Hamilton Halton Construction Association   Ontario Architecture  
resources
home
Contact Building Terms Building Styles Building Terms

Building Styles

Beaux Arts (1885 - 1945)

-- Beaux Arts Architecture

---Banks ---- Perth-------- Brantford ----- Norwich-------- Galt--------- Hamilton- ------- Thunder Bay------- Toronto Bank of Montreal ------- Toronto Canada Life ----- Ottawa --

-------Libraries---- Ayr -------- Dundas-------- Brantford---

-------Train Stations --- Toronto Union Station-------- Ottawa-----

-------Theatres and Commercial Buildings---- Royal Albert -------- Dundas-------- Brantford---

-------Civic Buildings and Schools---- Ayr -------- Dundas-------- Brantford---

Beaux Arts

The Beaux Arts style developed in the last decades of the 19th century. The name is taken from the École des Beaux Arts in Paris which was put under direct state control by Napoleon III. The Opera House, pictured below, illustrates the final flourishing of the classical styling used by Haussman in Paris and which influenced the Ontario Second Empire style. The Opera House is almost Neo-Baroque in its richness but illustrates the principles of the Beaux Arts style being dependant on a strong central axis and a proliferation of Classical detailing to create a space of sumptuous grandure.

The Beaux Arts style is derived from all of the Classical elements that had been taught in the Ecole de Beaux Arts since the 17th century. The style was popular in Europe but became the default style of architecture for banks and train stations in North America, these buildings also wanting to portray an image of grandure and wealth.

The adoption of the Beaux Arts style horrified all those who were interested in developing the North American designs initiated by Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Louis Sullivan.

Promoters of the Beaux Arts style sought to express the Classical principles on a grand and imposing scale different than the austere and controlled 'temple front designs' of similarly imposing court houses and city halls. Although Classical Revival and Neo-Classical use the same vocabulary of pediments, columns and architraves, their designs are much more conservative and traditional. The Ontario Beaux Arts style is eclectic, mixing elements of Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque. Often the designs have more than one temple-like façade, and a cut-off corner is the entrance. Pedimented porticos can be mixed in with balustrades and Mansard roofs; many capital styles can be found on the same building.

Background

In 1780 7,000 United Empire Loyalists arrived in Upper Canada. Thirty years later, by 1810, there were twenty times that many settlers arriving from both the Thirteen Colonies (now America) and Europe. By 1850 there were 1 million people in Ontario. By 1895 that number had doubled to 2 miliion.

Click Hotpoints for descriptions of terms in both text and images.

Paris

Many buildings from this era suffer from an excess of ornament, but the more beautiful buildings done in this style are truly magnificent. The Opera House in Paris by Garnier is a good example. It is a huge building with an extravagant and avant guard floor plan. Each wing of the building is calculated to give maximum visual impact and to create a sense of occasion both inside and out.

This is the kind of architecture that inspired the Beaux Arts style in Canada.

Second Empire - Paris Opera House

Paris Opera House

 

 

Beaux Arts Banks

In the late 19th century, banks as institutions accessable to the common person had not been around for very long. There had always been money lenders, but the bank as we know it today did not exist. There were a few banks around in the first half of the 19th century, and only 28 banks in Canada by the time of confederation. In Ontario, the great influx of people and the overnight success of some of the more successful lead to the need for some secure place to store wealth. In addition, the housing and business booms lead less wealthy people to want to borrow money in unprecedented numbers. Banking institutions did not have a great reputation either in Europe or in North America, as can be seen in the many 'bank robbery' western movies. The turn-of-the-century bank needed to look secure.

The Beaux Arts style was meant to indicate that the patron or owner of the building was both wealthy and educated. The strong classical roots, indicating empire and stability of government was brought into a whole new sphere of elegant opulence by the generous use of oversized classical motifs intermingled in ways that bore no resemblance to the Greek or Roman origins. Huge columns, oversized cornices, and lush ornament lead the client to believe that any monetary transactions would be safe and secure. These enormous and imposing buildings were implying integrity and confidence. Large towns had solid stone banks. Smaller towns had brick banks with stone accents when stone was not readily available.

