LANCASTER IN STYLE, PART 22:
FRENCH ECLECTIC STYLE, 1915-1945
Revival styles, especially the picturesque styles like Tudor, English Cottage and French Eclectic, permitted Americans to experience central Europe without a passport. Identified as another “between-the-wars” style, French Eclectic provides a glimpse of French countryside architecture as seen by the American soldiers fighting in France between 1915 and 1945.
This easily identifiable style, referred to “sophisticated rustic” eventually overtook Tudor in popularity, but not English Cottage or Colonial Revival.
While steep gable roof forms, dormers and cat slides characterize the English Cottage style, it is the distinctive hip roof design that identifies French Eclectic. The main body of the residence employs the hip or pavilion roof to establish the dominant design element for the dwelling.
Gables, if used at all, are secondary features to the primary hip roof. Dormers will often be hipped or truncated to avoid showing a full height gable. Wall dormers, or “through-the-eave” dormers, are common to this style as well.
Casement windows, slate roofs, half-timber and stone, stucco or brick walls are in keeping with the traditional “picturesque style” materials. Chimney locations are prominent but not dominant. Floor plans — like Tudor and English Cottage — are typically asymmetrical, relaxed and informal.
A subset style within French Eclectic is the Norman Cottage style, referencing the architecture found in the northern reaches of Brittany and Normandy, France. Norman features a rounded tower topped with a conical roof located at the center of the L-shaped floor plan; the tower is often the main entrance. Wrought-iron accents like window guards are common as are flared roof eaves. Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward offered mail order French Eclectic and Norman Cottage design options to their customers, which further expanded interest in the post-war European designs.
The French Eclectic style remains popular among Lancaster County homeowners today and continues to feature the prominent hip roof and chimneys, flared eaves, casement windows and the signature French doors. The scale of the newer homes tend to be larger than the homes built in the 1920s, but the distinctive personality remains unchanged. Finding historic examples of post-war French Eclectic residences will take some work but will be well worth it!
Which postwar revival style was the most popular?
Between 1910 and 1930, 40% of all new homes were constructed as Colonial Revival. The second most popular style was English Country.
When did French Eclectic see a resurgence in popularity?
The mid-1970s saw a renewed interest in French Eclectic and Norman Cottage styles. The use of stone for exteriors was replaced with brick.
Is there another name for the Norman Cottage style?
This style is also referred to as the French Tower style for obvious reasons. The tower was a carryover from medieval times.
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 [email protected]