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American Craftsman
An American Craftsman-style bungalow in San Diego, typical in older neighborhoods of many Western and Upper Midwest American cities
Years active1890s–1930s
InfluencesArts and Crafts movement

American Craftsman is an American domestic architectural style, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which included interior design, landscape design, applied arts, and decorative arts, beginning in the last years of the 19th century. Its immediate ancestors in American architecture are the Shingle style, which began the move away from Victorian ornamentation toward simpler forms, and the Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

"Craftsman" was appropriated from furniture-maker Gustav Stickley, whose magazine The Craftsman was first published in 1901. The architectural style was most widely used in small-to-medium-sized Southern California single-family homes from about 1905, so the smaller-scale Craftsman style became known alternatively as "California bungalow". The style remained popular into the 1930s and has continued with revival and restoration projects.


The American Craftsman style was a 20th century American offshoot of the British Arts and Crafts movement,[1] which began as early as the 1860s.[2]

A successor of other 19th century movements, such as the Gothic Revival and the Aesthetic Movement,[2] the British Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against the deteriorating quality of goods during the Industrial Revolution, and the corresponding devaluation of human labor, over-dependence on machines, and disbanding of the guild system.[3] Members of the Arts and Crafts movement also balked at Victorian eclecticism, which cluttered rooms with mismatched, faux-historic goods to convey a sense of worldliness.[4] The movement emphasized handwork over mass production. In some ways, it was just as much of a social movement as it was an aesthetic one, emphasizing the plight of the industrial worker and equating moral rectitude with the ability to create beautiful but simple things. These social currents can especially be seen in the writings of John Ruskin and William Morris, both highly influential thinkers for the movement.[5] In addition, adherents sought to elevate the status of art forms that had previously been seen as a mere trade and not fine art.[5]

The American movement also reacted against the eclectic Victorian "over-decorated" aesthetic; however, the arrival of the Arts and Crafts movement in late 19th century America coincided with the decline of the Victorian era. While the American Arts and Crafts movement shared many of the same goals as the British movement, such as social reform, a return to traditional simplicity over gaudy historic styles, the use of local natural materials, and the elevation of handicraft, it was also able to innovate: unlike the British movement, which had never been very good at figuring out how to make handcrafted production scalable,[5] American Arts and Crafts designers were more adept at the business side of design and architecture, and were able to produce wares for a staunchly middle-class market.[2] Gustav Stickley, in particular, hit a chord in the American populace with his goal of ennobling modest homes for a rapidly expanding American middle class, embodied in the Craftsman Bungalow style.[6]

In architecture, reacting to both Victorian architectural opulence and increasingly common mass-produced housing, the style incorporated a visibly sturdy structure of clean lines and natural materials. The movement's name American Craftsman came from the popular magazine, The Craftsman, founded in October 1901 by philosopher, designer, furniture maker, and editor Gustav Stickley.[7] The magazine featured original house and furniture designs by Harvey Ellis, the Greene and Greene company, and others.[8] The designs, while influenced by the ideals of the British movement, found inspiration in specifically American antecedents such as Shaker furniture and the Mission Revival Style, and the Anglo-Japanese style. Emphasis on the originality of the artist/craftsman led to the later design concepts of the 1930s Art Deco movement.[citation needed] The architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright, himself a member of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society, was inspired by the style to become an innovator in the Prairie School of architecture and design,[1] which shared many common goals with the Arts and Crafts movement.[9]

The Boston Society of Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts Movement emerged in the United States in Boston in the 1890s. The area was very receptive to the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement due to prominent thinkers like the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harvard Art History professor Charles Eliot Norton, who was a personal friend of British Art and Crafts leader William Morris.[10] The movement began with the first American Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by the printer Henry Lewis Johnson in April 1897 at Copley Hall,[11] featuring over 1,000 objects made by designers and craftspeople.

The exhibition's success led to the formation of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in June 1897 with Charles Eliot Norton as president.[12] The society aimed to "develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts."[13] The Society focused on the relationship of artists and designers to the world of commerce and high-quality craft.

