Beaux-Arts is a spin on the classical architecture that emerged from Paris in the early 19th century after the Baroque era. The builders or designers of Beaux-Arts, rather than focusing on the perfection of scale and proportion of the structure, were more interested in decorative flair and monumental grandeur. In addition to this, they also incorporated other past styles to accomplish their goals.
The period when Beaux-Arts took firm root in the United States of America was after the success of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, in which the whole neo-classical city was displayed. This architectural style got so popular in New York that it stayed there even as modernism spread and iconic modern buildings started to get constructed.
What makes Beaux-Arts different from other types of architectural styles was the use of innovations like large sheets of glass and steel-reinforced concrete.
Following are some of the best buildings in New York City in which you can see the magic of Beaux-Arts:
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library Main Branch)
Location: 476 5th Avenue, New York
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, also known as the Main Branch of the New York Public Library, is a landmark in Midtown Manhattan, New York. It was constructed in 1895 and was formed by combining two libraries; Astor and Lenox. The Main Branch contains four stories that are all open to the public. There were more than a million books shelved at the library before its opening in 1911.
The structure of the library is one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts style, constructed by an architectural firm, Carrère and Hastings. The building’s marble façade features ornate detailing, and the entrance to the main hall is flanked by a pair of stone lions, that are an iconic symbol of the library.
The library’s Rose Main Reading Room was originally described as being made according to the Renaissance architectural style, but now it is considered to be of a Beaux-Arts style.
Grand Central Terminal
Location: 89 East 42nd Street (at Park Avenue) Manhattan, New York City
Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station or just Grand Central, was built by and named for the New York Central Railroad. It is the third busiest train station on the list in North America right after New York Penn Station and Toronto Union Station. Due to its beautiful Beaux Arts-style architecture and interior design, it has earned several designations, including “National Historic Landmark”.
Its structure incorporates numerous works of arts, making it one of the ten most visited tourist attractions with more than 21.9 million visitors in 2013. This estimate doesn’t include train and subway passengers. The station’s main concourse is often used as a meeting place, and it is also featured in many different movies and television shows. When you enter the Grand Central Terminal, you get to see these ten sparkling globe-shaped chandeliers in the Beaux-Arts style, each weighing 800 pounds. They definitely add to the amazing vibe of the station.
The overall design of the terminal was designed in Beaux-Arts style by Reed and Stem. On the other hand, the cosmetic alterations to the interior and exterior were made by Warren and Wetmore. In addition to these firms, a number of elements inside the station were designed by French artists and architects, Jules-Félix Coutant, Sylvain Salières, and Paul César Helleu.
New York Yacht Club
Location: 37 West 44th Street, New York
The New York Yacht Club, founded in 1844 by nine prominent sportsmen, is a private social club located in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. In 2001, the club was reported to have about 3,000 members. This club is a six-storied Beaux Arts-style landmark that features a nautical-themed limestone façade.
It was opened in 1901 and designed by Warren and Wetmore, the same architects who took part in doing cosmetic alterations of some parts of the interior and exterior of the Grand Central Terminal. The club was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Location: 2109 Broadway #101, New York
Originally built by William Earle Dodge Stokes as a residential hotel, the Ansonia is a building located on the Upper West Side of New York City. The building got its name from the owner’s grandfather, Anson Greene Phelps. It was designed by a French architect called Paul Emile Duboy. Stokes listed himself as architect-in-chief and hired Duboy, a sculptor, to make ornamental sculptures on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
The Ansonia was known to be the largest residential hotel of its day, along with being the first air-conditioned hotel in New York. The building has eighteen steel-framed floors while the exterior is decorated in the amazing Beaux-Arts style. It has a Parisian style mansard roof. What makes the hotel’s structure so impressive are the richly profiled, terra-cotta sculptured enrichments, including grotesque forms, cartouches, and modillions.
For the war effort during World War II, the building’s copper cornices were removed and melted down.
Due to its impressive beauty, Ansonia is also listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. In addition to this, it has played an important role in several movies and commercials as well, including The Sunshine Boys, Take a Look, The Paper, and White Man’s Burden.
The Bronx Zoo
Location: 2300 Southern Blvd, the Bronx, New York
The Bronx Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the U.S by area, is located within Bronx Park in the Bronx, New York.
Moreover, it is the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States in terms of area, comprising 265 acres of parklands and natural habitats. On average, the Bronx Zoo receives 2.15 million visitors each year, as of 2009. The number must have been increased by now.