Perth

A square building with the entrance on a cutoff corner and a multiplicity of Classical detailing is an obvious Beaux Arts building. This bank in Perth, built in 1903 by Darling and Pearson, is typical of this pattern of Beaux Arts banks. On the street façades are temple fronts with pediments, architraves, dentils, and engaged pilasters.

Unlike the Classical Revival style, the Beaux Arts style makes no pretensions to accuracy of detailing. Instead, it is an eclectic mixture of Classical and Renaissance details. Along with the temple front are half-round windows with keystones, and above the pediments are corner buttresses. The windows on the upper floor have pediments, and within the tympanum of the large pediments are roundels. The building is created in a mixture of red and yellow brick with rough cut stone on the base for rustication.

Beaux Arts Bank

Perth Ontario

Brantford

Like the bank in Perth above, this is another corner bank in Brantford that is of the oversized Classical mixture style. Here we have giant order, fluted, Ionic pilasters along the sides with giant order engaged columns on the corner front. Above these are a continuous architrave and frieze with a large cornice and dentil blocks.

On the attic level is a series of windows with alternating triangular and Florentine pediments in the Renaissance style. The parapet on the corner door has a small ziggurat pattern. This mixture of Renaissance and Classical elements is standard for Beaux Arts style buildings.

Beaux Arts Bank

Brantford Ontario

Norwich

In many parts of Western Ontario the local brick is a lovely yello or orange colour. Here in Norwich the Bank of Montreal sports a local brick with an impressive set of engaged stone pilasters. The three round headed arches on the first floor are Diocletian arches.

This building faces the street, but it is in stark contrast to the rest of the Victorian streetscape.

Beaux Arts Bank

Norwich Ontario

Galt

Galt has many fine stone buildings. This Beaux Arts Bank is similar in design to the one in Norwich, but is built with stone.

Beaux Arts Bank pediment

Galt Ontario

Hamilton

The Bank of Montreal in Hamilton is much larger but is basically the same design as the two above.

Beaux Arts Bank pediment

Hamilton Ontario

Griffin Hamilton

Beaux Arts is difficult to distinguish from Art Deco because both styles are generally for large buildings and both are often constructed in stone. The detailing on Beaux Arts will be Classical. Art Deco detailing will not be something that you can recognise from either the Greek or Roman time periods.

Here the Griffin design on the Bank of Montreal building, first appearing in Mesopotamia, is a design often copied in Renaissance and baroque periods.

Beaux Arts Bank

Hamilton Ontario

Thunder Bay

If Gothic was the vocabulary for educational institutes, Classical was the vocabulary for banks. This CIBC in Thunder Bay has four massive Doric columns with large abacuses and prominent fluting. There are an unusually high frieze with windows, a large cornice, and an attic floor with stylized triglyphs and guttae. The inspiration shows the relatively unadorned surfaces of Greek architecture as opposed to the more ornate Roman.

The pedimented doorway between the central two columns has discrete engaged pilasters and a very simple architrave. The Classical elements are monumental and imposing giving the impression of solidity and mass that is most appropriate in a bank.

Beaux Arts Bank

Thunder Bay Ontario

Thunder Bay

This bank building designed in 1913 is constructed of local lime stone. In contrast to the extravagant Beaux Arts buildings above, this represents a movement towards "Modern Classicism". Instead of the frantic mixture of Classical and Renaissance detailing, the elements have been reduced to bare essentials.

An exaggerated Renaissance style cornice separates the attic floor from the monumental arcaded façades of the first floor. The windows are divided by unadorned paired pilasters. The half-round windows have simple keystones.

Spandrel panels between the upper and lower halves of the windows show restrained detailing that suggests Art Deco influence. This is repeated on the front door where the broken pediment and keystoned crest containing the date have a decidedly stylized look. All the Classical elements are here but they are used in a more subdued and understatedly elegant manner.

