Grand New York: Beaux-Arts Architecture in NYC

Esperanza Pacheco, Katherine Kotacska and Rossy Mendez

New York City, the City of Marvels. From the stunning stainless steel Chrysler building to the double arched elegant Brooklyn Bridge, the architecture of New York is both beautiful and monumental. The city’s architecture stands as a symbol of its prosperity and function as a cosmopolitan hub.

One of the city’s most prevalent architectural styles is the Beaux-Arts style. The style is derived from the Parisian school and values the classical as the epitome of exceptional architecture. Beaux-arts gained popularity in America as a result of the City Beautiful movement, which was based on the idea that notable architecture increased social order and civic pride. For New York City, the Beaux arts style was a great fit. The style’s characteristics such as grand entrances, sculptural richness and classical symbolic elements, aligned with its new position as one of the largest and most important urban centers of the world.

While the Beaux-arts style borrows from French ideals, it also establishes New York as a superior city to its european counterparts. This is most evident in its public buildings. The U.S Customs house, for example, portrays a statue of Europe as a powerful seated individual clutching to the globe, while America, rises up and steps in confidence with the image of Labor by her side.The message is clear; America will become prosperous through its hard labor. A fitting message for a seat of commerce.

Farley Post office located on 31st Street and 8th Avenue, is also a testament to the city’s growth. Built in 1912 and designed by McKim, Mead, and White, the post office was for several years the largest post office in the United States. The building pays tributes to its european counterparts by adding national seals and names of individuals such as Cardinal de Richelieu, the frenchman who made the post office accessible to the public.

Perhaps the most outstanding public example of Beaux-Arts architecture is the Grand Central terminal which is located at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. One of the most prominent features is the terminal’s grand staircase which was inspired by Charles Garnier’s Palais Grande in Paris. The terminal resembles an ancient temple with its Corinthian columns, celestial ceiling and its grand archway featuring statues of the Roman Gods such as Mercury, the god of commerce, supported by Minerva and Hercules which represent mental and moral strength. Indeed, the terminal is both an architectural feast for the eyes as well a testament to the diverse population in representation of the time.

New York City’s campuses also capitalized on Beaux Arts as a way to show their place within academia.The design of the Low Library of Columbia University was inspired by the Pantheon and Baths of Caracalla. The Gould Memorial library of the old New York University, presently Bronx Community College, also features a pantheon-like composition and staircase that symbolizes the ascend to knowledge.

The beaux arts style was not limited to buildings but incorporated in public works such as the Washington Square Arch. The arch was modeled after Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which was created in 1801 by Jean Chalgrin.

While New York now features many modern buildings characterized by unusual shapes and modern materials, beaux arts architecture can never be separated from New York’s City’s iconography. It stands as one of the constant reminders of the history of this great city and allows it to preserve a timeless quality and old world charm.

Bibliography and Credits
Amper, S. (n.d). Gould Library. (n.d) Retrieved from

Arnold, C.D. (1893). Court of Honor, World’s Columbian Exposition. [Online image].
Retrieved November 23, 2013 from

Bahamon, A., & Losantos, A. (2008). New York: A Historical Atlas of Architecture; New
York, NY; Black Dog & Levanthal Publishers, Inc.

BrOnXbOmBr21. (2006). Low Library Columbia University. [Online image]. Retrieved
November 23, 2013 from

New York University Archives. (1910s). The college on a hill.[Online image]. Retrieved

Grand central terminal. In A view on cities. Retrieved November 16, 2013 from

Lowe, D.G. (1998). Beaux arts New York: The city in gilded years. New York: Whitney
Library of Design.

Merry. (2011, February 16) Beaux architecture in NYC. [Msg 1] Retrieved from

Waldman, B. (2012, August 8) Inspired by europe part 1: France. [Blog post]. Retrieved

Yaaaay. Perspective photograph looking up at the Brooklyn Bridge. [Online Image]
Retrieved November 23, 2013 from

Vogel, T. (2007). Gould Memorial 3. Retrieved from

VP. [2008]. America, The Four Continents, 2008.[Online image]. Retrieved
November 23, 2013 from

One comment

  1. Pingback: Beaux-Arts Architecture – Anna

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: