Federal row house in Philadelphia.

Row House Architectural Guide: Federal / Adams

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Type of Row House Architecture: Federal / Adams

Years Popular: 1780 – 1840

Typical Characteristics:

  • Two-story, rectangular construction
  • Low-pitched or gambrel roof, with dormers/gable
  • Raised foundations
  • Semi-circular or elliptical fanlights over front entry
  • Decorative crown or roof over front door
  • Louvered shutters
  • Cornice emphasized with decorative molding (usually modillions – refined dentils)
  • Double-hung sash windows (six over six) sash separated by thin wooden muntins
  • Windows arranged in symmetrical rows/columns


  • Robert Adam
  • Charles Bulfinch
  • James Hoban
  • Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant
  • Benjamin Latrobe

Examples of Federal / Adams Row Houses:

Because Georgian was an English style, leading up to, during, and after the American Revolution, local architecture in the colonies looked to differentiate itself. Although Federal and Adam homes have similar characteristics to Georgian, there are subtle differences. In this row, we see six over six windows with thinner mutions and an half-circle fanlight over the door. Most Federal row homes still feature a paneled front door and dormers. Taking a step further, the row home on the right has Greek Revival characteristics and was probably updated. This group of Federal row houses is located in Queen Village, Philadelphia.

Federal row houses in Queen Village, Philadelphia.

Here are examples located in Fell’s Point, Baltimore, Maryland. Federal row homes often have different shutters on the upper floors than the lower. These homes have the square lights over the door, and prominent stone lentils, more typical of Georgian, showing how Federal evolved from Georgian.

Row houses in Fell's Point, Baltimore, MD.

This another transitional row home which has characteristics of Georgian (windows on the first floor) but the raised foundation of a Federal home. Located in Philadelphia, these are rare surviving wood-framed row homes.
A rare example of wooden row homes from the 18th Century.

Yellow and green, wood siding, Federal row house in Philadelphia.

Located in Manhattan, New York, these Federal row homes feature even placement of the windows, pronounced lentils, and lighted door surrounds. The side lights are typical of Greek Revival, showing the transition.

Some of the details that make these Federal homes include the even placement of the windows, pronounced lentils and square door surrounds.

This Federal row home in Philadelphia was built around 1805.

Federal row house in Philadelphia.

Another example in Philadelphia.

Federal row house in Philadelphia.



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