 

Beaux Arts Bank Cornice Spandrel Pilaster Parapet Architrave

Thunder Bay Ontario

Front Door Detail

Toronto

This is a less colourful, but much better known, building than the Perth example above. Like it, the entrance is on a cutoff corner and there are two temple fronts facing the street. There is much more ornament and decorative flourishing such as the volutes over the second storey window, the extravagant doorway, and the carved architrave. The pilasters supporting the pediments have ornate capitals as well as crests and garlands.

This Bank of Montreal building was built in 1885 by Darling and Curry. It is now the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Aedicule

An aedicule is a Calssical Door Surround using pilasters, a pediment, and an entablature. This is found on the south elevation of the Bank of Montreal building.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto - Balusrtade

Over the entrance, on the corner of the building,there is an attic story crowned by a balustrade. A small edicule stands in the center. It is flanked by scrolls and has a 'rococo' shell in the tympanum.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto - Pediment

The pediment is in the Baroque style with a broken eliptical arch, a triangulated pediment rsing through the center, and adroned by scrolls. There is both dentil and egg and dart molding. The crest in the center is the Bank of Montreal crest.

Two First Nations people relax beside a sheild which has a beaver, and elm branch which are native to Ontario, the rose and clovers which symbolize British influence and the French Fleurs De Lis. The words: Concordia Salus, latin for "Well-being through harmony", means control over natural resources by commerce.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto - Entrance

The entrance has a coffered barrel vault, with branches in the spandrel panels. There is a keystone and band with another rococo shell within the frieze.

The engaged pilasters have stylized Ionic columns, fluting that extend from the capital to the spring line of the arch.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Bank Bathurst and College

Beaux Arts banks can be found in many parts of Toronto. This oversized soffit is on a bank at Bathurst and College Streets. The soffits are coffered and under these is a frieze of egg and dart. Scrolls with margents flank the window.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Bank Bathurst and College

Obviously this building needs a bit of work, but it is interesting to see how the building was put together. The egg and dart is wonderful as is the beading and the fluting on the column.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Vitruvian Scroll

Above the door on the College Street entrance is a Vitruvian Scroll.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Reed and Ribbon

The door has a round headed arch. There are radiating palm leaves surrounded by a reed and ribbon design.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

DowntownToronto

Further downtown is an old Bank of Montreal that has a similar door design. Instead of reed and ribbon this is husk and ribbon.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

The Canada Life Assurance Company was one of the first Beaux Arts buildings on University Avenue. Insurqance companies grew along with banks in Ontario. Finished in 1931 it was a precursor to the Great Depression, so did not have much company on the street for a few years.

There are huge scroll consoles with triglyphs and guttae on either side of the main door. The Florentine pediment has an oversized keystone.

The Doric style columns start on the second floor. The facade is achromatic and elegant.

Beaux Arts Insurance Company

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

The side door has a cast iron lintel with a central acroterion. The walls are banded ashlar. The keystone is oversized and ornate.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

Next door is another Beaux Arts building that has the classical bucrane as a decoration on the architrave.

The capitals are a mixture of palm leaves (on the top) and acanthus on the bottom. Typical of the Beaux Arts style is the mixing of various unrelated classical motifs on the same facade. Palm capitals are more Egyptian in origin while acanthus are more Greek and Roman.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

The side door has a cast iron lintel with a central acroterion. The walls are banded ashlar. The keystone is oversized and ornate.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

The side door has a cast iron lintel with a central acroterion. The walls are banded ashlar. The keystone is oversized and ornate.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

Next door is another Beaux Arts building that has the classical bucrane as a decoration on the architrave.

The capitals are a mixture of palm leaves (on the top) and acanthus on the bottom. Typical of the Beaux Arts style is the mixing of various unrelated classical motifs on the same facade. Palm capitals are more Egyptian in origin while acanthus are more Greek and Roman.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

Here is an agraffe.

