Local Architecture

The architectural styles of buildings prior to 1900 can be divided into two major categories. The
earliest group, structures dating from 1790 to 1850’s consists of traditional house types that originated
in Europe. The second group, during the last half of the 19th C, comprises architectural styles that
originated in America by selection, imitation and variation of European architectural styles. Many of
the structures in Frenchtown are not perfect examples of a particular style, but rather represent a
combination of certain characteristics. Individual builders selected the characteristics they liked best
and incorporated these into their homes and buildings. Also it should be noted that while discouraged
today, it is not uncommon to see an early German or French Colonial home that was “updated” with
Victorian details in the 1890’s.

The styles of the first period included the French Colonial House, Salt Box, German Single House and
Federal .

Limestone affected the style of a number of houses during the early period. The stone was taken from
a single level from the Missouri River bluffs. Construction was difficult and required the skills of a stone
mason, as the “dry” method, without mortar, was used.

The French Colonial House (1830-50) is a one and a half story oblong house with two rooms side by
side facing the street via outside stairs leading to the full width galleried porch with two separate front
doors to the main rooms on the upper level. The large front gallery is achieved with a high pitched roof
extended out over several plain square or simply turned posts with simple small square balusters on
the handrails. Six over six pane windows had outside shutters and solid four panel doors are placed
in symmetric sequence as the typical Six Bay arrangement of window-door-window-window -door-
window. Although many of these homes have had roof dormer windows, ornate balusters, brackets and
frieze moldings added in the 1880’s the style was historically utilitarian and austere. Interiors had wide
random width heart pine flooring, single beaded baseboards and plain casings with sloped top window
and door pediments.

The St. Charles German Single style house (circa 1870-1900) is a brick one and a half to two storey with
a cellar built on a stone foundation which extended above the ground level. Smaller homes only had
access to the cellar via an outside storm door. Early examples have a medium pitched gable with
paired chimneys at either end. The front usually has two front doors, each with a transom window
over. Windows are large two over two panes, often with simply carving in arched wooden headers.
Later examples have ornate butterfly or scroll saw cut casings with bull’s eye corners, flat sawn porch
balusters and brackets. Baseboards were tall and decorative, often made of two pieces of molding,
flooring was 4” wide heart pine. A prominent characteristic is the classical decorative brick work across
the cornice. In St. Charles this included three stepped-out layers of brick with outside cornice corners
built out onto the gable side. became somewhat more sophisticated, required greater carpentry and
masonry skills, and were more expensive.

The St. Charles German Single style house (circa 1830-1850) modest storey and a half structures of
a “shotgun” plan Doorways were set to one side with sidelights and full width fixed multi paned
transom window above a simple stoop entry. Paired chimneys and parapet walls.

Most of the Federal structures in St. Charles were two storey homes. They are box-like in shape with
a symmetrical façade and . Doorways were set to one side with sidelights. The hipped roofline was
trimmed with a balustrade, with paired chimneys usually located at each end of the gable

The architectural styles and buildings of the second period, from 1850 to 1900, Buildings during this
period included Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne Victorian, Eastlake
Victorian and Romanesque.

The Greek Revival structure resembled a classical temple with a low pitched roofline. The triangular
gable pediment was shifted to the front of the house. All lines were simple, most of the windows
vertical, with architectural emphasis directed to the columns and pilasters. Greek Revival was often the
style for larger homes, public buildings and other substantial structures.

In the Gothic Revival styles, emphasis was placed on the vertical effect by the multiple use of sharply
pointed gables. These gables were ornamented with decorative barge boards and windows on the
house had pointed arches.

Although few, Italianate influenced buildings consist of a symmetrical arrangement of squared shapes
and lines. Rooflines are slightly pitched with projecting eaves supported by brackets. In this style,
windows are often round headed and set in groups of two or three. The Italianate usually had a tall
square tower or cupola, bay windows, balconies and several verandas.

