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Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles Hardcover – October 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Architecture buffs and decorators will enjoy visiting these 25 noteworthy American houses, selected partly because they are open to the public. What at first glance appears to be a coffee-table title turns out to be a useful guide to the various architectural styles of the American home, replete with floor plans for each dwelling and schematic diagrams that point out representative architectural characteristics of the style in question. Each chapter also includes a tour of the interior of its house, with significant illustrations of interior detail highlighted. About half the homes are located in the Northeast, and most of the rest can be found east of the Mississippi; Monticello is the most famous house represented. Rounding out the book is a section explaining how to arrange a visit to any of these splendid residences. The McAlesters (A Field Guide to American Houses, LJ 8/84) are columnists for Country Home magazine; McLean is a freelance photographer. Recommended for architecture collections and large public libraries.
Edward B. Cone, New York
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press; 1st edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558597506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558597501
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 10.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Virginia McAlester is a graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and attended Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a founding member and past president of Preservation Dallas (formerly called the Historic Preservation League, Inc.) and of Friends of Fair Park, a support group for the Fair Park National Historic Landmark in Dallas, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. She serves on the Dallas Landmark Commission and is an Adviser Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.Lee McAlester, a geologist by profession, is Chairman of the Geology Department at Southern Methodist University and was formerly Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences there. He is the author of several geology textbooks as well as numerous scientific monographs and papers. He has an active interest in architectural history and has been involved in many Dallas preservation projects.Together the McAlesters are the authors of A Field Guide to American Houses (available in Knopf paperback), Discover Dallas/Fort Worth, and Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles. The National Trust awarded them a Preservation Honor Award for creating A Field Guide to American Houses, and they have recently received the Texas Society of Architects' Flowers Award for excellence in interpreting architecture through the media.

Customer Reviews

The text is highly informative and very interesting.
Shannon Deason
As an avid architecture and design enthusiast, I consider this book to be one of the seminal volumes on the American vernacular in my library.
Victoria S
It's a beautiful book and I look forward to having it on my coffee table to read and reminisce about my wedding!
Angela Gainer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By bruce horner on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
You could think of this as a coffee-table version of the McAlester's Field Guide to American Houses (which I also recommend.) In this case each house is an historical landmark as well as an exemplar of an architectural style, and the photos are suitably sumptuous. I like coffee-table books that also give you solid information as well as pretty pictures, and this one succeeds admirably on both counts. It may not have every artist's or magnate's house you can think of, but it has a lot of them. A modern classic.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
My wife and I love this book. It explains architectural styles by profiling oustanding examples found throughout the United States. The McAlesters not only explain the architectural elements that make a house extraordinary, they also give the fascinating history of the homes and their owners, which include Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and Thomas Edison. In each profile, they also include simple line drawings that clearly identify the features of the style. Since buying this book, we have visited eight of the 25 houses and plan on seeing them all. This book will not gather dust on your coffee table.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The book has beautiful pictures of historical homes through out the United States. It also includes details about the architecture designs and a listing about how you can visit these house museums.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Deason on September 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is wonderful book on a most deserving subject. American is blessed with amazing houses, built mostly during the Gilded Age by business barons. This book does a great job illustrating the different styles and discussing the houses that best embody these styles. The color photos are vivid and crisp and the houses chosen are spectacular. The text is highly informative and very interesting. It is so refreshing that so many of these mansions have survived for so long and thankfully these examples have been well cared for. It must have been difficult for the author to choose just one house to illustrate a style, but it's hard to argue with the ones she ultimatly chose. Nice read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Victoria S on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid architecture and design enthusiast, I consider this book to be one of the seminal volumes on the American vernacular in my library. The authors explore 25 grand houses--ranging from Monticello to Mark Twain House to Vizcaya--and the changing tastes in housing design over a period of over 300 years.

The book is divided into four main sections and within each they introduce, in chronological order, each of the grand mansions that illustrate the evolution of a principal style. For example, under the Colonial section, Georgian, Federal, Classical Revival, French Colonial and Spanish Colonial are each examined. The format provides a narrative of the progression of that style, photography and the historical cultural aspects contextualize its development. Each style is then deconstructed in a double page spread featuring illustrations highlighting the design elements.

What I most enjoy about this book is its versatility for anyone interested in architecture. This book is for the novice and informed alike. It can be used as a quick reference tool or as a visual dictionary of architectural terms or as a more in depth volume on the development of the stylistic elements that comprise the great American house.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Diane Marie on August 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a must have for those who are interested in historic houses. We plan to visit every house over the next 10 years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Citroen R. on June 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has a good amount of text which I didn't bother to get into. After all, these books are good for their images. It's hard to pick up on the architectural details on a lot of these images. And the compilation of the different styles is just not enough to get an appreciation of the various great traditional American homes out there. I would have preferred to see a selected style of American homes with attention to detail shown with great photography.
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