 

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Bucrane Toronto

The bucrane is either an ox or a ram's head found on Doric metopes. Often the head is adorned, as it is here, with a husk - bell-flowers in a link. There are also ribbons completing the symbol of opulence and plenty.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Beaux Arts Libraries

Public libraries were few and far between in the 19th century, and indeed in any century prior to the 20th century. ) There was a lending library in York (Toronto) in 1810, but it was not open to the general public. There were a few libraries supported by the Mechanics Institute by 1830, but it was for members only. The Mechanics Institute ran most of the libraries in Ontario. A few private lending libraries run by people with large estates and an interest in the growing movement towards education, could be found in the larger towns and cities, but the publicly funded library was considered a necessity until the Free Library Act was passed in 1884 making the library an established institution. The restrictions by wealth, class and gender on literacy since time immemorial was lifted and anyone could apply for a library card.

(A wonderful vignette on the issuance of library cards can be found in the new Laurence Hill book The Illegal). .

Mechanics Institutes were renamed libraries in 1895.

Once the idea of the library was started, then the money to build and fill the libraries, as well as to provide staff, became an issue.

Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist established 3000 libraries in America, Canada, Britain and other English speaking countries between 1880 and 1920. 111 of those were built in Ontario, most of them in the Beaux Arts style.

The Beaux Arts style was a perfect choice for this new type of building. There has always been great reverence for reading and literature. The grand style of the Beaux Arts complimented this attitude.

Carnegie Dundas

by architect Alfred Hirschfelder Chapman

John Lyle studied first in the Hamilton School of Art, then at Yale University and finally the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He settled in Toronto and dedicated the best part of his career to making Toronto beautiful not just through buildings but also through boulevards, squares and other niceties that enhance the visual landscape.

Beaux Arts Bank

Dundas Ontario

Public Library Ayr

The Public Library in Ayr is a Carnegie Librarry as well. Designed by architect William Edward Binning, it was opened in 1911.

Notice that the massing of the building is very similar to that of the Galt Bank above.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Ayr Ontario

Brantford

Here is a somewhat different adaptation of Beaux Arts Classicism on a public building; this time it is the Brantford Public Library.

Atop the impressive flight of stairs is a temple-front with four Ionic columns, an entablature announcing the purpose of the building, a pediment with dentiled cornices, a brick tympanum, and an anthemion - a Greek palmette ornament used at the peak of pediments. This temple-front lies in front of a Renaissance styled façade with a heavy cornice and pedimented windows. The center of the plan has a large dome with clerestory lighting. Altogether an impressive place for books.

Beaux Arts Library

Brantford Ontario

Beaux Arts Train Stations

Train stations, like banks, had no traditional precedent. While there had been steam powered railways in Britain since the early 1700s, the early efforts of Ontario travellers were more concerned with waterways. By 1850 many rail systems across Canada had started up and were thriving. Most of these were carrying goods, not passengers. Confederation in 1867 was the final push that lead to the rail service being available across the country. Shortly thereafter, passenger trains to hold in earnest and travel from one spot to another revolutionised the social life of Canada.

Temple Meads station in Bristol England, designed by I.K. Brunel and built in the first half of the 19th century in England is in the shape of a castle. Paddington station has Venetian elements. While train travel was a modern, revolutionary, even life altering technology, designers were able to embrace the new technology but looked to historic buildings as their inspiration.

The Beaux Arts style offers both the recognised historic precedents and the image of grandure and opulence, excitement and urban life.

Union Station Toronto

Union Station is possibly the most well known building designed by architect John Lyle. That he was completely engrossed in the style can be seen by the fact that his place of work was called an Atelier.

