6 Popular Architectural Styles in Philadelphia

6 Popular Architectural Styles in Philadelphia

  • Douglas Pearson
  • 07/19/22

Much like fashion and interior design, architectural styles come and go. They evolve over time and leave us blueprints as to the time period, the lifestyle, and the personal taste of the person who built or commissioned the building or structure. Architecture is the amalgamation of form and function with art and design, making it a fascinating and practical craft. Just as permed hair, brightly colored eyeshadow, and high-waisted trousers can tip us off to the time period of a photo – the 1980s –  architecture can also tell us a lot about a town or city’s history.

Stroll along the streets of Barcelona, and you’ll notice the unique curves, intricate detailing, and colorful mosaic tiles of Gaudi’s neo-Gothic architectural style seen throughout the city. Take a stop over in Paris or Porto to view Eiffel’s industrial, wrought iron designs. These designs ushered in a revolution in pairing civil engineering insights and architecture. The styles of both Gaudi and Eiffel bring millions of visitors annually to cities where their public artworks stand. Architecture is art, and we can’t seem to get enough.

Perhaps you prefer staying a little closer to home, though. There is some incredible architecture to behold in the New England city of Philadelphia, too. While architectural styles throughout the state differ wildly due to German and English immigration to the area from the late 1700s and onwards, certain styles dominate the city of Philadelphia specifically. You just have to look up!

Are you searching for homes for sale in New Hope, PA, and wonder what styles dominate the architectural landscape? Perhaps you’re leaning towards Rittenhouse Square real estate with its industrial buildings turned into homes and lofts. No matter your specific preferences, you’re in luck. Let’s take a closer look at Philadelphia's most popular architectural styles.

Federal and Georgian row houses

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If you walk the streets of Philadelphia, you’ll notice homes in the city are typically organized in sections of row houses connected together rather than separated dwellings. This type of residential unit was popular at the start of the 18th Century. Many New England cities, to which settlers moved in droves during that time, have many row houses left today. Philadelphia is no different.

These beautiful homes were initially made in the Federal and Georgian styles. They may appear very similar but do have some key differences. Both styles are typically two to four stories with brick or stone construction, and each unit shares exterior walls with the neighboring homes. Usually, the differentiating feature of one home from the next can be found in the different colors and textures of the stone or brick facade. According to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Federal homes are slightly more delicate and sophisticated in their ornamentation than the more utilitarian Georgian style.

Late 19th and early 20th-century row houses

Later iterations of the row house built in the 19th and 20th centuries used more durable materials. The more intricate styles, which dominated the earlier row houses in the area, gave way to architecture that could be replicated on a larger scale. What these homes lack in decorative flair on the outside, they make up for in their high degree of functionality both indoors and outdoors. In fact, during this time, Philadelphia was known as the “City of Homes” for its high rate of home ownership compared to cities like New York and Chicago. This was largely due to the late 19th-century row houses, which were much easier to mass-produce.

French Second Empire-style townhouses

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If you’ve ever strolled the sidewalks of Manhattan or the Lower East Side, you’ve likely seen the coveted brownstone buildings the city is famous for. These are reminiscent of a style that has long been adored in many New England enclaves. Rittenhouse Square real estate boasts a large concentration of this particular style.

Ornate single-family homes

While the row houses make up a significant portion of Philadelphia’s residential architectural landscape, there are also a number of historical areas boasting ornate single-family homes. If you are looking for one of these gorgeous pieces of real estate, homes for sale in New Hope, PA – a national historic district of Bucks County – may be perfect for you and your family.


Photo courtesy of Douglas Pearson Real Estate
Philadelphia is a city of primarily row houses. However, it is still a modern American city meaning there are many high rises, townhomes, and other contemporary residential pieces of real estate in the city. The beauty of many New England cities – Philadelphia included – lies in the juxtaposition of architectural styles. While you might see several designs and time-specific aesthetics on a stroll through the city, many modern styles also dominate the landscape. Those looking for a centrally located home and modern amenities should consider some of the city’s more modern high rises.

Modern townhomes and single-family homes

As cities grow and change, so does the city's construction. Once a colonial city of primarily row houses, Philadelphia is growing and expanding like many other American metropolises. This means new construction is necessary to keep up with the city’s rising housing demand. Additionally, as the city grows in population, so does the size of the city.

Areas like Fishtown, Kensington, and Point Breeze benefit from more modern construction and styling. These modern housing options often border on the side of futuristic as well, with their straight lines, light-colored beams, and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer heaps of natural light.

Are you hoping to delight in the varied Philadelphia architecture while visiting the city? Perhaps you’re searching for Rittenhouse Square real estate in hopes of finding a home with a bit of history. Whether you want to learn more about the architectural styles in Philadelphia or homes for sale in New Hope, PA, reach out to Douglas Pearson for expert guidance.

Douglas has worked with countless buyers and sellers across the Philadelphia real estate market, and he prioritizes the needs of his clients – many of whom have families – every step of the way. This approach has seen his business grow from a single office in Bucks County to four offices serving the entire greater Philadelphia area. With his expertise, robust track record, and excellent resources, you will be empowered in your next home search.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Work With Douglas

With decades of sales and marketing successes behind him, Doug Pearson is a leading Realtor in the greater Philadelphia area and a top salesperson in Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. He has extensive experience selling new construction and land along with estate homes, city condominiums, and investment properties.