Architectural Styles of Greater Boston: Italianate

From designer clothes to sleek sports cars, it’s well known that Italians have a first-rate sense of style, and their architecture is no exception. Inspired by the picturesque villas found in northern Italy, architects around the world began imitating their aura in the early 19th century and the Italianate movement was born.

Italianate Example

Buildings at 15-17 Lee Street Cambridge MA by Tim Pierce is licensed under CC BY

The distinct style started popping up throughout the British Empire before making its way to the United States and catching on particularly strong in the Northeast thanks to its versatility. Building materials and floor plans were easily customized, making Italianate architecture accessible to a broad range of homeowners who coveted their own little piece of Italy.

For those who enjoy plentiful natural light, large bay windows are a defining characteristic of the façade, while overhanging eaves, arcade arches, and frequently a single square tower further embellish the aesthetic.

Italianate proved to be a natural fit for all different types of settings, from country to urban and suburban. In the city, the Boston Athenaeum is a masterpiece of Italianate architecture and plenty of other examples can be found scattered about, especially in Back Bay, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain.

To learn more about Italianate architecture, visit our guide. Also view our previous posts on Second Empire Style and Greek Revival Style