Essential Architecture-  Search by style

Richardsonian Romanesque Romanesque Revival

By Henry Hobson Richardson:    
Allegheny County Courthouse Pittsburgh, PA Crane Library, Quincy, MA Ames Library, North Easton, MA
Oakes Ames Memorial Hall Albany City Hall NY Trinity Church, Boston
Sever Hall, Cambridge, MA Glessner House Chicago  
By other architects:    
Richardsonian Romanesque has both French and Spanish Romanesque characteristics, as seen in the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan, by architects George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice in 1891 Pueblo Union Depot in Pueblo, Colorado, James A. McGonigle of Leavenworth, Kansas and Sprague and Newall of Chicago, Illinois, architects, 1889-90 Residential Richardsonian Romanesque & detail, Denver, Colorado
Starkweather Chapel, Ypsilanti, Michigan; George D. Mason of Detroit, Michigan, architect, 1888: Clearly-articulated clustered forms in a mock-military exercise in rustication The High Service Building at Chestnut Hill Water Works, Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts; Arthur H. Vinal, architect, 1887 Cupples House on the campus of Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1888-1890
Minneapolis City Hall, Franklin Bidwell Long and Frederick G. Kees, architects, finished 1906 Cincinnati City Hall, Samuel Hannaford, architect, completed 1893. Clocktower of Toronto City Hall, E. J. Lennox, architect, 1889-99: arcading and rusticated brownstone
Ontario Legislature, Toronto, Ontario The Lee County, Texas Courthouse, 1899: cautious Romanesque features applied to a conservative design Pillsbury Hall, on the University of Minnesota–Minneapolis campus; LeRoy Buffington, architect, Harvey Ellis, designer, 1887
Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh. Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects. 1898. Macdonald-Stewart Library Building, McGill University, completed in 1893 by Sir Andrew Taylor Salt Lake City and County Building, Salt Lake City, Utah, Monheim, Bird, and Proudfoot architects, 1894
Brooklyn General Post Office, Cadman Plaza. Mifflin E. Bell, 1885-91 James J. Hill House 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota. Peabody & Stearns; Mark Fitzpatrick, architects, completed 1891. Orton Hall, The Ohio State University, completed 1893.
Old Federal Courts Building, St. Paul MN (now Landmark Center), (Willoughby J. Edbrooke, designed 1892,‎ completed 1901). Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois. Henry Ives Cobb architect, completed 1891. The Barbour County Courthouse in Philippi, West Virginia, completed 1905.
The H.H. Richardson Complex in Buffalo, New York, first building using the Richardsonian Romanesque style Old City Hall in Fort Wayne, Indiana, completed in 1893.  
Richardsonian Romanesque

Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of American architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose masterpiece is Trinity Church, Boston (1872–77)

History and development

This very free revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics. It emphasizes clear strong picturesque massing, round-headed "Romanesque" arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, boldly blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.

The style epitomizes work by the generation of architects practising in the 1880s— before the influx of Beaux-Arts styles— such as J. Cleaveland Cady of Cady, Bird and See in New York City, whose American Museum of Natural History's original 77th Street range epitomizes "Richardsonian Romanesque." Some of the practitioners who most faithfully followed Richardson's proportion, massing and detailing had worked in his office. These include Wadsworth Longfellow and Frank Alden (Longfellow, Alden & Harlow of Boston & Pittsburgh); George Shepley and Charles Coolidge (Richardson's former employees, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge of Boston); and Herbert Burdett (Marling & Burdett of Buffalo). The style influenced the Chicago school of architecture and architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. In Finland, Eliel Saarinen was influenced by Richardson.


Research is currently ongoing to try to document the westward movement of the artisans and craftsmen, many immigrant Italians and Irish, who built in the Richardsonian Romanesque tradition. The style began in the East, in and around Boston and while it was losing favor there it was gaining popularity further west. Thus stone carvers and masons trained in the Richardsonian manner appear to have surfed the style west, until it died out in the early years of the 20th century.

As an example, four small bank buildings were built in Richardsonian Romanesque style in Osage County, Oklahoma, during 1904-1911.
Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson developed this rugged, forceful style in the 1870s. It was called "Romanesque" because the buildings had wide, rounded arches like in ancient Rome. This style was best suited for grand public buildings, because building with massive stone walls is expensive, so only wealthy people ever used it for their homes. It is similar to Gothic in form and detail, but Romanesque buildings use rounded, instead of pointed arches. A deeply recessed entrance using the arch form is a signature of the style.

Romanesque houses usually have many of these features:
Rough-faced, square stones used for walls
Round towers with cone-shaped roofs
Columns and pilasters with spirals and leaf designs
Low, broad "Roman" arches over doorways
Patterned masonry arches over windows

The forms of the Romanesque Revival actually derive from the 11th and 12-century architecture of France and Spain, although the style enjoyed a resurgence in the 1880s partly due to the work of architect Henry Hobson Richardson. It was used for many building types, including houses, clubs, and commercial buildings, before its popularity ended in the late 1890s. 

Click for Larger View

Common characteristics are:

-heavy, rough-cut stone walls
-round arches and squat columns
-deeply recessed windows
-pressed metal bays and turrets