The Bronx Zoo opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899. The original permanent buildings were designed by Heins & LaFarge as a series of Beaux-Arts pavilions grouped around a huge circular sea lion pool.
The Zoo Center, a Beaux Arts-style one-story building in Astor Court, was built in 1908 – and it houses western spiny-tailed monitors, blue tree monitors, and Mertens’ water monitors.
The Henry Clay Frick House
Location: 1 East 70th Street
The Henry Clay Frick House, located on Fifth Avenue in New York, was the residence of Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist and art patron. It was constructed between 1912 and 1914 by Carrère and Hastings. Later in the mid-1930s, the house was transformed into a museum and library that houses the Frick Collection. In 2008, the house and library were designated a National Historic Landmark for its importance in arts and architecture as a major archive of a Gilded age art collection.
Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings designed a three-story mansion for Henry in Beaux-Arts architectural style. The major material that was used for the exterior, and some parts of the interior of the mansion, was Indiana Limestone.
The structure, due to its remarkable Beaux-Arts style, truly portrayed his incredible wealth.
The Brooklyn Museum
Location: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Museum, one of the third largest museums of New York City by area, holds an art collection of more than 1.5 million works. This Beaux-Arts style building was founded in 1895 by Augustus Graham and designed by an architectural firm, McKim, Mead, and White. It was planned to be the largest museum in the world, but it didn’t become one.
The building was revitalized in the late 20th century, and thanks to those major renovations that it has still preserved its original beauty of Beaux-Arts.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location: 1000 5th Avenue, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also called “The Met”, is the largest museum in the U.S. In 2018, this museum received a total of about 6,953,927 visitors to its three locations, making it one of the three most visited museums in the world. It is divided among 17 curatorial departments and contains a collection of more than two million works that includes works of art from ancient Egypt and classical antiquity, sculptures and paintings from nearly all the European masters, and a huge collection of modern art.
The museum was founded in 1870, having the core purpose of bringing art and art education to the people of America. The Fifth Avenue building was opened to the public in 1872.
Originally, a red-brick and stone “mausoleum” was designed by American architect Calvert Vaux, which wasn’t well-received because the building’s High Victorian Gothic style was considered already dated prior to completion. Therefore, the then-president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art termed the whole project “a mistake”,
After the design got rejected by many people, including the president, a new architectural plan engulfing the Vaux building was being executed, which was within 20 years of starting the project. Since that time, many incredible additions have been made to the museum, including the distinctive Fifth Avenue façade (made according to the Beaux-Arts style), Great Hall, and Grand Stairway.
All these were to be designed by Richard Morris Hunt, an architect who was also a Met trustee. But he died and couldn’t finish the work himself, so his son, Richard Howland Hunt, took it from there and completed the work in 1902.
The Woolworth Building
Location: 233 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City
The Woolworth Building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, is an early American skyscraper that was considered the tallest building in the world from the year 1913 to 1930. Its construction was started in 1910 and got completed in 1912 – in only two years. Still, the Woolworth Building remains one of the 100 tallest buildings in the USA.
It consists of 60 stories; 30 of them are in the base while the other 30 are in the tower on the top. The building’s façade features terracotta work and the lower portions are decorated with limestone. In addition to this, the building has thousands of windows that add to the overall beauty of Beaux-Arts.
In short, the skyscraper is a combination of Beaux-Arts design with ornate Gothic detail that reflects Woolworth’s vision of himself being the descendant of the great medieval merchants of the past.
To read more about its fascinating history and facts, check out our article on The Amazing History of the Woolworth Building.
James A. Farley Building
Location: 421 8th Ave, New York
The James A. Farley Building is the main United States Postal Service building located in New York, which was built in 1912 along with the original Pennsylvania Station. The building was formerly the General Post Office Building, which is designated a New York City Landmark in 1966.
The beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture of the building was designed by McKim, Mead & White, the same architects that designed the Brooklyn Museum and Pennsylvania Station.
New York is the place where you get to see a variety of infrastructure – from sparkling modern buildings to old school architecture, such as Beaux-Arts. If you think you have seen everything in New York, you have just started exploring stuff, because there is a lot to do here.
We hope you like our list of Best Beaux-Arts buildings in New York City – don’t forget to see them the next time you want to experience the vibes of Paris in New York.