What are Antebellum Homes? (with photos)

Many pre-war houses were influenced by classical Greek architecture, especially the use of columns.

Antebellum homes are properties and mansions built in the southern United States in the years before the American Civil War. Associated with the height of Southern high society grace and the depths of pre-emancipatory America, these houses have a melancholy and unique place in architectural history. Antebellum houses come from a variety of European styles and are often a spectacular blend of stylistic influences.

Antebellum homes include properties and mansions built in the southern United States before the Civil War.

Before the ravages of the Civil War, the wealthy population of the South was famous for its magnificent residences that were built with entertainment in mind. The term antebellum, a Latin word for “before the war”, was given to these plantation houses later, commemorating the sad grandeur of the Old South. While it is impossible to consider historic homes without acknowledging the slave labor that often built them and the tragic conditions that underlie the sumptuous style, the architectural significance of pre-war homes remains a major influence on modern American design.

Various architectural styles influenced the design and materials of pre-war homes. Many are notable for their nods towards Greek revivalism, seen most clearly in the iconic columns that adorn home entrances. These huge pillars served several purposes; in addition to giving grandeur to the exterior, they allowed the construction of large shady porches and porches, often on several levels. In the days before air conditioning, these stone-cold escapes were often the only relief from the stifling southern heat and humidity.

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Balconies and porches of pre-war houses are often surrounded by intricately detailed barriers and low fences, often made of iron or other metals. These fences were made to keep people out, but they also add considerable beauty to the home’s exterior. Metalwork often depicts flowers, leaves, and vines.

Symmetrical shuttered windows, often referred to as “plantation windows,” were borrowed from a variety of styles, including the classicism and federalist styles of the northeastern United States. These windows were usually narrow rectangles that centered around the central door of the house, with external shutters painted in a contrasting color.

The most famous of all the pre-war houses is Tara, the magnificent mansion depicted in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. This iconic Hollywood image was just a facade, but it firmly established the pinnacle of pre-war architecture in the minds of many. Tara is famous not only for her style, but also for her metaphorical representation of the beauty of the pre-war South.

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