved in its original condition.  It’s a rather popular tourist destination and has a lovely website although I have no idea what is says. If you speak Japanese and/or know about these beautifully preserved row houses, please comment!

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nakasendo_Narai-juku03n4272.jpg

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki /File:Nakasendo_Narai-juku03n4272.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden-Sided Row Houses in Philadelphia

I was out and about today and came across these two row houses. Wood siding is fairly unusual but it’s not impossible to find the rare, well-preserved example. With the bright hibiscus in front, they are both very charming.

Also, an amusing bit of faux as the dentil cornice on the white home is painted. These are Federal row homes that likely date between 1790 to 1830.

Federal Row House in Philadphia

Federal Row House in Philadphia

Federal Row House in Philadphia

Federal Row House in Philadphia

Federal Row House in Philadphia

Federal Row House in Philadphia

RowHouse Magazine Resources: Research

Colonial row houses in Philadelphia.

Colonial row houses in Philadelphia.

You don’t have to face renovation alone. These are a small sample of the associations you can reach out to for assistance with your renovation. If you have an association near you, please let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

 

Peirce College: When Something Other Than a Family Lives in a Row House

In a city such as Philadelphia, where row house development is so prevalent and inter-connected with the overall history of urban development, it’s not unusual to see row houses evolve beyond domestic uses. Typically these include boutiques, salons, gift shops, and restaurants, to name a few. However, larger institutions in town also make use of the humble row house, such as this row located on the Peirce College campus.

Peirce College, Philadelphia, Pa.

Peirce College, Philadelphia, Pa.

Peirce College was founded in 1865 to educate those who wished to take advantage of growing business opportunities after the Civil War. Originally, the college was located on Chestnut street but in 1915 it moved to the present location on Pine Street, which is where these row houses are located. It’s wonderful that these are in very good shape with their original exterior design maintained, even including the use of shutters.

Peirce is not the only institution of higher learning that has row houses in use on campus. New York University makes use of Washington Mews for department offices as well.

Garden City Row Houses in Hellerau, Germany

Sometimes we discover things quite randomly here at The Urban Rowhouse. One of our new-found favorite places for inspiration is Pinterest. If you haven’t seen our RowHouse Magazine board, please check it out. Our pins represent both what we’ve written about on this blog as well as row houses we’ve seen on other boards.

Garden Town Hellerau: Row of Houses © Christoph Münch @ www.marketing.dresden.de

Garden Town Hellerau: Row of Houses © Christoph Münch @ http://www.marketing.dresden.de – The row of houses in Hellerau was created by Richard Riemerschmid who made the development plan for the garden town.

Recently, I came across photos from the garden city of Hellerau, now part of Dresden, in Germany. In general, garden cities are a unique type of planned, semi-urban residential development that were conceived by urban planners who thought if you combined the best of what the city had to offer, with the benefits of living in the country, it would pretty much be a nirvana of living. As a result, garden cities are highly conceptually planned districts, that are typically very beautiful and very well thought out.

In the best plans, there is typically a variety of homes represented to cater to several income levels so that laborers could live along with the managers and owners, conveniently within close distance to the workshops and factories. As a result, many garden cities, including Hellerau and Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, New York, have row houses.

The concept of garden cities was conceived by English social theorist Ebenezer Howard who, after seeing cities ravaged by the Industrial Revolution, thought there was a better way for people to live; more in harmony with each other, their environment, and their livelihood. In his book, “Garden Cities of To-morrow” (1902 – read it here), he presented an idea for planned communities in balance with enterprise, the environment, and society.

Howard’s work inspired German master carpenter and entrepreneur Karl Schmidt-Hellerau, who happened to need a place to house his growing workforce. Row houses were part of the original four-part concept for Schmidt-Hellerau’s garden city, which also included detached homes, workshops, and community buildings. To design the homes and layout of the community, he enlisted the assistance of several well-known architects of the day, Richard Riemerschmid, Heinrich Tessenow, Hermann Muthesius. (Source: http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image.cfm?image_id=2154)

Most of the row homes in the area are intact. They are predominantly light-colored stucco with cheerful red roofs and often shutters surrounding the windows. The overall design is clean and works well with the established domestic architecture of the time as well as still looking relevant today. I tried to find an approximate idea of what a row house in Hellerau would cost but there doesn’t seem to be any currently on the market.

To learn more about the garden city of Hellerau, please visit the following websites:

Row House Architectural Guide: Dutch Colonial Revival

Back to the architectural guide.

Type of Row House Architecture: Dutch Colonial Revival

Years Popular: 1880-1940

Typical Characteristics:

  • Pointed, stepped facade
  • Gabled roof
  • Brick or stone masonry construction, often mixed
  • Windows with small panes, some being grouped together
  • Predominantly located in New England and Mid-Atlantic cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia

Examples of Dutch Colonial Revival Row Houses:

For context, here is one of the oldest row houses in Amsterdam. This style of row house is more than 500 years old. When the New World, specifically New York, was settled by Dutch colonists, they naturally built homes in the style that was popular in their home country. There is belief that Manhattan was full of Dutch-styled row houses before much of the architecture was destroyed by several fires in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Benijnhof 34 - A rare wooden row house in Amsterdam.

Benijnhof 34 – A rare wooden row house in Amsterdam.

When it comes to Dutch Revival architecture in row houses, the newer homes look very much like their centuries-old counter-parts in cities like Amsterdam. Here is a rather fancy Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia. Notice the stepped front gable and groups of windows on the second floor.

Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia.

Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia.

Below, is another Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia, with a closer focus on the first floor windows; typical of the Dutch style. The door of this, and its neighbor, house is also Dutch in style and have a top and bottom that open independently.

Front of a Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia.

Front of a Dutch Revival row house in Philadelphia.

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Here is a full shot of the front of two Dutch Revival row houses. Notice the stepped roof line.

Here is a full shot of the front of two Dutch Revival row houses. Notice the stepped roof line, double doors, and small window panes. The bowed window on the second floor in an interesting departure from the typically flat elevations.

This style of home is a little more prevalent in detached home architecture but I will be on the look-out for more examples.