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Italianate Blocks (1860s-1880s)

Italianate commercial blocks are the hallmark of Main Street America. The downtown commercial district began to boom during the 1870s, at which time the Italianate style was extremely fashionable. Although Italianate style residential architecture faded out during the 1880s, many Italianate style commercial blocks were constructed until the 1890s. The flat topped blocks with brackets and decorative window moldings were two or more stories tall and featured large storefront windows.

The following images portray a few excellent examples of the Italianate style commercial block.

Italiante Italiante

Italianate: Image courtesy of Elizabeth André

Italianate Italianate

Italiante: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the University of Vermont Special Collections. Image courtesy of

The brackets beneath the eaves are the most distinguishing characteristic of the Italianate commercial block. Brackets were often paired, as seen in the image on the left or single, as seen in the image on the right.

Italianate Brackets Italianate Brackets

Italianate Brackets: Image courtesy of Elizabeth André

Window moldings of Italianate structures are quite ornamental. Hood moldings, seen on the left and center, were frequently applied, as were the flatter moldings seen on the right.

Italianate Window Brackets Italianate Window Brackets Italianate Window Brackets

Italianate Window Brackets: Image courtesy of Elizabeth André

During the Italianate period, large windows opened into street level storefronts.

Italianate Storefront Italianate Storefront

Italianate Storefronts: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and. Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and Highland Lodge.

Italianate commercial blocks typically have flat roofs, and many have small, triangular gables extending up from the center of the roof on the main façade.

Italianate Roof Italianate Roof

Image courtesy of Elizabeth André

In the main, downtown commercial districts, the Italianate style structures were usually quite exuberant, but many shopkeepers opened up businesses in residential neighborhoods or secondary commercial districts. These structures were much simpler but easily recognized by their flat roofs and brackets.

Vernacular Italianate Vernacular Itlianate

Vernacular Italianate Commercial Blocks: Image courtesy of Elizabeth André

Italianate

During the 1880s and 1890s, a new style was gaining popularity, and the Italianate style was being phased out. The new Romanesque style featured large, stone, round or segmented, arch windows. The image below illustrates the transition from Italianate to Romanesque. The Italianate brackets still line the cornice, and hood moldings crown most of the windows. However, the round arch windows of the Romanesque style open into the angled, corner façade, and the hood moldings are also heavy, brick segmented arches.

Italianate with Richardsonian Romanesque Details

Italianate Commercial Block with Richardsonian Romanesque Details: Image courtesy of the University of Vermont Landscape Change Program and the Vermont Historical Society

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