chapter  4
43 Pages

A New Architecture for a New Nation, 1785–1820

Searching for Symbols of Democracy
ByLeland M. Roth, Amanda C. Roth Clark

During the Revolutionary War, civilian building activity essentially came to a halt. When building resumed with improved economic conditions after the Peace of Paris in 1783, architecture in the new United States of America began to change as architects came to feel that it should be symbolic of the new nation. American architecture in the period from 1785 to 1820 began to lose its distinctly provincial status and enter the mainstream of Western romantic eclecticism. American architecture from 1780 to 1820 was a combination of many expressions; it was a period of searching: combining ideas both conservative and radical, old and new, in search of an American identity. Charles Bulfinch's exposure to the great cities of Europe, especially London, had made it clear to him that his native Boston in the 1780s was still basically medieval; and so Bulfinch devoted himself to reshaping his home city.