Federal style houses are found throughout Newburyport’s historic downtown area, and of course there are many on Federal Street. The Federal style developed between 1780 and 1830, inspired by several architects who traveled through Europe and studied classical Roman and Greek monuments, although say the Federal style is a refinement of Georgian style.
In it’s simplest form, Federal style houses are a box that is two rooms deep, with doors and windows arranged symetrically. Over time, Federal homes added second stories and more creative floor plans with wings projecting to the sides, sometimes with round or elliptical spaces.
The name of the architecture, Federal style, derives from the Federal era in American history, and there’s also federal style furniture. There are many resources that offer great information about Federal style homes such as the Newburyport Preservation Trust and the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a collection of American Federal Era Period Rooms.
Features of Federal Style Houses
At first glance, Federal style homes appear fairly simple except for the extensive trim around the front door. Here are some of the ornate finishes around the door that give these two-story homes a distinctive look.
- An elliptical or semi-circular fanlight over the front door, and often a matching arched window above for a symmetrical look.
- Some historic Federal style homes have narrow side windows flanking the front door, similar to today’s sidelights.
- Elaborate trim surrounding the door and often there are columns or pilasters framing the entrance.
- Small porch or decorative crown over the front door.
- Federal homes have curved steps with iron railings, leading from sidewalk to the entry door in an age before cars.
Other features typical of many Federal style homes include.
- Double-hung sash (six over six) windows arranged in symmetrical rows, with louvered shutters.
- Cornices (horizontal trim) with decorative trim like dentil crown molding.
- Roofs that have side gables or low-hipped roofs, that are common in Newburyport and Salem.
- In the north, Federal style houses have clapboard siding while brick is used more frequently in the south.
- Many Federal homes in Newburyport also have wood fencing with fancy balusters, surrounding the house and gardens.
Call 978-790-4881 to discuss your Federal home project.
Inside a Federal Style Home
The interior of historic Federal style homes is very grand with elaborate woodwork seldom seen today. In some ways it reminds of a bygone era, when houses were built to make a statement about the owner, a wealthy merchant or sea captain. All entertaining was done at home and restaurants were more for travelers.
This custom trim work requires an eye for detail that is more difficult to find today, and we pride ourselves in the work we’ve done for clients on fireplaces, stairs and all sorts of built-in storage. We get excited when a homeowner wants to add these special touches to a new home or when remodeling.
Some of the most common interior details we see in Newburyport’s Federal style homes are:
- Creative floor plans with rounded rooms and domed or arched ceilings and doorways.
- Curved. open staircases with classical pediments and pilasters.
- Wall decoration in classic geometric patters.
- Decorative trim on ceilings, walls and mantels, in the form of swags, garlands and more that may be carved or made with plaster casts.
- Plentiful built-in storage at your fingertips, in any room of the house or hallway.
Email us to discuss your Federal home project.