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A Field Guide to American Housesby Virginia Mcalester
Synopses & Reviews
For the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups and for all who want to know more about their community — here, at last, is a book that makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture.
Concentrating not on rare landmarks but on typical dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods all across the United States — houses built over the past three hundred years and lived in by Americans of every social and economic background — the book provides you with the facts (and frame of reference) that will enable you to look in a fresh way at the houses you constantly see around you. It tells you — and shows you in more than 1,200 illustrations — what you need to know in order to be able to recognize the several distinct architectural styles and to understand their historical significance. What does that cornice mean? Or that porch? That door? When was this house built? What does its style say about the people who built it? You'll find the answers to such questions here.
This is how the book works: Each of thirty-nine chapters focuses on a particular style (and its variants). Each begins with a large schematic drawing that highlights the style's most important identifying features. Additional drawings and photographs depict the most common shapes and the principal subtypes, allowing you to see at a glance a wide range of examples of each style. Still more drawings offer close-up views of typical small details — windows, doors, cornices, etc. — that might be difficult to see in full-house pictures. The accompanying text is rich in information about each style — describing in detail its identifying features, telling you where (and in what quantity) you're likely to find examples of it, discussing all of its notable variants, and revealing its origin and tracing its history.
In the book's introductory chapters you'll find invaluable general discussions of house-building materials and techniques ("Structure"), house shapes ("Form"), and the many traditions of architectural fashion ("Style") that have influenced American house design through the past three centuries. A pictorial key and glossary help lead you from simple, easily recognized architectural features — the presence of a tile roof, for example — to the styles in which that feature is likely to be found.
"A near miracle of clarity....Here is a book that will be a landmark in its own right." Wall Street Journal
"Complete and fasinating....A splendid compendium." New York Times
"[The authors] have produced a splendid compendium. Although they concentrate primarily on single-family dwellings...the number of design variations listed is formidable. They have painstakingly dissected such styles as Colonial, Folk, Eclectic and Modern into subcategories and variants....The many photographs, however, provide the real charm of the book. Here are the ordinary houses of America's suburbs and the surviving gems of decaying city neighborhoods. Here are the Midwestern Prairie-style houses, the Western adobes, the Eastern Victorians and the Colonial Revival houses of Texas." Dona Guimaraes, The New York Times Book Review
"A treasure trove of information." Washington Post
"The best field guide to American residential architecture that has ever been published and likely to remain so for many years. Its superiority is obvious from the most cursory examination/" Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
"One of the most informative guides published in years." Chicago Sun-Times
"The best guide you'll ever find to American houses." Denver Post
"Truly one of the great books of the season....In this prodigious work of scholarship the synthesis is admirable and meticulously executed, the command of the material is impressive, the style always clear and readable." Wendell Garrett, editor and publisher of Antiques Magazine
The guide that enables you to identify, and place in their historic and architectural contexts, the houses you see in your neighborhood or in your travels across America. 17th century to the present.
About the Author
Virginia and Lee McAlester have both avocational and professional interests in architecture. Virginia, a Radcliffe graduate, attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a founding member and past president of the Historic Preservation League, Inc. (Dallas), and for nine years was Texas Advisor and a member of the Administrative Committee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is co-author of The Making of a Historic District: Swiss Avenue. Lee, a geologist, is a professor at Southern Methodist University and was formerly Dean of the School of Humanities. From 1960 to 1973 he was Professor of Geology at Yale University. He has an active hobby interest in architectural history and has been involved in historic preservation in New England, Georgia, and the Southwest. The McAlesters live in Dallas, Texas.
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