Adapting an 18th century French Chateau
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind
Brick faced with Indiana limestone
The architecture of The Elms (1899-1901) provided a perfect combination of fantasy and function, recreating the romantic atmosphere of an 18th century French chateau, while providing the Berwind family and their guests with every modern convenience. Designed by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer in 1901 for Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind, The Elms is an example of Beaux-Arts style architecture, drawing inspiration from French châteaux of the 18th century. It worked as a perfectly coordinated set piece where architecture, art, landscape, and technology formed the Berwinds’ backdrop for receiving the rich and powerful of the Gilded Age.
Construction began in 1899 with the demolition of an earlier wooden house on the site. For the new house, Trumbauer chose as his model the Chateau d’Asnieres (1750-1751) outside of Paris. He modified the original garden façade of the Asnieres, reducing it by two windows and adding a triangular pediment in the center of the façade.
The Elms was placed on a raised basement and two terraces, elevating it above the gardens. The roof balustrade, typical of this style of architecture, concealed the staff quarters on the third floor. An elaborate basement included a heating plant with a tunnel connecting the boiler room so that coal deliveries were made out of sight – never disturbing the tranquility of the gardens.