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"French America" is a dazzling, oversized coffee table book which opens an entirely new world all around the reader. I had expected a treasure of great pictures and was not disappointed. What I had not expected is the narration, not only descriptions of the pictures, but of the history of the French role in the development of the United States.
This book is a tour through many buildings associated with French settlement and development in the United States. Beginning with the early Huguenot settlements in New York and South Carolina, the reader is taken on to the heart of French America along the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi. Despite living among the greatest collection of French Colonial architecture in the country, I learned of near by structures of which I was totally unaware. The journey continues down the river to Louisiana with its living French culture amid the houses and buildings surviving from a way of life that is Gone With The Wind. The tour winds through sites in the Eastern states associated with French participation in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and concludes with Civic buildings in the Washington-Virginia area inspired by French architecture.
This book broadened my understanding of the French heritage around us and sharpened my appetite to visit some of these areas. It can do the same for you.
French America is one of those rare coffee table books that is both beautiful to look at and features a well-written and highly interesting text. The photos display incredible luminosity and skill. Both interior and exterior shots are infused with light that reaches out and grabs the viewer. The book itself is a true find - a vast historical and architectural frescoe of the French sites and buildings in America, spanning from New England, the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley to the Gulf of Mexico.
I was fascinated to learn the history of French architecture from constructions along the Mississippi Valley, like Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, built by Normans using the same bousillage and colombage techniques found in local French villages. The more sophisticated architecture of the Creole plantations in Louisiana and the urban and civic buildings of Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., created from the plan by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant remid us of the once prevading French influence in this country. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate, was inspired by the Hôtel de Salm in Paris and his admiration of French architecture. The Maison Carrée in Nîmes was the prototype of another of Jefferson's architectural projects, the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, designed along with the French architect Clérisseau.
The special features on history and French culture in the US are a delight, including the Huguenots and their descendants. George Washington himself had Protestant ancestors from the l'Ile de Ré off the Brittany coast. Other sections deal with the Creole influences and the cultural importance of the Cajuns in Louisiana.Read more ›
As a loving and dutiful son of both cultures, having been reared in France under the Nazi terror and having commanded American Infantry during the Korean War, I feel qualified to greet this treasure of a book with enthusiastic acclaim for being such a moving and exquisite celebration of the Entente Cordiale that holds these two great republics in a bond that no amount of maligning can destroy.The evocative text together with the extensive collection of superb photographs are the guides for a cultural, architectural and historical visit to the enriching French heritage that graces all the regions of the United States.No effort has been spared in designing and in producing this large and most elegant volume which is in itself a work of art.
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