The Second Empire style originated in France where houses of this style are characterized by a high
massive Mansard roof with dormer windows extending through the roofline. Slate was often used as
the slope of the roof was fairly steep. The outside corners of the structures are often embellished with
quoins -stacked, staggered cut stone columns and windows tend to be tall, narrow and set in pairs.

The Queen Anne Victorian had an irregularity of plan and massing with a variety of shapes, colors and
textures. Gables, dormers, patterned brick chimneys, round or polygonal turrets and bay windows
were characteristic of this style. Diagonal braces or “stick work” were used on porches , eaves and
over clapboards for styling on the Stick Style Victorian. And the exterior walls of the upper stories had a
uniform covering of shingles, roofline gabled, hipped or both on Shingle Style Victorians.

The Romanesque style’s most prominent feature is barrel vaulted doorways and semi-circular arched
top windows of masonry -stone or brick- and belts of protruding masonry around the base of the
building. This style was most often used for banks, post offices, libraries and other large structures due
to its strong and often imposing look, however several examples of this style may be found in St. Charles
as homes.

The Arts & Crafts style became popular in the 1920’s with several mail order companies, like Sears
and Montgomery Wards, offering kit houses by mail and delivered to the jobsite. Most have large

overhanging front porches supported by tapered box columns of wood or brick. The term bungalow is
often associated with smaller homes of this style as they were relatively easy to build and their simple
floorplans still suit modern lifestyles. The windows are usually multiple vertical panes over a single lower
on double hung windows but other mullion grid patterns were used, often on the same house, including
diamond shapes, leaded glass stylized tulips and geometric patterns, small square and octagon windows
and patterned glass (usually used on bathroom windows). Bathrooms were tiled palaces in colors from
black and white to “Depression green” and pink in the 4o’s

Art Deco was popularized by the Paris Exhibition of 1920 where adornments to building façades were
limited and geometric. In Frenchtown, two structures on Second Street, The People’s Bank Building
and Barton Brothers (formerly a bank also) are notable examples with white glazed brick street sides
accented with black and green glazed brick. Diamond and stair stepped patterns adorn the cornice
areas of each and large single panes of glass that were now available for the first time were shown off at
street level. Inside plain paneling and unadorned but large woodwork are hallmarks of the style.

Many Streamline Moderne homes may be found in Frenchtown, and are gaining appreciation among
young home buyers for their relatively contemporary styling. Now listed as contributing structures to
the historic districts, these mid-century modern homes are finally protected and are starting to become
appreciated. Often built of brick or stone veneer with engineering features impossible before their
time, such as corner-less windows (a detail popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright) and narrow textured
brick faces. Both of these details may be seen on the house at 1401 North Third Street. The interiors of
these homes often have swirl textured plaster walls, narrow strip oak hardwood flooring and uncased,
radiused corner windows and doors and marble window sills. Many of the windows in these structures
were commercial style painted iron with horizontal dividers. Secondary windows were single pane glass
casement style or double hung and front doors are solid slab wood with small, asymmetric windows.

Although architects and historians try to categorize structures into these and other building styles,
many are of multiple influences and are not a pure style. And although unaltered since construction,
they may exhibit characteristics of various styles of their contemporaries; such as Second Empire,
Romanesque and Italianate that were all popular at the end of the Twentieth Century, as seen on the
large home at 719 North Second St. with its Empire roof, Italianate applied swag cornice and prominent
stone Romanesque entryway. Others exhibit multiple influences through alterations by their owners
over time; some by an attempt to “update” and others may have had additions added to them of
progressively later styles. It is important to note that all of the structures predating 1950 are in the
city’s “Period of Significance” and are protected from negligent acts of remodeling, “updating” and
other alterations and require the approval of both the Historic Landmarks Board and Building Permits
before any work may proceed on them. This includes garages, fences and other historic architectural
details as well in order that these structures will remain for future generations as examples of the times
and the events that influenced their development.