Readers of this blog are already familiar with the value of architectural integrity – especially where historic buildings are concerned.  In a neighborhood of stylistically varied houses it is possible for a few of them to be compromised without visually ruining an entire street.  Repetitious and identical row houses, however, are far less forgiving.  It is here that the importance of architectural integrity is magnified and made more apparent.

Recently I received three photographs from Chad – who has been tirelessly working on his own renovation project.  The first was an example of a beautiful Colonial Revival townhouse in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia which was recently for sale.   I was curious about the surrounding neighborhood, so “drove” around via Google Street View.  I found a block of nearly identical houses, but few have retained their architectural integrity; examples will be seen below.

The other two photos he sent are a “before and after” pair depicting a house in Philadelphia’s historic Germantown neighborhood which will conclude our look at architectural integrity.

But first, let’s take a look at some good examples of row houses which demonstrate how honoring original architectural intent can create an attractive streetscape:


These townhouses in Alexandria, Virginia were built individually around the same time period. Each displays a high degree of architectural integrity. Though varied and painted differently, the houses are compatible with each other, respectful of each other and create an undeniably charming street.  It is helpful that the houses were never identical; they are not reliant upon a shared, uniform, identity.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


This row of identical houses in Baltimore, Maryland’s Charles Village neighborhood also retains its architectural integrity. Trim paint varies, but architectural elements – including the tile roofing – have survived and are obviously valued.  The beauty of this row is reliant upon a shared and uniform identity.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Six varied twentieth-century detached houses in Richmond, Virginia. The dwellings with the two-story porches are slightly younger than their neighbors.  Three have lost their original porches- creating a subtly choppy effect.  Despite these evident losses, the street still maintains a reasonably cohesive atmosphere – largely because the houses were never identical to each other from the start.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Three adjacent and similar row houses in Omaha, Nebraska. Though the house on the left has had its porch restyled around 1920, a common paint scheme shared by the neighbors downplays the loss to architectural integrity.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


This row of Italianate houses in Baltimore, Maryland, shares a common facade color while compatible trim colors vary slightly on some houses. The row retains a high degree of architectural integrity.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


This row of Italianate houses, also in Baltimore, had a unified appearance when built in the mid-nineteenth century. Varied tastes and levels of  maintenance have made these once-identical houses look vastly different from each other; the row is no longer harmonious.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Numerous houses in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, once looked like these two. They have maintained their architectural integrity since being built about a century ago.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Once identical to its neighbor, the house on the right with replacement siding now projects an entirely different character.  It has also lost its broken pediment above the bay window.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


The owners of these adjacent houses obviously worked together when planning their porch enclosures; they understood and valued the importance of architectural harmony and integrity.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


These adjacent houses also have porch enclosures. Symmetry and balance are eroded; architectural integrity is compromised.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


These houses are no longer mirror images of each other.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


The house on the left is still able to flaunt its original architectural character and details.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Try to imagine what this row looked when it was brand new.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


These four houses are in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. When built they were identical twins. Time has altered them, but they still retain an appearance similar to what was intended; it would be relatively easy to restore the facades.


Let’s take a closer look at these two…


The one on the left is about to get a drastic makeover.  Scroll down to see the new look!  Image courtesy Google Street View.
















Words fail me. Suggestions, anyone?  Photo courtesy of Chad.


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