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A little bit of Greece in Washington!

Published on Monday 14 November 2011
 
 

With a history dating back 400 years, the territory now known as the United States is home to many different architectural styles. Many of its cities offer interesting areas for those who are fond of architecture. Between 1818 and 1850, Neoclassical architecture, more precisely Greek Revival architecture, dominated, giving many monuments we still admire today their distinctive style.

Like many cities in Europe and elsewhere in America, the architecture of Washington, DC, the United States capital, is greatly inspired by Antiquity. Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, was very interested by architecture. He traveled to Europe a lot and wanted to create buildings that would pay hommage to his democratic ideals, in America.

Some of the most famous monuments in the United States are of Greek influence: the United States Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the New York Stock Exchange, the Jefferson Memorial, the United States Supreme Court and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Though there is no guided tour focused only on architecture in the national capital, it is difficult not to pay attention to this aspect of the city. In fact, when I visited the Washington recently, almost all I noticed were the architectural details. I therefore paid special attention to some of its iconic buildings.

LINCOLN MEMORIAL

The National Mall begins with the Capitol (east) and ends with the Lincoln Memorial (west) and is full of references to Greek architecture.

The Lincoln Memorial was built in hommage to Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth American President. The monument was drawn by Henry Bacon and was inspired by Greek temples. Its construction began in 1914.

This is where Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech took place, in 1963. A sign to commemorate the event was even added to the monument in 2003. The most impressive thing to do there is to stand at the top of the stairs and admire the view of the National Mall while imagining this vast park filled with people during big rallies.

THE CAPITOL

The Capitol was built in many different steps, starting in 1792. It was damaged during the war of 1812 and reconstruction began in 1815 and ended in 1830, at the heart of the Greek Revival period. Benjamin Henry Latrobe was one of the architects that worked on the reconstruction. His approach was to become typical of the Greek detailing that we find in American architecture.

The Capitol is the fourth highest building in the city, but its height is of paramount importance: a special law now exists so that no building will be higher. In fact, when you arrive in Washington, you quickly realize that there are no high-rises in the city!

THE WHITE HOUSE

You can't visit Washington without going to see the White House, a neoclassical building recognizable by its imposing columns. The construction of this landmark building began in 1792 and was inspired by Leinster House, current seat of the Irish Parliament. When a great part  of the city was burnt in 1814, the White House was greatly damaged. This is when the walls were painted white, to hide some of the damages.

The White House is harder to access since September 11, 2011. A road, previously accessible to vehicles, in now reserved for pedestrians. It is possible for visitors to go to a fence that surrounds the grounds of the White House, but you have to be prepared to see many policemen and other curious tourists!

No time to visit Washington in the near future? You can find many Greek inspiration buildings even in Montreal! Just to name a few, certain buildings at McGill University, certain banks and the Appeals Court of Quebec...

Blogger : Béatrice B.Poulin

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Blog: A little bit of Greece in Washington!

With a history dating back 400 years, the territory now known as the United States is home to many different architectural styles. Many of its cities offer interesting areas for those who are fond of architecture. Between 1818 and 1850 (...)