Why Do So Many Public Buildings in the U.S. Look Like Greek Temples?

In the Architectural Void of a New Nation, William Strickland Borrowed from Ancient Athens to Express America's Democratic Ethos

President Andrew Jackson took a keen interest in the construction of the federal mint in Philadelphia, a grand, columned edifice, inspired by the temples of ancient Greece, that opened in 1833. Jackson was not a man known for his appreciation of cultural and artistic pursuits. A populist who famously railed against the elites, he had initially wanted to construct a simple building for minting money quickly, because there was a severe shortage of specie—coins—in the country at the time.

Gradually, though, he came around to the idea of a grander mint, and became personally involved in many aspects of the building’s design, from its placement in a prime location, backed up to …