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. 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.
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)
- Poppeliers, John C.S., et al. What Style Is It? A Guide to American Architecture. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1983.