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Building Styles

Château (1880 - 1930)

Origins --- --- Château Architecture

Château of the Loire Valley------Chambord___Blois

Residential Château Style--- Casa Loma Toronto-- Depressed Arch---- Wynnstay Estate Ancaster-- -

Commercial, Civic and Religious Château Style--- Ottawa--- Hamilton---


The Château Style is a grand adaptation of the sixteenth-century French châteaux of the Loire Valley. The combined efforts of François I, Catherine de Medici and Dianne de Poitiers produced an enchanting mixture of Renaissance Classicism and Gothic organic design. The fortified castles of medieval France were translated in Ontario into asymmetrical, irregular and equally elegant hotels, convents, and imposing private houses for the wealthy. The bases of this style are

Chateau Architecture

steeply pitched roofs with plenty of dormers, turrets, gables, conical towers, lunettes, and iron cresting. Ornamentation is lavish with intricate string courses, corbel tables, finials and crockets. The walls are generally finished stone or stucco and the roofs, especially on commercial buildings, are often copper left to develop a patina of soft green. Château style can be distinguished from Italian Villa and Queen Anne Revival by the roof line and pitch as seen below in the Loire Valley chateaux.

Châteaux of the Loire Valley

Renaissance years in France saw the solidification of the French aristocratic system. Francois I and Henry II of France, and their wives, did much to bring 'civilization' to the French court. The Châteaux or castles that they built were both cultural refuges from the harsh realities of the French feudal system and fortified castles to protect themselves from the aggressions of the surrounding city states that eventually became the English, the Italians, the Spanish, the Germans, and the Dutch.

The French Châteaux are fundamentally different from either the Italian or the English/German style of medieval castle. On an Italian Renaissance Palazzo the window are designed horizontally. Each level is a coherent unit. On French Châteaux the windows are more likely to form vertical stripes. The bands separating the windows are vertical where the bands on Italian are horizontal. In English castles, a large moat and keep are the norm, these are rusticated and heavy. In France the moats and keeps are there, but they are refined, covered in an ashlar finish and filled with elegant traceries.

Click Hotpoints for descriptions of terms in both text and images.

Château Chambord

Francis I

The plan of Chambord is quite Renaissance at first glance. It seems symmetrical. In fact the square within the square is off center as are the towers. It looks symmetrical from the front, but in fact a large part of the façade is merely a screen. The layout of the castle, on further inspection, is the same as an English medieval castle.


Chateau Chambord

Ottawa Ontario

Blois France

This colour scheme is used on the stables at Casa Loma below. ChateauBlois

The red brick finish and large white quoins are indicative of the era.

Notre Dame

Blois France

Residential Chateau Style in Ontario

The Chateau Revival revival is one of the most successful revivals in 21st century Ontario residential architecture. The builders are looking back to the elegant lines of the original Chateau Revivals like Casa Loma and the smaller, less ornate, but perfectly proportioned and elegantly executed Wynnstay Estate.

The simple lines and lack of excessive decoration make this a much easier style to revive than most. It doesn't depend on a large quantity of craftsmen who were once a major force in Ontario construction but who are now, sadly, disappearing. The Ontario Government is now actively promoting the building trades and craftsmanship is being focused on in many Ontario colleges. Not a moment too soon.

Casa Loma Toronto

Casa Loma's history is as extravagant, as extraordinary and as full of surprises as the building itself. It was started in 1911 by millionaire Sir Henry Pellatt and Canadian architect E. J. Lennox. The land was called Casa Loma or "house on the hill" by its previous owner.

The building took three years and $3.5 million to build. When completed it surpassed any other private home in North America at the time. It is not a strictly Chateau style building, but a conglomerate of many romantic castles from the past. The soaring battlements and elaborate machicolations could be of either French or English origin. As well, the secret passageways, the purpose of which in medieval times was illustrated well by Glenn Close and John Malkovich in 'Dangerous Liasons', could also have been inspired by many well known castle in Europe.

Today it is used for private parties for the Toronto Film Festival, upscale weddings and a variety of plush affairs. Here well known Toronto Star contributor Suzanne Robicheau prepares a story about the latest of many successful renovation projects.

Chateau Style 'House'

Toronto Ontario


The steeply pitched roof line is distinctly Chateau style, as are the rounded corner turrets and deep machicolations. Oriel windows, such as this shown on the left, are also found throughout England and Germany.

The archway opening leading to the garden (closed off by potted plants) is a four centered arch. The arches on the bay window, right, are 'Depressed arches' used extensively during the Chateau era in France (see below)

Chateau Style House

Toronto Ontario


Chateau Style Depressed Arch

Depressed Arch drawing

Depressed Arch drawing

The Depressed arch, shown here from Chateau Chenonceau and illustrated on the left is the most common arch form of the Chateau style.


The French formal garden or parterre is also a signature feature of the French Chateaux. Here we see a box hedged fountain. Similar to those found at Versailles, leading to a symmetrical lawned flowerbed and two more box hedged gardens.