John Lyle studied first in the Hamilton School of Art, then at Yale University and finally the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He settled in Toronto and dedicated the best part of his career to making Toronto beautiful not just through buildings but also through boulevards, squares and other niceties that enhance the visual landscape.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Union Station Toronto

Tuscan Order columns line the front of the Union Staion in Toronto. The station is fashioned after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Tuscan was a Roman order, one of the original Classical orders of architecture.

Under the upper cornice you find dentils. The lower cornice has egg and dart. There are wreaths along the frieze indicating wealth and opulence. The Greek key design is found elsewhere in Toronto.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Toronto

One door in Union station has a huge coffered barrel vault with a cartouched keystone. The windows above the door and the mouldings around the galss doors are all polished brass.

Beaux Arts Bank Balustrade Pediment Crest Capital Architrave Doorway Cornice Pediment

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa 1912

There is a fabulous Beaux Arts train station downtown Ottawa It was meant to be a central train station situated across for the Chateau Laurier hotel and a very short walk to the downtown core.

It functioned in that capacity for many years, then in the 1970s it was decided that there was no more need for trains downtown. The Ottawa train station is now far outside the downtown core, and a bus must be taken from the station to the downtown core. This beautiful building is now a conference center.

Beaux Arts Bank

Ottawa Ontario

Ottawa 1912

The center is an easy walk to the park. The colonade on the south side of the building, opens onto the river and the park.

Beaux Arts Bank

Ottawa Ontario

Ottawa 1912

The Ottawa Government Conference center is much simpler than the Toronto Union Station. The cornice has a simple attic storey above. The columns are Doric order, but not strictly adhering to the Classical model. There are dentils under the cornice.

Beaux Arts Bank

Ottawa Ontario

Dominion Public Building

ASlo on Front street

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

 

 

Beaux Arts Theatres and Commercial Buildings

In the late 19th century, banks as institutions accessable to the common person had not been around for very long. There had always been money lenders, but the bank as we know it today did not exist. In Ontario, the great influx of people and the overnight success of some of the more successful lead to the need for some secure place to store wealth. In addition, the housing and business booms lead less wealthy people to want to borrow money in unprecedented numbers. Banking institutions did not have a great reputation either in Europe or in North America, as can be seen in the many 'bank robbery' western movies. The turn-of-the-century bank nee4ded to look secure.

The Beaux Arts style was meant to indicate that the patron or owner of the building was both wealthy and educated. The strong classical roots, indicating empire and stability of government was brought into a whole new sphere of elegant opulence by the generous use of oversized classical motifs intermingled in ways that bore no resemblance to the Greek or Roman origins. Huge columns, oversized cornices, and lush ornament lead the client to believe that any monetary transactions would be safe and secure. Large towns had solid stone banks. Smaller towns had brick banks with stone accents when stone was not readily available.

Royal Alexandra

Not far from his very famous Union Station, John Lyle designed the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1907

Like many Beaux Arts buildings, you can see that it is an extension of the Second Empire style.

Beaux Arts Theatre

Royal Alexandra, Toronto Ontario

Royal Alexandra

The theatre is named after the grandmother of Edward VII, of the Edwardian style of architecture. It was granted the royal designation by King Edward and is now. This is the sole remaining theatre in North America with the royal designation.

Beaux Arts Bank

Royal Alexandra, Toronto Ontario

Dominion Public Building Toronto

Here is a another different adaptation of Beaux Arts Classicism on a public building. Here we have a Renaissance first story with crossettes and exaggerated Edwardian keystones. Atop this is a giant order of colmns spanning three floors, something not found in either Renaissance or Classical architecture.

There is a large cornice, like those in the above buildings, that undulates back from the hexastyle (six columns) quasi-temple front. The style is remeniscent of the banks found in Hamilton, Galt and Thunder bay with the pediment and attice being somewhat merged together.

Beaux Arts Bank

Toronto Ontario

Ottawa

Like the Dominion building above, this building in Ottawa has second storey giant order engaged pilasters and an undulating attic above the cornice.

