Images of Postbellum Architecture


These images and the accompanying text are exclusively for the academic use of students in history 41. They are protected by fair use copyright and may not be copied except for student use without permission from the original publishers.

1. Sod House and Immigrant Family, Nebraska, 1880s.

Timber shortages made this type of dwelling common on the high plains in the late nineteenth century. Sod houses were inexpensive, warm, and durable, if sometimes damp and vermin-infested. (Source: John A. Garraty, The American Nation)
Sod house

2. Baxter Street Court, New York City, circa 1888-89 (Photograph by Jacob Riis).

This was one in a series of famous images by Riis depicting life in the New York City tenement slums. His illustrated book How the Other Half Lives is one of the classic polemics for urban reform. (Source: Annals of America, volume II)
Baxter Street Court

3. Triple Deckers, Dorchester, Massachusetts (suburban Boston), circa 1890.

These homes were typical dwellings for middle class residents of the inner suburbs. Dorchester is now considered part of inner city South Boston. (Source: Spiro Kostof, America by Design)

4. Second Empire style home, Knightstown, Indiana, circa 1870s.

This type of dwelling was popular among wealthy families during the later years of the nineteenth century. Note how the builder used a variety of materials, intricate details, an asymmetric layout and a soaring tower to create the most impressive possible effect on the viewer. This house is located on the famed National Road, which served as one of Knightstown's main thoroughfare. Compare this with the Lanneau-Norwood house in Greenville. (Photo by Lloyd Benson)
Knightstown house

5. George Pullman House, Chicago, Illinois.

Pullman was the inventor of one of the most successful nineteenth century sleeping car designs. Workers in Pullman's factory lived in a planned factory community on the outskirts of Chicago. Consider not only this building's details but also its relationship to the street and to neighboring houses. Why would such a home be appropriate for one of the richest men in the nation? (Source: Constance Greiff, Lost America)
Pullman House

6. Llenroc, the Ezra Cornell estate, Ithaca, New York.

Cornell was the founder of the Western Union Telegraph Company. In 1868 he used the profits from this and other enterprises to establish Cornell University. What do the design details of this building say about Cornell's values and the cultural influences operating in this era? (Photo by Lloyd Benson)

7. Columbia Street School, Ithaca, New York, circa 1870s.

This building is typical of structures built nationwide in this era to house graded schools. Here again a consideration of the values that the architect intended to express will be useful. (Photo by Lloyd Benson)
Columbia St. School

8. Massachusetts Mills, Lowell, Massachusetts, circa 1878.

This mill was constructed to replace an older and less ruggedly designed building from the early days of the Lowell textile industry. By the time of the first world war, most of the mills in the city would be in serious financial trouble, brought on less by Southern (i.e., Greenville area) competition than by the ownership's failure to re-equip the older mills with the latest technology. (Slide produced by the National Park Commission)
Mass. Mills

9. Union Station, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1888.

This building was constructed to serve as the city's main transportation center. Several of the nation's most important trunk railroads passed through this location. This structure replaced a smaller union terminal built in the 1850s. (Photo by Lloyd Benson)
Union Station

10. Marshall Field Wholesale Store, Chicago, Illinois, 1885-7, HH Richardson, architect.

This was one of the first modern skyscrapers. In contrast to previous structures of its size, this building does not have its massive proportions cloaked behind an elaborate facade. The typical worker in this building would have been a clerk, a manager, or an accountant. (Source: Grieff, Lost America
Marshall Field

11. Wainwright Building, St. Louis, Missouri, 1890-1891, Louis Sullivan, architect.

With its emphasis on uniform office blocks, large vertical pillars, and a massive cornice, Sullivan's building broke with previous design traditions and set the architectural standards for an entire generation of skyscrapers. In contrast to their dramatic exteriors, the internal layout of these buildings ignored aesthetics and concentrated instead on efficiency and flexibility Make sure to consider the organizational, economic, and technological implications of this structure. It might also be useful to ponder what kinds of residences the workers in this building might have inhabited. (Source: H.W. Janson, History of Art)