The Society of Arts and Crafts mandate was soon expanded into a credo that read:

This Society was incorporated for the purpose of promoting artistic work in all branches of handicraft. It hopes to bring Designers and Workmen into mutually helpful relations, and to encourage workmen to execute designs of their own. It endeavors to stimulate in workmen an appreciation of the dignity and value of good design; to counteract the popular impatience of Law and Form, and the desire for over-ornamentation and specious originality. It will insist upon the necessity of sobriety and restraint, of ordered arrangement, of due regard for the relation between the form of an object and its use, and of harmony and fitness in the decoration put upon it.[14]

The society held its first exhibition in 1899 at Copley Hall.[12]

Notable Craftsman designers

Merrill Hall at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, a Julia Morgan design completed in 1928

In Southern California, the Pasadena-based firm Greene and Greene was the most renowned practitioner of the original American Craftsman Style. Their projects for Ultimate bungalows include the Gamble House and Robert R. Blacker House in Pasadena, and the Thorsen House in Berkeley, California—with numerous others in California. Other examples in the Los Angeles region include the Arts and Crafts Lummis House by Theodore Eisen and Sumner P. Hunt, along the Arroyo Seco in Highland Park, California and the Journey House, located in Pasadena.

In Northern California, architects renowned for their well-planned and detailed projects in the Craftsman style include Bernard Maybeck, with the Swedenborgian Church, and Julia Morgan, with the Asilomar Conference Grounds and Mills College projects. Many other designers and projects represent the style in the region.

In San Diego, California, the style was also popular. Architect David Owen Dryden designed and built many Craftsman California bungalows in the North Park district, now a proposed Dryden Historic District. The 1905 Marston House of George Marston in Balboa Park was designed by local architects Irving Gill and William Hebbard.

In the early 1900s, developer Herberg J. Hapgood built several Craftsman-style homes, many from stucco, that comprise the lakeside borough of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Residents were called "Lakers." The homes followed signature styles, including bungalows and chalets. Hapgood eventually went bankrupt.

The Castle in the Clouds, a mountaintop estate built in the Ossipee Mountains of New Hampshire in 1913–1914 for Thomas Gustave Plant by architect J. Williams Beal, is an example of the American Craftsman style in New England.[15]

Common architectural features

See also


  1. ^ a b Craig, Robert (February 24, 2010). "Craftsman Movement". Oxford Art Online. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  2. ^ a b c Crawford, Alan (July 28, 2014). "Arts and Crafts Movement". Oxford Art Online. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  3. ^ Suga, Yasuko (2004). "Art Education". In Adams, James Eli (ed.) Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era, vol. 1. Danbury, CT: Grolier Academic Reference.
  4. ^ Anderson, Anne (2004). "Decorative Arts and Design". In Adams, James Eli (ed.) Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era, vol. 1. Danbury, CT: Grolier Academic Reference.
  5. ^ a b c Anderson, Anne (2004). "Arts and Crafts Movement". In Adams, James Eli (ed.) Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era, vol. 1. Danbury, CT: Grolier Academic Reference.
  6. ^ Craig, Robert M. (20 January 2015). Bungalows in the United States. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T2289898. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. Retrieved 2020-04-15. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Smith, Mary Ann (1992). "The Beginnings of the Craftsman Empire". Gustav Stickley, the Craftsman. Courier Corporation. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-4862-7210-8 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Smith, Mary Ann (2003). "Stickley, Gustav(e)". Grove Art Online.
  9. ^ Sprauge, Paul (2003). "Prairie school". Oxford Art Online. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T069238. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Meister, M. (2014). An intellectual stew: Emerson, Norton, Brandeis. Arts and crafts architecture: History and heritage in New England. ISBN 9781611686647
  11. ^ Macomber, H. Percy (1916). "Arts and Crafts in the United States". In Levy, Florence N. (ed.). American Art Annual. Vol. 13. American Federation of Arts. p. 407.
  12. ^ a b Macomber, H. Percy (1916). "Arts and Crafts in the United States". In Levy, Florence N. (ed.). American Art Annual. Vol. 13. American Federation of Arts. p. 407.
  13. ^ Miller, J. (2017). Miller's Arts and Crafts: Living with the Arts and Crafts Style. London, Octopus Publishing.
  14. ^ Koplos, Janet; Metcalf, Bruce (2010). "Handwork and Industrialization". Makers: A History of American Studio Craft. University of North Carolina Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-8078-3413-8 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Cahn, Lauren. (March 13, 2019) "The Most Famous House in Every State. Image #29: Castle in the Clouds" website. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Michael J. Emmons Jr. (August 2, 2012). "Historic Style Spotlight: The Craftsman Bungalow". Historic House Blog. Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  17. ^ Conover, Jewel Helen (1966). "III. The Architecture". Nineteenth-Century Houses in Western New York. State University of New York Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-87395-017-8.
  18. ^ "Erehwon Retreat" Retrieved 24 September 2020

Further reading