Federal 1780-1830

The first American architectural style began with the revolution and continued until the rise of the Greek Revival and Granite Style in the early nineteenth century. Boston’s Charles Bulfinch, the first U.S.-born professional architect, contributed greatly to the development of this distinctive style. It was largely a continuation of Georgian ideas, restrained and simplified to match the sensibilities of independence. In contrast, Federal interiors showcased classical motifs in lively pastel colors, following the English “Adamesque” approach.

Though Federal style buildings often include classical domes and columns, they are characterized by flat brick façades divided horizontally by narrow stringcourses, typically without pilasters or other ornamentation. Window sizes often graduate from large ground-floor windows to small third-floor windows, suggesting the increasing privacy of upper floors. In some cases architects followed the European approach of putting the important entertainment spaces on the second floor, echoed by placing the tallest windows on that level.

Beacon Hill has the highest concentration of surviving Federal Style buildings in Boston.