Date of Award

Spring 1983

Document Type




First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan

Third Advisor

Henry Burgess


The culture of any nation embodies the way in which society, art, and intelligence manifest themselves.1 Architecture is one facet of most cultures. As such, architecture is often a more permanent and tangible product of a culture. The architecture of the United States from 1870 to 1900 exemplified many of the values and trends that helped to form the culture of this age. The age may be labeled in several descriptive ways. "The Victorian Era" is a common label for the age in which Queen Victoria reigned as Queen of England, Ireland, and as Empress of India from 1837 to 1901.2 A title which specifically applied to the United States was the "Gilded Age." Samuel Clemens employed this title for the period from 1870 to 1900 which he considered "gaudy. The term "gilded" means to overlay something of lesser value with gold. This situation existed in the United States between 1870 and 1900. A few men became rich while the majority stayed poor. Those who achieved prosperity often wished to display this wealth ostentatiously. One method used to demonstrate affluence was to patronize the arts. They also aspired to establish themselves among the social elite of America. To do this and to appear prosperous, many of the "nouveaux riches" visited Europe and admired the cultures that had developed there. Marrying into an established, elite family was another method of advancement to a higher class. While attempting to join the higher classes, most of the new rich desired to maintain their individuality. Other aspects of life in the "Gilded Age" were as new as this class. America evolved from an agarian nation to an urban-industrial power during this era. The demographics of the United States changed dramatically. Following the Civil War (1865), the population grew from thirty-one million to fifty-five million people.4 One-fourth of the population lived in the cities in 1865, but by 1910 the percentage was nearly half. The influx of emigrants from Europe was striking in numbers and in variety of nationalities. One-seventh of the population of the whole United States was foreignborn by 1910. The countries of origin were no longer in Northern Europe, but also in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Orient. Each country produced a slightly different culture which the immigrants brought with them to the United States.

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