Antebellum architecture (meaning "prewar", from the Latin ante, "before", and bellum, "war") is the neoclassical architectural style characteristic of the 19th-century Southern United States, especially the Deep South, from after the birth of the United States with the American Revolution, to the start of the American Civil War.[1] Antebellum architecture is especially characterized by Georgian, Neo-classical, and Greek Revival style plantation homes and mansions.

Key features

Exterior: The main characteristics of Antebellum architecture viewed from the outside of the house often included huge pillars, a balcony that ran along the whole outside edge of the house to offer shade and a sitting area, evenly spaced large windows, and big center entrances at the front and rear of the house to add to the box like style of the mansion.[2] These mansions also often included grand gardens with geometrically cut bushes to complement the symmetry of the house.[3]

Interior: The interior of these mansions were just as extravagant as the outside. Common features included enormous foyers, sweeping open stairways, ballrooms, grand dining rooms, and intricate design work. The design work included intricate shapes and patterns made from plaster used to adorn walls and furniture. It was also used to create wood and floor designs. [4]

The Herndon Glanton Reeves house was built in Troup County, Georgia in 1845. The house was home to several prominent citizens and during the Civil War it was used as a hospital for both Confederate and Union soldiers. Please note the detail on the newel of the stair case and on the wall, both common examples of Antebellum architecture.


Many plantation houses still standing are of this style, including:


The features associated with antebellum architecture were introduced by people of British descent who settled in the Southern states during the colonial period and in U.S. territories after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 along with a wave of immigration from Europe in 1812.[5] Great numbers of Europeans seeking economic opportunities emigrated to America after Napoleon's defeat and the end of the war of 1812. This new wave of entrepreneurs began to dominate not only the economy, but also the architecture of the first half of the 19th century.[6]

In modern society

The debate over whether or not to preserve Antebellum Homes is an ongoing one. Some argue that because these lavish homes were built from fortunes created through slavery, oppression, and cruelty it is not ethical to preserve them because they serve as a reminder of American slavery. Others argue that because these homes have historical significance they should be maintained.[6] Movies like Gone with the Wind and 12 Years a Slave are examples of Antebellum homes portrayed in pop culture and many Antebellum homes today even serve as tourist attractions.

See also


  1. ^ Gary B., Nash; et al. (2009). The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society. Vol. 1 (to 1877) (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall (London: Pearson; plus Longman and Vango imprints). ISBN 9780205642823. OCLC 312403803. 
  2. ^ "A History of Antebellum Architecture". Providence High Tech News. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  3. ^ "Antebellum Garden Design". Old House Restoration, Products & Decorating. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  4. ^ "American Style: The Antebellum Plantations". www.builddirect.com. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  5. ^ "What is Antebellum Architecture? Definition and Examples". Architecture.about.com. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  6. ^ a b "What is Antebellum Architecture? Is it worth saving?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 2017-05-16.