French Eclectic Architecture

French eclectic style

The charm of the French Eclectic style is indisputable, especially among the simplest examples of this type.

America has always had a special relationship with France so it was inevitable that French architectural styles would find their way across the Atlantic and be incorporated into the American landscape. Previous French influences included the Second Empire style of the 19th century with its characteristic mansard roofs and the relatively rare Chateauesque (c. 1880–1910) with its incredibly ornate detailing.

The French Eclectic style embraces the various regional styles found across France as well as American adaptations and interpretations in a more vernacular way which made it suitable for single family homes. Earlier versions (1900–1915) were more likely influenced by the elaborate Beaux Arts and Chateauesque styles, whereas later houses were influenced by more modest French homes that were familiar to returning WWI soldiers. Also, photographic studies became available to American architects during the 1920s that provided inspirational models.

The most telling feature of French Eclectic is its roof. It is steeply pitched, hipped, and the eaves are often flared. This style may be either symmetrical and quite formal, or asymmetrical and somewhat rambling as are many French farmhouses. There are many similarities to the Tudor style that occurred at the same time, such as half-timbering and materials used. This style is most easily distinguished from the Tudor by the absence of a front-facing cross gable.

Rounded towers with conical roofs were frequently built, especially in asymmetrical designs. Dormers were common; gabled, hipped, and arched dormers are seen "through-the-cornice" which creates a distinctive facade. Roof dormers are common as well. Depending on the architect's interpretation, front entrances may be accessed through half-rounded, covered porches with much detail, or simple undecorated stoops.

This style is relatively unusual in all parts of the US. Most French Eclectic homes were constructed between 1920–1935.

General Characteristics

The following features are found in various combinations:

Recommended Reading

he Abrams Guide to American House Styles by William Morgan, Ned Pratt

Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms : 1600-1945 by John J. G. Blumenson