Gothic Revival

An example of Gothic Revival in Detroit’s West Canfield Historic District.

The Gothic Revival in American residential architecture officially began in 1832, when architect Alexander Jackson Davis built the first fully developed example of the picturesque country home popular in rural England since 1749. The style — never as widespread as the competing Greek Revival and Italianate architecture — was most abundant in the northeastern states, where fashionable architects originally popularized it.

Most Gothic Revival homes were built between 1840 and 1870 and are distinguished by their fanciful decorative ornamentation, steep cross-gables, and pointed arches. The elaborative decorative detailing was most commonly found on windows, roof-wall junctions, porches, and doors. While the style largely fell out of fashion after 1865, English critic John Ruskin spurred a rebirth in the 1870s. The subsequent phase, referred to as High Victorian Gothic, was applied mostly to churches and public buildings, though some landmark houses still remain.