Athens on the Frontier (Hardback)
Grecian-Style Architecture in the Splendid Valley of the West, 1820-1860
In 1811, architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe spurred American builders into action when he called for them to reject "the corrupt Age of Dioclesian, or the still more absurd and debased taste of Louis the XIV," and to emulate instead the ancient temples of Greece.
In response, people in the antebellum trans-Appalachian region embraced the clean lines, intricate details, and stately symmetry of the Grecian style. On newly built public buildings, private homes, and religious structures, references to classical Greek architecture became the preferred ornamentation. Several antebellum cities and towns adopted the moniker of "Athens," styling themselves as centers of culture, education, and sophistication. As the trend grew, American citizens understood the name as a link between the Grecian style and the founding principles of democracy—signaling a change of taste in service to the larger American cultural ideal.
In Athens on the Frontier, Patrick Lee Lucas examines the material culture of Grecian-style buildings in antebellum America to help recover nineteenth-century regional identities. As communities worked to define their built landscape and develop a shared Western identity, Lucas's study invites readers to question many of the assumptions Americans have made about divisions and cultural formation in antebellum society.