Les beaux-arts, French for “fine arts.” Also name of the influential Parisian art school (École des Beaux-Arts, founded in 1648). This school had a considerable effect on American architects and architectural education in the late 19th century.
Classical and Renaissance elements were used in grand design on a monumental scale. The leading American proponents were Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) and Cass Gilbert (1859-1934). Features include exuberant detail and a variety of stone finishes, including include swags, medallions, flowers, and balustrades. Projecting facades and pavilions were common, with colossal columns often grouped in pairs, enriched moldings, and free-standing statuary. Windows were often enframed by free-standing columns, a balustrated sill, and pedimented entablature. Cornices and enriched entablatures were often topped with a tall parapet, balustrade, or attic story (Blumenson, 67)
Grand Central Terminal, New York City, New York (Reed and Stem, which was responsible for the overall design of the terminal and Warren and Wetmore, which mainly made cosmetic alterations to the exterior and interior), is a train terminal.
Tremaine-Gallacgher House (c. 1914, F.W. Striebinger), Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is a domestic-scale example of the late Beaux Arts style which was characterized by a quiet elegance suited to a large suburban mansion such as this. (Poppeliers, 67)
A.C. Bliss House (1907, A. Goenner), Washington, D.C. Proves that the Beaux Arts style was an amalgam – here mixing Roman quoins, an oversized late Renaissance dormer with a broken pediment and an exaggerated, steep roof that shows French late medieval influence. (Poppeliers, 67)
The Library of Congress (1889-97, Smithmeyer and Pelz), Washington, D.C. One of America’s most grandiose Beaux Arts designs. Nearly every element of the style is found here, including the monumental entrance stairway. (Poppeliers, 68-69)
City of Paris Dry Goods Company (1896, Clinton Day; reconstructed 1908-09, James R. Miller), San Francisco, California. An early Beaux Arts commercial structure in San Francisco. This detail shows an Art Nouveau influence appropriate to its name. (Poppeliers, 68-69)
- classical columns, one-story
- classical columns, two-story (colossal)
- baskethandle arch
- grand stairways
- Foster, Gerald. American Houses: A Field Guide to the Architecture of the Home. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
- McAlester, Virginia. A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture. New York, NY: Knopf, 2015.
- Poppeliers, John C.S., et al. What Style Is It? A Guide to American Architecture. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1983.
- Roth, Leland M. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1980.
- Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide to the Styles. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996.
Also see Architecture / Style index.