The Gothic Revival Cottage was part of the
Romantic Revival Movement in American architecture. Plan
books published by Andrew Jackson Downing expanded on the works
of his friend Alexander Jackson Davis, designer of the first documented
American Gothic Revival residence in 1832. Downing's first book in 1842,
Cottage Residences, achieved wide circulation and
its tireless promotion by Downing popularized the style.
The title of Downing's second book published in 1850, The
Architecture of Country Houses, emphasizes the rural nature of
his vision. Oak Hill, like the examples presented in the plan
books, was the centerpiece of its landscaped grounds, carefully
contrived to present a natural setting.
Downing offered readers two choices of landscape
philosophies, the "beautiful" and the "picturesque". The
Gothic Revival Style lent itself to the "picturesque",
epitomized by the ancient oak tree next to which Oak Hill
Cottage was built.
According to "A Field Guide to American
Houses" by the McAlesters, "This style was seldom applied to
urban houses for two reasons. First, the writings of Davis
and Downing stressed its suitability as a rural style,
compatible with the natural landscape; it was not promoted as
appropriate for urban dwellings. Secondly, its emphasis on
high, multiple gables and wide porches did not physically lend
itself to narrow, urban lots."
The style went out of favor for residences
after 1865, but a High Victorian Gothic phase during the 1870s
was applied to primarily public and religious buildings.