We Americans are a people with profoundly changeable opinions. Our lifestyle ideals, for instance, seesaw from extravagance to asceticism in bursts of 30 years or so. This peculiar national trait affects our architecture as it does everything else, repeatedly taking us from overblown ostentation to reactionary modesty and back again. The Victorian era, with its seemingly insatiable appetite for visual bombast, gave us an architecture of vast, splendid, yet manifestly impractical, houses. By the dawn of the 20th century, a backlash against these pompous dwellings had ushered in the Arts and Crafts movement, with its renewed appreciation for simplicity and hand craftsmanship. This chaste aesthetic survived into the economic giddiness of the Roaring Twenties. Then, fueled by a superheated e...
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