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    Architecture in the United States Oxford History of
    Upton, Dell.
    Oxford University Press
    Architecture--United States, Ethnic architecture-United States.
    NA705.U78 1998eb
    Architecture--United States, Ethnic architecture-United States.

    Page 3

    Oxford History of Art
    Architecture in the United States
    Dell Upton
    Oxford NewYork

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    Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, OxfordOX2 6DP
    Oxford NewYork
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    Oxford is a trade mark of Oxford University Press
    ©Dell Upton 1998
    First published 1998 by Oxford University Press
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
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    This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise,
    be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in
    any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a
    similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
    British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
    Data available
    Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
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    0-19-284253-6 Hb
    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
    Picture Research by Elisabeth Agate
    Designed by Esterson Lackersteen
    Printed in Hong Kong
    on acid-free paper by
    C & C Offset Printing Co., Ltd

    Page 5







    Chapter 1
    An American Icon


    Chapter 2


    Chapter 3


    Chapter 4


    Chapter 5


    Chapter 6




    List of Illustrations


    Bibliographic Essay






    Page 7

    For such a short book, this one has accumulated an extraordinary number of debts that I
    am delighted to acknowledge. Annmarie Adams, Daniel Bluestone, Betsy Cromley, Susan
    Garfinkel, Marlene Heck, Greg Hise, Zeynep Kezer, Bill Littmann, Richard Longstreth,
    Bruce Thomas, Abby Van Slyck, and David Vanderburgh all read the original proposal
    and made such excellent and pointed suggestions that I discarded it entirely. Their
    comments contributed significantly to giving the book its present shape. So did the
    students in Architecture 174A in the spring of 1996, who sat through my first attempts to
    work out these ideas in lectures.
    Tom Carter, Betsy Cromley, Paul Groth, and Marlene Heck read the entire manuscript and
    helped make it much better than it would have been. In addition, Catherine Bishir,
    Margaretta Lovell, Roger Montgomery, and Christine Rosen read portions, to equally
    good effect. I am grateful to them all.
    Several friends contributed vital bits of information, photographs, and access to
    buildings, for which I thank Bill Beiswanger, Tom Carter, Meredith Clausen, Jeff Cohen,
    Galen Cranz, Betsy Cromley, Sam Davis, Dennis Domer, Jim Gregory, Greg Hise, Lynne
    Horiuchi, Zeynep Kezer, Travis McDonald, Robert St George, Ellen Weiss, and Sibel
    Among the books I have published this has been the one I have enjoyed most by far.
    Credit goes to the vision and expertise of Simon Mason and Katie Jones at Oxford
    University Press. Special thanks to Lisa Agate, whose imaginative approach to picture
    research made an onerous task fun.
    In a sense, a book like this is the product of an entire career. I have learned more than I
    can tell from field trips and discussions I have had with friends and colleagues over the
    years, in particular Catherine Bishir, Barbara Carson, Cary Carson, Tom Carter, Edward
    Chappell, Betsy Cromley, Jim Deetz, Henry Glassie, Paul Groth, Bernie Herman, Rhys
    Isaac, the late Spiro Kostof, Carl Lounsbury, Fraser Neiman, the late Jeff O'Dell, Orlando
    Ridout V, Stephen Tobriner, Camille Wells, Shane White, and the late Barry Zarakov.

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    Rhys Isaac has described history as an act of telling stories. 1 It is a deceptively
    straightforward characterization, for to tell stories can mean many things. It can simply
    mean to report information or narrate events. At a more ambitious level, to tell stories
    can mean to make sense of events by explaining, analysing, or myth-making. As we
    learned from our parents, to tell stories can also mean to lie: 'Are you telling me a story?'
    Architectural historians routinely report facts, narrate events, explain, analyse,
    mythologize, and occasionally even stretch the truth. What makes our work interesting is
    that the buildings about which we spin tales were made and used by men and women
    with stories of their own to tell. The historian's challenge is to choose which of many
    possible stories to tell and to decide how to integrate our stories with theirs.
    The architecture of the United States is astonishingly diverse, shaped by a dizzying variety
    of architectural practices, building processes, regional expressions, and cultures, the
    disparate experiences of class, gender, and ethnicity as well as the idiosyncrasies of
    personality. As architectural historians have slowly acknowledged this diversity, our
    discipline has been enriched as well as fragmented. Formerly, histories of American
    architecture focused on the aesthetic appreciation of a relatively small, predictable canon
    of monumental buildings. However, as the quintessential art-architect Louis Sullivan
    observed, 'once you learn to look at architecture not merely as an art more or less well or
    more or less badly done, but as a social manifestation, the critical eye becomes
    clairvoyant'.2 Architecture is an art of social storytelling, a means for shaping American
    society and culture and for 'annotating' social action by creating appropriate settings for it.
    Sometimes, but not always or principally, it is also a vehicle of individual aesthetic
    expression, but there is more to architecture than the pristine two-dimensional image of
    the architect's drawing or the historian's photograph. So new scholarly attention to such
    topics as the vernacular (including indigenous, folk, and popular architecture), ethnic
    traditions, commercial landscapes, and conservative aesthetic movements has challenged
    the traditional story of American architecture. In addition, many architectural historians
    now look outside the

