Beaux Arts Homes - Washington DC Metro Area

Beaux Arts is one of the most commonly found types of architecture in Washington DC, and to a lesser extent in other parts of the Washington Metro area. This opulent style typified by highly detailed base relief is often seen in DC row houses and other larger buildings that were constructed during the late 1800s and early 1900s. And while Beaux Arts is sometimes associated with Victorian architecture—both thrived around the same time—there are some distinct differences.

The term itself means fine arts or beautiful arts in French, and the style was taught at France’s L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. It later caught on in the United States from roughly 1885 to 1925, and received much attention at the Chicago World’s Fair: Columbia Exposition in 1893. 

So what’s all this mean to today’s real estate buyers and how can we tell what’s Beaux Arts and what is not?

This is a subset of Greek Revival and Neoclassical architecture and those influences are especially noticeable in some of DC’s larger commercial and Federal buildings that have survived the tests of time. Large and blocky buildings with huge front columns, pronounced front bays, deep-set windows and thickly ornamented cornices (also known as ledges or horizontal decorative crowning along a building’s crown), are typically associated with the style.

But when it comes to the District’s ubiquitous row houses, things can get a bit murkier. That is because Beaux Arts architecture in the U.S. is generally considered to be part of the Eclectic Movement in American architecture which also includes Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Italianate and Richardsonian Romanesque. And, those particular styles also draw from earlier archetypes. It can all get a bit confusing!

When looking through listings for historic properties in the DC area, you’ll find a lot of “Beaux Arts” (or Beaux-Arts with a hyphen) descriptions. It’s an easy way to describe older buildings with ornamentation without diving too deep. Interested buyers will have to do their own research if there’s a desire to be super accurate.

But suffice to say that genuine Beaux Arts design principles are certainly prevalent when it comes to grand old buildings along Connecticut Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and in neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, Kalorama and many more.

Whether it’s bold lines, pronounced bays or incredibly detailed facades, Beaux Arts buildings in the Washington DC area are a reminder of the Gilded Age, when more was better and before the realities of the Great Depression arrived. A century later, the style is still making its presence known.

To learn more about Beaux Arts and the many other historic homes DC has to offer, call District Partners at Compass, 202-798-3600.