Georgian architecture gets its name from the style of architecture common in England and
its colonies during the first three Georges (1714-1830). It is based on architectural theories
established during the Italian Renaissance with particular attention to the theories of
Andrea Palladio. Palladio, active in the area around Venice from 1508-1580, was
especially interested in adapting ancient Roman and Greek forms to contemporary
building. Among his noteworthy buildings are a Greek theater in Vicenza and a series of
villas in its surrounding countryside, particularly the Villa La Rotonda which allegedly
inspired Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
The first architect to use these forms in England was Inigo Jones in a design for the
Queen's house in Greenwich, England and the dining hall of the Whitehall palace in
London. These early examples were influential but it would be another 90+ years before the
style became widespread. Nicholas Hawksmoor, in the church of St Martin in the Fields
(London) and Christopher Wren's rebuilding program for the London Churches burned in
the Great London Fire 1666, marked the widespread adoption of the Georgian style.
This was also the time of the first English settlements and the colonists quickly adopted the
current English architectural fashions in their major public and private buildings. One fine
early example is Bruton Parish church in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Georgian style incorporates several principles which actually originate in ancient
architecture. The most important is symmetry, where one side of a building forms a mirror
image of the other side. Symmetry can occur in a building's appearance from the outside
(its elevation) and in its layout (its plan) and even its interior rooms. Georgian architects
were known to install false doors (as in Independence Hall) with solid walls behind them on
one side of a room to "balance" a functioning door on the opposite side.