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    discipline to social and economic history, sociology, anthropology, feminism, colonial
    and post-colonial studies, material culture, cultural landscape studies, and literary theory
    for fresh perspectives on architecture that have enriched and in some instances
    supplanted accepted aesthetic and art-historical interpretations. As a consequence, no
    history of American architecture, however compact or introductory, can do justice to the
    field if it confines itself to the familiar canon. It cannot even do justice to the canon.
    My approach to American architecture is, as much as possible within the confines of a
    short book, catholic. I use 'architecture' to stand for the entire cultural landscape,
    including so-called designed landscapes, urban spaces, and human modifications of
    natural spaces. I de-emphasize the traditional distinctions between vernacular and highstyle (or academic, or monumental) building, for contemporary scholars teach us that
    high-style and vernacular buildings share many of the same architectural strategies and
    that their builders and designers share many of the same cultural values. In short, I
    assume that architecture means all sorts of building, at all scales, made by all Americans,
    including those whose ancestors lived here before the first Europeans arrived.
    I also believe that the history of architecture should account for the entire life of a
    structure from its initial planning to its destruction, and even its afterlife in history and
    myth. Those who use architecture and those who interpret it are its makers as much as
    those who draw plans or drive nails. Buildings are changed in construction and they are
    changed in use. They are used differently from the ways they were intended and they are
    appreciated or experienced differently from the ways their architects or patrons might
    have imagined. Criticism, histories, folklore, and even rumours are other parts of
    architecture's history that deserve attention. So, where appropriate and where the sources
    permit, I have considered the responses of the users and observers of architecture.
    These are brave ambitions for a history of American architecture, particularly since the
    new work that is reinvigorating the field is unfortunately incomplete and unevenly
    distributed. Some sub-fields have been radically transformed (vernacular, colonial, and
    twentieth-century architectural history most prominently), while others, particularly the
    history of American art-architecture between about 1800 and 1880, remain relatively
    untouched by the new scholarly currents.
    For all these reasons, I have foregone the traditional survey. Despite the obvious
    advantages of a chronological structure, it is impossible to 'survey' anything as unruly as
    many centuries' worth of building on a vast continent. Instead, I have chosen a thematic
    structure that I believe honours the diversity of American architecture and its recent

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    scholarship, even though it cannot encompass them.
    The five themes are Community, Nature, Technology, Money, and Art. Community
    examines the ways Americans have used architecture to grapple with issues of inclusion
    and exclusion in their society. These questions are as old as human building on the
    continent, but they assumed a new poignancy with the creation of an American republic
    in the late eighteenth century. Republican citizenship was a novel concept in modern
    world history and in architectural design. It reopened old debates about the role of
    political, cultural, and religious authority in the landscape. In the new republic,
    architecture was asked to shoulder new burdens of communal mythology and historical
    commemoration that aggravated, rather than resolved, these dilemmas of inclusion and
    exclusion. The question whether any architecture can represent an entire society remains a
    live one.
    Architecture is a way of defining relationshipsof the self to others, of parts of the
    community to other people, and of people to their physical and cosmic environments.
    Nature takes off from this commonplace observation. Americans have been obsessed
    with the relationship of architecture to its site as an expression of a dichotomy between
    humans and the natural world. Whether expressed as a sensitivity to place, a concern for
    the debilitating effects of civilization on the human psyche, or fear of the damage that
    urban, technological society visits on ecological systems, nature has played an essentially
    theological role in American architecture.
    Nature and culture are rhetorical antonyms, but they are nearly always entwined in the
    landscape. Technology examines the ways Americans have used building, and particularly
    spectacular feats of engineering, construction, and invention, to explore what it means to
    be human. Technologists sought to overcome the limits of the body, making humans
    equal to the sublimity of their natural surroundings. Equally important, they fashioned,
    through environmental controls, an artificial climate essential to emerging middle-class
    social self-definition.
    Money explores the political economy and the economic culture of American architecture.
    Money's power has been given short shrift in architectural history. It is not enough to
    present architecture as the simple product of economic 'forces': builders respond to the
    economy as they understand it. Their understanding derives from culturally shaped
    notions of human psychology and morality more than from the precepts of the dismal
    science. The most significant aspect of the economic culture of American architecture was
    the creation of a landscape of consumer citizenship that complemented the landscape of
    republican citizenship. Builders of the consumer landscape have been as vexed by
    questions of inclusion and exclusion as builders of the political landscape.

