The Beaux Arts architecture style influenced American architecture during the period between 1885 through the late 1920’s, up until the great depression. Homes designed in the Beaux Arts style are classical and share many of the same details found in other styles of Renaissance classical designs such as the Italian Renaissance architecture. Yet, Beaux Arts house plans express more elaborate decorative detailing compared to other similar styles outside of the Chateauesque architecture.
Most Beaux Arts designs were architect-designed public or government buildings in the wealthy urban centers of the country (i.e. New York, Boston, etc.). Two perfect examples of the American Beaux-Arts style, The Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library, are located within a few blocks of each other in New York City. However, in the pre-income tax days (before government greed), the wealth of many were boastfully and proudly displayed in the Beaux Arts house plans style expressing the taste and values of America’s industrial boom at the beginning of the 20th century. One example of this is the Breakers estate (see photo below) located in Newport, Rhode Island, the summer playground for the rich. In later years during the economic recession and taxes, these homes became a burden and to much to handle. Most have been destroyed, but others have been preserved as schools and museums.
The Beaux Arts home style can be distinguished by a number of design features. The design is always symmetrical. A flat or low-pitched hipped roof or the less common Mansard roof are the two principle roofs use in Beaux Arts architecture. Wall surfaces are decorated with with garlands and floral patterns, while the facade show quoins, pilasters, or columns (Ionic or Corinthian capitals, usually in pairs). The walls are of smooth masonry finish (usually light-colored stone) with the first story being rusticated in most cases. Today, stucco is more frequently used to create the smooth walls and rusticated features. Cornice lines are highlighted by elaborate molding and dentil. Roof line balustrades and window balconies are common along with window crowns and surrounds of significant detailing. Common to this style also is the use of entry porches with the roof being supported by the type of columns listed above.
Beaux Arts in French, translates to “Fine Arts”.