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Denver architecture: Beaux Arts

Popular from 1880-1930, Beaux-Arts style buildings are some of the most opulent in American architecture. The style represented a reaction against eclectic Victorian era expressions that celebrated asymmetry and featured a mixture of patterns and textures. While ornate, the Beaux-Arts style is more orderly than those of the Victorian era. Architects who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in France brought the style to America. The École curriculum focused on ancient Greek and Roman architecture and exposed students to Renaissance architecture and the practice of carefully adding sculptural elements and decoration to the traditionally more austere works of the ancients.

The Beaux-Arts style lends itself to monumental works and most examples are public buildings such as schools, train stations, financial institutions, and state capitols. Residential examples of the style tend to be mansions built by successful capitalists. Beaux-Arts buildings are nearly always symmetrical and prominently feature columns as both a stylistic element and a celebration of structure. While the time periods and reliance on classical elements share some overlap, Beaux-Arts buildings should not be confused with the more reserved Classical Revival style. Beaux-Arts buildings feature a more liberal use of decorative elements, often having applied sculptural features or statuary adorning the walls or roofline.

Beaux-Arts designs are most commonly executed in light colored stone, especially marble or sandstone. Buildings of this style occasionally have mansard roofs, but more often a flat or low-pitched roof was used. Classical ordering is common, with buildings often having a lower level clad in rusticated stone, middle floors featuring more refined design elements and details (pedimented windows with balustraded sills, garlands or swags adorning the walls, pilasters or columns), and an exaggerated cornice at the top. While some examples are asymmetrical, most Beaux-Arts buildings feature bold symmetry.

What makes a house a Beaux Arts?

Common elements of Beaux Arts: Symmetrical façade, flat or low-pitched roof, masonry exterior (usually stone), sculptural elements (cartouche, statuary, garlands), prominent columns (often paired) and cornice, balustrades (often along roofline), banded rustication, quoins.

Where to look

You can see Beaux Arts here: 2900 East 7th Avenue, 817 Race Street, 770 High Street, 909 York Street, 910 Gaylord Street.