Republic/Antebellum Collection

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After the founding of the Republic of Texas and before the Civil War, settlement progressed with the establishment of new towns and the arrival of European immigrants. Log construction, made prominent earlier in the century by Anglo-American settlers, now included many different building techniques introduced by European settlers.

Germans brought with them the half-timber, or fachwerk, a medieval method of construction consisting of a heavy timber frame and diagonal bracing members filled in with stone or other locally available materials (Alexander 1966, 6). German farmers constructed "Sunday houses," which were small versions of townhouses, built so their families could conveniently shop and attend church in town on the weekends. Towns such as Fredericksburg and New Braunfels contain examples of these building methods. Likewise, Alsatian settlers in Castroville, Polish settlers in Panna Maria, Norwegian settlers in Bosque County, and Czech settlers throughout central Texas introduced distinct architectural styles and methods of construction to the landscape.

Shortly before Texas became a state in 1845, the Greek Revival style appeared and fast became a dominant mode of architecture. This style was made popular by carpenter's guides and pattern books, as well as by such master builders as Abner Cook and Augustus Phelps, who gained design and construction experience from apprenticeships in established Southern states. Based upon the form of the Greek temple, the Greek Revival style evoked a sense of history and symbolized democratic values for Americans. Its simple, symmetrical plans made it easy and cheap to construct (Kostof 1995, 631), and thus the style was used in a wide range of building types, including civic, religious and residential. In addition, the small farmhouses of Texas were easily converted into Greek Revival houses with such simple additions as a portico and columns and sometimes a cornice surrounding the roof. Columns were designed according to one of the classical orders using Doric, Ionic or Corinthian bases and capitals; however, as opposed to the round columns used in antiquity, many vernacular houses in Texas used square columns, which were less expensive and easier to build (McAlester 2000, 180-182). Numerous examples of Greek Revival buildings exist in Texas, including the Governor's Mansion (1854) in Austin by Abner Cook, and the Ezekiel Cullen House and Matthew Cartwright House in San Augustine, both built in 1839 by Augustus Phelps.

While the Greek Revival style dominated residential and Protestant church architecture, the Gothic Revival style was employed in Catholic and Episcopalian churches (Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Architecture," February 2005). Features included pointed arches, steeply-pitched roofs, ribbed vaults and buttresses. St. David's Episcopal Church (1853) in Austin and St. Louis Catholic Church (1870) in Castroville both exemplify the Gothic Revival style.


Alexander, Drury Blakeley. Photographs by Todd Webb. Texas Homes of the 19th

Century. Austin, Tex.: Published for the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art by University of Texas Press c1966.

Kostof, Spiro. A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.


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