Architecture / Style / Beaux Arts

Chronology

1890-1915 (Whifften)
1890-1920 (Blumenson)
1890-1920 (Roth)
1885-1930 (McAlester)
1890-1930 (Baker)

Description

Les beaux-artsFrench 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. 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.

Leading Examples

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)

Whitehall (1900-02, Carrere and Hastings), Palm Beach, Florida. Has a monumental main stair whose bronze balustrade is perfectly complemented by the ornate furnishings. (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)

Sources Cited