I love Antebellum architecture - in fact that was what inspired my trip to Georgia – I was desperate to see these amazing houses, made famous by films like "Gone With the Wind" in real life. I always thought they looked sublime with their intricate fretwork, balconies, columns, porches and verandahs. I was not disappointed! I just wished there had been more of them.........
The house above is quintessential Antebellum to my mind - white painted wood, square and imposing with windows on all sides. The turned wood spindles on the balconies and verandah have the appearance of lace from a distance and are part of what makes the Antebellum style so distinctive. (Being English - we also LOVED the road signs, American signs are so less-is-more, i.e choose your point of the compass and add a number!)
This house was empty and for sale. Unbelievably - to me - the owners were having problems finding a buyer. I wished wholeheartedly that London was a few thousand miles nearer to Georgia because to actually LIVE in a house like this would be a total dream.
The cane furniture perfectly in style with the house. One of the best things about the South is the way everyone has their rocking chairs on the porch and can sit and watch the world go by in the shade or cool of the evening.
Antebellum houses come in various different styles - this type is known as Greek Revival. The size of the double hieght pillars is awe-inspiring and, astonishingly to us as English people, they are actually made of wood!! I was really taken aback when I first visited America to find that so many houses are built of wood - a material mostly usually confined to chalets in Europe.
This fantastic edifice had been lovingly restored by an amazing couple we met who have dedicated huge amounts of time and energy to trying to preserve these old houses. It shocked us to discover that lots of local people don't care about the Antebellum architecture and would knock the houses down without a second thought. Shudder!
The filigree porch is beautiful and I also love the soft pallette of colours used to paint the houses.
Get this - when a new main street was built behind this house a few years after it was first constructed, they simply turned the house around to face the other way! Apparently they wedged huge tree trunks underneath it to act as rollers, attached ropes and with lots and lots of horse dragged it around through 180 degrees. Well, you might as well have your front door facing the right way!
Here's another empty house - apparently it had been uninhabited for years. I simply couldn't get my head around why people didn't snap up these gems in 2 seconds flat. One of the great things about the design of Antebellum houses is that every room is at least double aspect and more often triple aspect as above. Coupled with the huge floor-length windows this makes the rooms so wonderfully light.
What a great colour. Who would think of a lilac house? But works so well in contrast witht the white.
The scalloped, filigree carving above the verandahs is so intricate- reminiscent of the most delicate lace work.
The pillars are unbelievable - especially when you think they are hollow pieces of wood. Some major structual achievement to build.
But I must say I was fairly horrified to discover that it's not uncommon for wooden pillars to be replaced with plastic ones - I'd rather not think about that.........
Of course every single house is unique with its own individual style and character- designed and built by the original occupier. That's what makes wandering around these streets in the historic areas so fascinating.
Georgia summers are cruel - intensely hot and humid - so before the days of air con it was clearly imperative to have shaded verandahs on every side for protection from the fierce sun at all times of day. But nice too to sit out even through the tempestous rain storms which are so frequent in hot weather.
This house was converted to a B&B and it really was like living the Gone-With-the-Wind romantic dream to stay here.
Our bedroom at the B&B . We visited a few houses which had been preserved as museums and I was intrigued as to why the beds were always placed like ours, at an angle between two windows. Apparently this was to catch any remote breeze which might flutter through the open windows during the stiffling nights.
Most houses are framed by wonderful old shade trees and surrounded by small, semi-formal gardens, creating magical settings for these most romantic and magnificent architectural creations. (
A note for British readers: what is Antebellum? I was vague about this til I visited Georgia, it means 'before the war' i.e the style of houses built before the American Civil War. Lots were burnt to the ground during the war and that's one of the reasons that not very many remain. The other reason is that many towns which have these houses don't have conservation disctricts and the town councils don't put preservation orders on the houses so they are unprotected against development)
For more American architecture see my post on the Old City in Knoxville, Tennessee