The Renaissance, which roughly translates to "rebirth", began in Florence, Italy during the fourteenth century. This movement called for a change in the culture of Florence. The rebirth took advantage of the art, literature, politics, religion, and science. By the fifteenth century, the art portion had spread to the city's architecture. This change in architecture was based mostly on symmetry and spread from Florence, to the rest of Italy, and finally to the rest of Europe. The Renaissance lasted until the early seventeenth century, which brought again a change in the architecture.
By the nineteenth century, a change needed to be made to the symmetrical buildings populating Europe. In 1802, the first significant change in architecture was introduced in England by British architect John Nash. This style was reminiscent of the asymmetrical Italian countryside villas. The purpose of the architectural change was to make the houses and buildings more picturesque, which is exactly what it had done. By the 1830's, the style progressed and became popularly known as the Italianate style.
In 1831, John Notman, a Scottish architect, left his home to reside in the United States. By 1837, Notman became the first person to introduce the Italianate style to the United States. He did this through the creation of "Riverside", a house built in Burlington, New Jersey. By the 1840's, the Italianate style of architecture had become extremely popular throughout the country, thanks to American architect Alexander Jackson Davis. His architecture involved flat-roofed houses with overhanging eaves and corner towers, and became known as Italianate Tuscan villas. The Italianate style had remained popular until the 1890's, when more changes were made to the architecture of houses.
While Italianate buildings may resemble those of the Renaissance movement, such as the symmetrical rectangular body of the house, there are many unique features, which classify the style. The roofs of Italianate housing include low-pitched or flat roofs, with a square cupola on top. Decorative brackets and cornices accompany the wide, overhanging eaves. Square porches accompany double doors in the common two-story Italianate houses. Balconies, along with the roof, are often concealed with balustrade, which support the wrought-iron railings. The windows were typically tall and narrow with pediments above them. However, the most prominent features made popular in the United States were the angled bay windows.
There are many Italianate houses located in the borough of Staten Island, New York. Several of them have been designated as New York City landmarks. In the North Shore area of Staten Island, you will find quite a few of these. 352, 356, and 364 St. Paul's Avenue, which were building during the late 1850's and early 1860's, are just a few examples of these. While the houses are not exactly alike, they are all comprised of Italianate features, such as their wooden porches, overhanging eaves, and many bay windows.
The Dr. James R. Boardman House at 710 Bay Street, St. George which is also in the North Shore, has not changed much since its construction in 1848. It, too, has many of the features of the houses on St. Paul's Avenue, Stapleton as well as balustrades and pediments. While it is not in the vicinity of the others, the Wyeth House at 190 Meisner Avenue, Lighthouse Hill is much the same as the North Shore houses with its Italianate features. It was built in 1856 of brick and stone, whereas many other Italianate houses were built of wood. The Wyeth House, unlike the above houses, also has a belvedere, which is common, but not mandatory, among Italianate architecture.
Italianate architecture is in rare supply in Staten Island, but exists in Tottenville, Grymes Hill, Stapleton and St. George. (Pictured Above) The Gustave A. Mayer House in New Dorp, and Italianate Style Villa constructed in 1855 and designated a historic landmark in 1989, is one of the best examples of this type of architectural style.