Once again, a popular architectural component

STORY & PHOTOS BY JAIX CHAIX

Imagine the offense: inviting distinguished guests to your home – yet leaving them out in the rain upon arrival.

Fortunately, to avoid such a faux pas, there is the porte-cochère: a covered entrance where people can exit their automobile and enter a home without a care or concern for the weather.

Better-known examples include the White House in Washington, D.C. and Buckingham Palace in London, England.

Yet many porte-cochères can also be found throughout the Flathead Valley as well.

Some porte-cochères are part of stately, town-site mansions.

Other, more massive examples are part of rustic log homes – in a style that is perhaps somewhat unique to the Flathead Valley and the greater West.

And other distinct examples include the porte-cochères featured on many of the Victoria and Craftsman-style homes throughout the area.

Generally, porte-cochères were a decorative feature of mansions and fine buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries in the more established areas of the United States.

In Europe, porte-cochères date back centuries and include elaborate designs in several, leading architectural styles. Other unique and modern examples of porte-cochères can be found around the world from Azerbaijan to Australia.

In retrospect, it seems porte-cochères were intended to serve a quite practical function – yet in the most elaborate form. And in many instances, a porte-cochère was also intended to make a statement and inform the guests upon arrival that the host has “arrived” as well. Indeed, there are many examples in the Flathead Valley that expand greatly upon the meaning of porte-cochère (literally, French for “coach door”) to inspiring extremes.

Yet despite the seemingly predominate luxury of a porte-cochère, many plain examples can be found at hotels, healthcare facilities, and other places serving a more public duty for residents and visitors in the Flathead Valley.

While popular from the 1800s through the early 1900s, porte-cochères were little more than pedestrian during the Great Depression and WWII eras. Some were even manufactured in steel-framed kits reflecting the earnestness of the times. These were times when many porte-cochères were converted into much-needed living spaces and seemed to disappear. This trend continued through the 1950s through the 1980s.

Recently, however, the porte-cochère is becoming a more popular architectural component. As architects and designers give pause to ideas for second entrances and concern for arriving guests, especially for clients with zeal for entertaining, the porte-cochère has come to mind.

And, interestingly, many newer homes feature a porte-cochère.

Whether the porte-cochère becomes the defining characteristic of architecture in our era or region, we can still appreciate them for their practicality and design.

And, fortunately, porte-cochères in a variety of styles including Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor, Modern, and Contemporary and in practically every form – metal, log, stone, stucco, and brick – can be found throughout the Flathead Valley.

So if you have an eye for architecture, be sure to give the porte-cochère a closer look.

“Interior” and “Exterior” are columns devoted to unique styles and elements of architecture. Jaix has traveled extensively to appreciate architecture and history throughout the United States and Europe – and enjoys living in the Flathead Valley.