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Thursday, March 27, 2014

READ THIS: A FIELD GUIDE TO AMERICAN HOUSES By Virginia McAlester Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates

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Drive through any town in America, and you're sure to see a wide variety of houses. However, most Americans would probably be challenged to say with any degree of certainty what style any particular house is, or the period in which it was built. Thanks to A Field Guide to American Houses, though, the pleasure of identifying houses has become much simpler! This fantastic compilation, by author Virginia McAlester, provides readers with simple ways to identify the various types of American houses, from Native American to Spanish Colonial to Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Neoeclectic, and more! All told, over fifty distinct styles, spanning seven historical periods, are covered. The thorough and easy-to-follow descriptions are accompanied by pictures and illustrations, allowing readers to truly get an idea of what each style looks like in practice, and what sets it apart from other styles. Each chapter is introduced by a brief summary of the time period, giving readers an idea of the historical context of each house style, and the factors which led to it to being developed. A handy "pictorial key" at the beginning of the book gives readers an "at-a-glance" way to try to quickly identify types of houses, and also serves as a glossary for many of the terms that are used throughout the book. As an advocate and supporter of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, this book was of extra special interest to me, as I have a deep appreciation for the architecture found not only in New York, but also around the country. However, you don't have to be an architecture or history buff to appreciate this gem of a book. Casual pedestrians, tourists, home buyers, and just about anyone who's ever looked at a house and thought, "wow, what an interesting building!" will find this book absolutely fascinating. Highly recommended by this panelist!

Architecture and history go hand in hand. Depending on what is going on in the world at the time, many time periods dictate the proper design and build of many structures. I love the compilation of the many important houses that are featured in “A Field Guide to American Houses.” The book has been re-released with a fresh and updated look as well as adding many new homes. You will be introduced to many historical homes you probably did not know about. It is incredible to me the amount of time and effort it takes for some of these structures to be restored. And the cost of doing so and not cutting corners is astronomical. The New York Landmarks Conservancy does an incredible job keeping the important structures that represent our heritage and the mind-blowing work of our ancestors alive and well. This book boasts so many great photos that really dive into the design details. It's perfect for those that are design-obsessed whether you are in the industry or not.

Wandering any neighborhood, even suburb, of any town in this vast country of ours brings a visual excitement to those in the know. Architecturally seeking, Americans built upon the past. We don't have the centuries of bare rock and history that Europe has to build upon, but we did take into account their tradition and our own needs. If you're familiar with the New York Landmarks Conservancy, you know about the great importance of historical preservation. Their mission, now in its 40th year, is the "preserving, revitalizing, and reusing" of many an historical facade and building. Architecture tells the way of humans, and how we proceed from the ground up, literally. Houses have personalities, and if you're someone interested in getting to know them, you must get this book. In its second edition, A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester points out which cornice goes where.  It's the "Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America's Domestic Architecture" without a doubt. That is to say, where we live, and why our houses hold their history. Find out about that little farmhouse you love, or the corner house on the next block. From district to district, neighborhood to neighborhood, style to style, Ms. McAlester points, clicks and registers each interesting gable and roof that helps solve the mystery of where design originates. Fascinating, and a brilliant addition to your children's learning experience as well as your own. Not an app for their iPhones, but a solid book, with pages to turn and discover which is best of all. Filled with line drawings for reference, and hundreds of photographs for visual examples, this fantastic work published by Alfred A. Knopf will be the go-to source for architectural studies and a must in any home library. I'm thinking "road trip"!

The fully expanded, updated, and freshly designed second edition of the most comprehensive and widely acclaimed guide to domestic architecture: in print since its publication in 1984, and acknowledged everywhere as the unmatched, essential guide to American houses.

Among the new material in this edition: a section on neighborhoods; expanded and completely new categories of house styles with photos and descriptions of each; an appendix on "Approaches to 20th-Century Building"; an expanded bibliography; and 600 new photographs.

· COMPREHENSIVE: Encyclopedic and utterly informative about the architectural components of home design and construction in every detail; spanning 300 years, divided into seven historical periods and 55 housing styles; more than 2,000 illustrations (photographs, line schematics, maps, and photographs).

· HUGELY IMPROVED VISUALS: A fresh typographical design with improvements to existing art for better detail and 600 additional photographs and line art.

· EASE OF USE: This book is to domestic architectural styles what Sibley is to birds: a true field guide, perfect for anyone from curious amateur to trained architect. And it's become a bible for the real estate industry.

· SALES HISTORY: There are more than a quarter of a million copies in print, hardcover and paper combined. It has never been out of print in the nearly 30 years since its initial publication.

VIRGINIA MCALESTER, who lives in Dallas, was educated at Radcliffe and attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is a founding member and past president of Preservation Dallas and also of Friends of Fair Park, the support group for a National Historic Landmark. She serves as an advisor emeritus for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Virginia is author of The Making of a Historic District: Swiss Avenue, Dallas, Texas, a 40-page booklet "how-to" published by the National Trust in 1975 that historic groups across the U.S. used as a guide in creating their historic districts during the 1970s and 1980s. She is coauthor of The Homes of the Park Cities, Dallas: Great American Suburbs, published by Abbeville Press in 2008, which won a WOW Award from the American Association for State and Local History.

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