Chateau Style Convent



A walkway surrounds the upper terrace. The wall of the walkway has decorative crenellations.

Chateau Style House

Toronto Ontario


Inside the decoration, again, could be of French, German or English origin. Here the corbels are fanciful and medieval in character. They are more similar to Label Stops in the Loire valley than those produced in England. See the Label Stop page.


Chateau Style House

Toronto Ontario


In many ways the stables at Castle Loma are as impressive as the castle itself. Built out of brick, like many of the secondary buildings in Blois, Ussé, and other château towns, these stables have many medieval features reproduced in fine detail. The central portal has an impressive surround with affronted lions perched on battlemented turrets, a roundel, and dentils.

On either side of the portal are brick towers complete with machicolations, decorative loop holes - once used for shooting arrows - merlons - used for the same purpose - and pepper pot roofs.

The deeply sloped roof is made of red slate and has small dormers. The overall effect is quite spectacular.

Chateau Style Convent

Toronto Ontario

Wynnstay Estate Ancaster

This beautiful older Château style residence has all the charm that some of the newer versions are looking for. It is understated and unadorned, but with a steep roof and dormers, multiple chimneys, asymmetrical layout, tower and French doors. The front entrance has a small portico with a round-headed arch and an iron balcony.

The colour scheme is subtly pleasing. It is designed by Hamilton architect John M. Lyle.

Chateau Style Residence

Ancaster Ontario

Château Style in Civic, Commercial and Religious Buildings

The Great Mortality, as it was called, was responsible for many things, good and bad. French, which was the accepted language in England was replaced by English as there were no teachers left who spoke French. The aristocracy spoke French for many years thereafter. The forests which had been all but decimated over the past few hundred years were allowed to rebuild themselves. Most of the great forests of Europe date from no earlier than the 14th century. By 1720, the plague left 80,000 dead in one year in Marseilles, and was then replaced by smallpox. Because buildings, and in particular housing, were being made less and less with thatch the rats that carried the plague microbe had no where to live and the microbe left.

Architecturally, builders were working through their local versions of Gothic. People north of the Alps had never seen the ruins in Rome and Greece, and did not know any Classical rules, much less ways in which to break them. Renaissance details were filtering through into the north through artists who migrated north for the patronage of French and English kings, and through pattern books that were being sold to builders and designers. Often the patterns were simply applied, generally incongruously, onto buildings with no attempt to integrate them into a centralized plan. The steep pitches on roofs and the asymmetrical plans of the north were embellished by pediments, colonettes and garlands.



The machicolated tower, tall gabled wall dormers, fractables, corbelled projecting upper floors, battlementing, and steep metal-clad Mansard roof of the Château Laurier in Ottawa make it one of Ontario's most easily recognizable Château style buildings. Small turrets, pepper pot roofs and scalloping make it more picturesque than the nearby Château style government buildings (below).

During the first decades of the twentieth century, the Canadian Pacific Railway built many railway hotels in this style. The lavish design and opulence were thought to be the style that expressed Canadian nationalism.

Chateau Laurier

Ottawa Ontario


The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa illustrates the Château style toned down for use on a government building. This, and similar local buildings, were the result of a search for an architecture that expressed a national identity. The Parliament Buildings, completed in the Gothic Revival style, had similar stone exterior finishes and deeply sloping roofs, but the government officials were keen to create a new style that reflected less the British heritage and more the influence of French-Canadian buildings.

Supreme Court

Ottawa Ontario


St. Joseph's Convent in Hamilton was designed by Marani architects and built out of local limestone by Pigott Construction. Although it looks much older, it was actually constructed in 1950.

The lanterned cupola and square tower have a medieval feel to them while the large front gable end is very reminiscent of Loire Château style, particularly Angers. Roundels are found on both the gable and the tower. The steeply pitched metal-clad roof has small dormers. There is a discrete Classical main door surround and recessed arched window surrounds, but otherwise the façade is without ornament.

The building has been renovated and modernized, and is still used as a convent.

Chateau Style Convent

Hamilton Ontario


Chateau Extra Reading and Films


Bolton, Jerry, The Renaissance Bazaar, Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002

Blumenson, John. Ontario Architecture A Guide to Styles and Terms. 1978.

Cruickshank, Tom, and John de Visser, Old Toronto Houses,Toronto: Firefly Books, 2003.

Cruickshank, Tom, and John de Visser, Old Ontario Houses,Toronto: Firefly Books, 2000.

MacRae, Marion, and Anthony Adamson. The Ancestral Roof: Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1963.

For information on Georgian architecture in specific areas within Ontario there are some very good books listed under the About page.


Girard Depardieu, The Return of Martin Guerre

Shakespeare, As You Like It

Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliett

Gwenyth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love



Modillions Balconette Paired Windows Cornice Return Cornice Return Cupola Roundel Balustrade Dormers Roof Window Surround Turret Machicolation Mansard Roof Fractable Scalloping Chimneys Bay Window Corbel Dormers Conical Roof Macchicolation Roundel Dormer Dentils Portal Tower Chimney Tower Dormer Portico Label Stop Label Stop