This article is a part of a series from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s excellent field guide on the architectural styles found in Pennsylvania. In it, they’ve assigned key periods of development – from the Colonial period in the 18th Century to the Modern Movements of the 29th Century. This article focuses on an overview of the Traditional/Vernacular style in Pennsylvania from 1638 through 1950
PA Architecture Chateauesque Style 1860 – 1910
1. French chateau-like appearance
2. Round tower with conical roof
3. Steeply pitched hipped or gable roof, often with cresting
4. Tall chimneys with decorative caps
5. Round arch or flattened basket-handle arch entry
6. Multiple dormers
7. Quatrefoil or arched tracery decorative elements
8. Balustraded terrace
9. Usually of masonry (stone or brick) construction
The Chateauesque style is exactly what it sounds like: an effort to recreate the appearance and stylistic elements of the palatial French chateaus of the 16 th century. Details borrow elements from the Gothic style and the Renaissance style, just as the original Chateau designs did. The Chateauesque style was popularized in the US by by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France . Buildings of this style are almost always architect-designed, grand places intended to impress.
Chateauesque style buildings are easy to identify due to their imposing appearance and characteristic complex roof line with abundant detailing. Buildings of this style have steeply pitched hipped (and sometimes gabled) roofs, topped by cresting or finials, and pierced by decorative gabled wall dormers. Low relief carving may ornaments the dormer gables and window surrounds. Chimneys are tall and have decorative corbelled tops. Another standout feature is a round tower topped by a conical roof, although some more modest examples of the style may omit the tower. Balconies may feature Gothic inspired quatrefoil or arched tracery patterns. Entry doors often have round arches or a flattened arch with an ogee arch molding.
Most examples of this rather rare style are found in a sophisticated urban setting or on an estate where such opulent, high style buildings might be expected. Several outstanding mansions of Chateauesque style have been identified in the Philadelphia area and also public buildings such as city halls in other locations.
After the turn of the 20th century, elements of the Chateauesque style were incorporated into a revival form sometimes called the French Eclectic style. Identified by a round tower with a high conical roof and steeply pitched hipped roof, this style often appears in early 20th century neighborhoods along with other popular revival styles of the the era, such as the Tudor and Colonial Revival styles.