Beaux Arts Bank

Ottawa Ontario

 

 

Beaux Arts Civic Buildings and Schools

Train stations, like banks, had no traditional precedent. While there had been steam powered railways in Britain since the early 1700s, the early efforts of Ontario travellers were more concerned with waterways. By 1850 many rail systems across Canada had started up and were thriving. Most of these were carrying goods, not passengers. Confederation in 1867 was the final push that lead to the rail service being available across the country. Shortly thereafter, passenger trains to hold in earnest and travel from one spot to another revolutionised the social life of Canada.

Temple Meads station in Bristol England, designed by I.K. Brunel and built in the first half of the 19th century in England is in the shape of a castle. Paddington station has Venetian elements. While train travel was a modern, revolutionary, even life altering technology, designers were able to embrace the new technology but looked to historic buildings as their inspiration.

The Beaux Arts style offers both the recognised historic precedents and the image of grandure and opulence, excitement and urban life.

Toronto Power -Generating Station --Niagara Falls

This is one of the most spectacular Beaux Arts buildings in the province, enhanced by it's incredible location beside the waters of Niagara Falls. There is a rotunda with radiating Ionic columnd, a huge cornice with mutules, and wonderful scrolled ornaments on the attic level remeniscent of Cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. The architect, E.J. Lennox, must have had a grand time designing it.

 

Beaux Arts Bank

Niagara Falls Ontario

Niagara Falls

The main doorway has a hexastyle temple front.

Beaux Arts Classicism in Sault Ste. Marie

Niagara Falls Ontario

Niagara Falls

Note the huge dentil blocks and the massive columns over an aediculed window.

Beaux Arts Classicism in Sault Ste. Marie

Niagara Falls Ontario

Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie's Courthouse is another example of a civic building that is created in the Beaux Arts Classicism style. Instead of stone block the material is brick with stone detailing. Again we see an eclectic mixture of Classical and Renaissance details. From the Classical are four engaged Ionic columns under a pediment . The columns are only half the height of the façade and are part of a frontispiece . Like the Renaissance palazzi, the first floor is rusticated and the windows create a regularized pattern.

Beaux Arts Classicism in Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Thunder Bay

At first glance this looks like a Neo-Gothic school because of the street level which is composed of a four-centered arch opening, spandrels and buttresses. But this base supports a monumental Classical Composite order frontispiece with an exaggerated cornice and elliptical lunette. The cornice is ornamented with egg-and-dart molding.

The side piers have Baroque brackets and above the cornice band is a pediment design completely split into two parts. The building has permanence and presence, but the detailing is wonderfully wild.

Beaux Arts School

Thunder Bay Ontario

Hamilton

At first this bank in Hamilton looks almost as if it could be a Classical Revival. the temple front is convincing until you see that there are four columns and two pillars making up the front. All have Corinthian capitals, but the columns are fluted while the pillars are not.

 

Beaux Arts Library

Hamilton Ontario

BLDG10043

Beaux Arts Extra Reading and Films

Books

McArthur, Glenn. A Progressive traditionalist: John Lyle, Architect. Toronto: Coach House press, 2009

MacRae, Marion, and Anthony Adamson. The Ancestral Roof: Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1963.

For information on Beaux Arts architecture in specific areas within Ontario there are some very good books listed under the About page.

Films

Becoming Jane - Anne Hathaway

 

 

 

Cornice Triglyph Guttae Doric Column Echinus Abacus Architrave Pediment Architrave Echinus Cornice Balustraded Parapet Pediment Architrave Lunette Keystone Rondel Pilaster Rustication Ionic Columns Pediment Frontispiece Rustication Architrave Stairs Broken Pediment Crest Capital Cornice Broken Pediment Lunette Cornice Composite Columns Tudor Arch Buttress Buttress Entablatue Caryatid Capital Spandrel Pilaster Pediment Dome Renaissance Style Windows Entablature Cornice Quoining Ionic Clerestory Pilasters Architrave pediment cornice entablature pilaster cornice Mansard Roof