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Defining the Design: Spanish-Style Architecture

Written by Kelly Weimert on Friday, September 28th, 2018 at 11:48am.

Image source: buildallen.com

Dating back to the early 20th century, Spanish-style architecture in the United States is typically referred to as Spanish Colonial Revival (SCR) architecture. The distinctive style stems from traditional Spanish architectural themes found in early American colonial settlements from Spain.

SCR was most popular in the U.S. from 1915-1940. Its popularity is largely attributed to the Panama-California Exposition in 1915 in San Diego, which most famously showcased the work of architect Bertram Goodhue and gave the style national acclaim. The style is mostly found in California, Florida, and some parts of Texas.

Features of a Spanish Colonial Revival Home

Spanish Style Architecture Features

Image source: houzz.com

Thick, Stucco Walls

Most Spanish-style homes come with thick stucco walls in neutral colors like beige and white, which blend with the home’s surroundings while providing protection from the heat.

Curves and Arches

It’s common to find arches over the windows and doorways of SCR homes as well as an asymmetrical, curvy facade, which further blends these homes into their surroundings.

Terracotta Roof

Red, clay roofs, which are often multi-level, protect these homes from the elements while adding unique visual interest.

Ornamental Iron

While most of these homes aren’t incredibly ornate, they do often feature ornamental iron accents, such as finely crafted stair railings, window grills, and gates.

Outdoor Enjoyment

Due to the mild Mediterranean climate, the Spanish incorporated many design elements to enjoy the outdoors, including courtyards, balconies, and patios, which are prominent features of these Spanish homes.  

Tower Chimneys

Many chimneys in SCR homes are akin to towers, with a functional rectangular design that may include accents like moldings and windows.

Famous Spanish Colonial Revival Architects

Bertram Goodhue

Original Image of California Building in 1915 Bertram Goodhue

Original image of California Building in 1915 // Image source: library.cornell.edu

The aforementioned architect, Bertram Goodhue, is often attributed to giving this style its popularity thanks to his featured designs at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. His most prominent work, which was featured at the exposition, is the California Building, combining a wide range of style elements, include Baroque and Rococo, to create the impression of a Spanish Colonial church.

Carleton Winslow

Carleton Winslow Spanish Architecture Botanical Building

Image of the Winslow-designed Botanical Building // Image source: wikipedia.org

Carleton Winslow joined the architectural office of Bertram Goodhue before the Panama-California Exposition, and was a key player in designing some of the SCR buildings showcased during the event. In fact, he is credited for choosing the SCR style for the project.

George Washington Smith

George Washington Smith Spanish Architecture Casa del Herrero

Image of Casa del Herrero, designed by George Washington Smith // Image source: dylanchappell.com

George Washington Smith is another famous SCR architect who is attributed to amplifying the style’s popularity. During his time, he was one of the most famous architects in the United States and some peg him as the father of SCR style. He initially studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before going on to study architecture at Harvard.

Fun Facts about Spanish-Style Architecture

    • Many SCR buildings show strong influences from Gothic, Renaissance, Moorish, and Byzantine designs.
    • Bertram Goodhue invented two font styles: Merrymount and Cheltenham. Cheltenham was adopted by The New York Times for their headline typeface.
    • Steve Jobs bought a George Washington Smith-designed home called the Jackling House and wanted to tear it down. His demolition request was initially rejected by the Woodside Town Council.

Spanish Homes For Sale

If you like this style, you'll love our curated selection of Spanish-style homes for sale. From Spanish Colonial masterpieces to beautifully restored Spanish bungalows, you're sure to find the Spanish home of your dreams.

Or, use our innovative Search With Style® tool to find a home for sale in your favorite architectural style.

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