Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Chateauesque/ French Revival
(sha toe ESK; plural: châteaux)

The Chateauesque style, c. 1860-1910, is characterized by massive and irregular forms, steeply pitched hip or gable roofs with dormers, towers, and tall elaborately decorated chimneys with corbeled caps

A "chateau" is a French castle, country manor, or large country home.


Large houses inspired by French chateaux (or feudal castles) of the late Renaissance era have never been commonplace in America, particularly beyond the East coast...

Despite origins in the European countryside, the Chateauesque or French Revival style, as it is called in this country, is most often an urban phenomenon...

The French Revival style evolved in the late 19th century and lasted into the 1920s and 1930s. There are two basic design approaches - the somewhat "archaeological" one taken at Biltmore [official website], the great Vanderbilt estate in North Carolina, which was modeled faithfully on historical French precedent, and a more general one, exemplified by buildings that borrow broadly from French idioms to arrive at a picturesque and comfortable effect...

Such castle-like houses are usually replete with elaborate masonry decoration, circular towers, and turrets. In their era, they were potent symbols of America's expanding economic and cultural horizons...

Simpler [than Biltmore], more typically American designs are most often called French Eclectic or Norman...

As with most American house styles, there are few "pure" examples of the
Chateauesque. There is, for example, a tendency to mix the massive stonework of the Romanesque Revival style with French ideas.

... a big, circular corner tower, topped by a steeply conical roof, along with prominent,
casement-windowed dormers lends a decidedly French cachet. Add to those elements even more casement windows in the body of the house, a steeply hipped main roof covered in varicolored slate (or perhaps even stone), and very tall brick chimneys - all typically French featlures. 

- "Ask OHJ" in Old House Journal, July-August 2008, p. 22


Photos and their arrangement © 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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