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    The puzzling attempt to confine the diffuse expressiveness of architecture to the
    procrustean bed of Art can best be understood in the same consumerist context. The
    assertion that architecture is an art has been an important strategy for adapting building to
    a republican, consumer society. Specifically, claims for architecture's artfulness supported
    the efforts of professional architects to claim a place in a building market that had done
    quite nicely without them. For years architects struggled to define their distinctive
    contribution to the building process. The notion that the architect is an artist has been an
    effective strategy, but one fraught with problems of the relationship of the art-architect to
    the profession at large, the exclusion of women and ethnic minorities from professional
    practice, and the role of artarchitecture in shaping the landscape of a democratic society.
    While my history encompasses many aspects of American architecture overlooked in
    traditional histories, I make no claim that it is more complete or even more true than they
    were. It is not a survey, nor is it meant to be. Instead, it cuts through American
    architecture in other directions from the usual ones, telling other stories from the
    customary ones. I do believe that the particular themes I have chosen, familiar though
    most of them are to students of American culture, allow me to explain some of what is
    distinctive or characteristic about the ways architectural ideas and forms have been used
    in the United States without falling into the exceptionalist error of treating its architecture
    or any of its elements as unique phenomena in world architecture.
    A final note on dates: the terms BC and AD are derived from the Christian religion and are
    inappropriate to the disparate cultural origins of American builders. Following the
    practice of archaeologists, I use the more neutral BCE (Before the Current [or Common]
    Era) for BC, and CE (Current [or Common] Era) for AD.

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    Page 17

    An American Icon
    Americans are obsessed with housestheir own and everyone else's. We judge ourselves
    and our neighbours by where and how we live. We categorize the poorest members of
    contemporary society not as hungry, badly dressed, or unemployed, but as 'homeless'. For
    those people who are able to own homes (never the majority), a house is the largest single
    purchase that they will ever make, a significant rite of passage as important as marriage or
    a first child. This has been true for many generations. In the past, it was not uncommon
    for home-owners to inscribe construction dates on their houses, marking them as
    mileposts on the road to success [1]. Some included the initials of both husband and wife,
    to identify the house as a bench-mark in the generations-long progress of an entire family
    The house owes its importance to its association with the family. All the indigenous and
    immigrant cultures who have lived in what is now the United States have identified the
    family as the core institution of their societies, although they have defined it in very
    different ways. However they are defined, families are complex institutions. Shared
    values bind them, but internal divisions distinguish their members as individuals and
    according to their assigned roles, as spouses, parents, children, servants. Equally
    important, families have historiesgene pools, genealogies, family stories and traditions:
    they are constellations of memories that surface in surprising ways from one generation to
    the next.
    Houses are equally rich in meanings. They dignify families and help to structure their
    working lives. They claim a place for the individual and the family in time (history) and
    space (community) and in the timeless cosmos. Like families, houses are repositories of
    memories of the ways that families have organized and represented themselves through
    many generations.
    The protean nature of the family through time and across cultures has contributed to the
    metaphorical power of the family at the same time that it has made for the great variety of
    American houses. The free-standing, multi-room, single-family house has been a
    powerful and conspicuous icon of American culture, but it has not been the only kind of
    American house. Most Americans lived differently. Native

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    Americans occupied dwellings ranging from caves big enough for only one or two
    people, such as those surviving in the Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico, to
    enormous extended-family dwellings such as those built by the Iroquois of the north-east
    or the Northwest Coast peoples. From colonization until the twentieth century, small oneand two-room buildings housed the