LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 15: CHATEAUESQUE STYLE, 1880-1900

Chateauesque is one of the many revival styles that were popularized during the late 19th century.

The revival styles consisted of four main categories; Medieval, Renaissance. Baroque and Modern. Each category had specific revival subsets, such as Dutch, Tudor, Moorish and Egyptian, to mention a few.

Chateauesque falls under the Renaissance revival period. Located in central France, the bucolic Loire Valley was the “summer playground” for the French aristocracy during the 16th century. In the summer months, royalty and families of great wealth would leave Paris to escape the heat and grime of the city and take refuge in their castlelike palaces in the “garden of France.”

The chateaus were the inspiration and opportunity for American architect Richard Morris Hunt to provide a fresh design interpretation of what he saw and studied in France.



His most notable chateauesque residence in the United States is the famous 1895 Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The 250-room “single-family home” for William Vanderbilt easily rivals the scale and beauty of its French counterparts. The asymmetrical floor plans, massive scale, rich building materials and complex rooflines made this style unattainable for the average American family.

The most common features found on a chateauesque building include steeply pitched tall hip or pyramidal roofs, multiple and varied dormer designs, broken rooflines, spires, turrets with conical or bell-shaped roofs and pinnacles. Rarely are the floor plans or building facades symmetrical. These special design features and construction techniques increased building costs and decreased the demand.

Lancaster is fortunate to have several outstanding chateauesque style homes to enjoy.

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The Roslyn mansion, at the corner of President and Marietta avenues, is an example of chateauesque design.

The Hamilton Club at Duke and Orange streets, designed by James H. Warner for Catherine Long in 1890, and Roslyn, at Marietta and North President avenues, designed by C. Emlen Urban for Peter T. Watt in 1896, are the two most recognizable examples in town.

The April 26, 1896, New Era newspaper described Roslyn as a “palatial affair …with no two rooms alike.”

Urban also designed mansions for Menno Fry and Elmer Steigerwalt on West Chestnut Street.

The most modest example of a chateauesque style residence in town is located at 336 W. Chestnut St. Take time to enjoy a visit to the French Loire Valley without a passport.

What is a bell-shaped roof?

The name is derived from its visual reference to a handbell with concave and convex curves — a very complicated roof form to construct.

What is a conical roof?

The conical roof has the appearance of an upside-down ice-cream cone. Like the bell-shaped roof, it is a challenge to construct.

How many square feet is the Biltmore Estate?

The total area is 178,926 square feet (4.1 acres). The front facade is 374 feet in length!

This column is contributed by Gregory J. Scott, FAIA, a local architect with more than four decades of national experience in innovation and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows. Email GScott@rlps.com.

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