Greek Revival Style 1830s - 1860s

Franklin Street residences at Fort Mason, constructed in the Greek Revival style; photo circa 1890s. PARC, GGNRA.

History of the Style

The Greek Revival style, popular in American during the 1830s through to the 1860s, was inspired by the classical Greek temple. During this time, Americans were fascinated by all things classical, Roman and Greek. Many viewed their country as the natural heirs to the ancient Greeks, who invented democracy and it became very popular to be associated with ancient Greek concepts. Responding to this new interest, early 19th century American builders began to turn all different types of buildings, including banks, offices, churches and mansions, into little Greek temples. Builders and carpenters now constructed boxy, rectangular-shaped buildings with emphasized pedimented roofs (where the triangular shape is very pronounced), projected front entrances or porches, supported by the all-present Greek columns. Greek Revival was not just for large-scale, public buildings; in less prominent buildings, like small homes and farm houses, builders used fewer columns but still placed an emphasis on the triangular shape of the front entrance with the side wing of the house.

Greek Revival Buildings at Golden Gate

The park’s oldest U. S. Army buildings are wood-frame, Greek Revival barracks and residences, built at the Presidio and Fort Mason during the Civil War. These simple and functional buildings were inexpensive to build. The Greek Revival style, with its emphasis on clear shapes, clean building lines and its lack of adornment made it a particularly well-suited to a newly emerging military post.

Greek Revival building at Fort Mason
NPS. The Greek Revival elements of Fort Mason Building 239:

1. Small, boxy building shape
2. Gabled or triangular shaped roof, that faces the front of the building
3. Gabled end returns, where the moldings of the roof turn the corner and continue in towards the center of the building
4. Pair of double-hung, multi-paned windows with flat, simple window frames
historic photo of Funston Ave buildings at the Presidio
The row of Funston Avenue officers' family housing was constructed in 1862 in the Greek Revival style as part of the Presidio expansion during the Civil War. These buildings originally faced west, towards the main parade ground, but the prevailing winds forced the army to re-orientate the building’s front entrance towards the east. PARC, NPS.
historic photo of Presidio barracks
These barracks, located on Graham Street, were originally constructed as one-story buildings in 1862 for enlisted Presidio soldiers. In 1885, the army added a second story to accommodate more men. Note the gable end returns, the multi-pane double-hung windows and the flat window and door moldings. PARC, NPS.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Last updated: August 15, 2019