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Henry Hobson Richardson

July 2024
21min read

“I’ll plan anything a man wants,” he said, “from a cathedral to a chicken coop.” The monumental results transformed American architecture

It was common ground among everyone who knew him in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s that Henry Hobson Richardson was one of the great Americans of his day. It was not that he ever talked big—that would have been quite out of character—but that he looked big, thought big, and built big.

Bigness became him, moreover. It stood for things that he had in superabundance: energy, ideas, ambition, assurance. What in another man might have seemed just plain old fat was in the case of Richardson an Olympian amplitude. It was as if he needed to bear down on the American earth with the weight of ten men, knowing full well that the American earth would bounce him back.

In point of fact, his fatness was a pathological condition, his energy was progressively more and more limited, and he knew that he could not count on a long career. But he made the tour, one by one, of the opportunities that could come an architect’s way in the 1870’s and early 1880’s, and to every one of them he brought what seemed to his contemporaries a specifically American vibration.

The opportunities in question were of the kind that the Establishment of the day is always glad to concede to one of its own. By birth, by education, and by conscious choice Henry Hobson Richardson was a member of that Establishment. He went along with it, delightedly; and delightedly it went along with him. By the time he died—at the age of only forty-seven—he had redefined, for the United States, the potential of the public building in one domain after another. To this day, people think of Trinity Church, Boston, when they wish to remind themselves that in this country, as in Europe, a parish church can be as stupendous as many a cathedral. Sever Hall and Austin Hall at Harvard impress the student even today by their stately dedication to the cause of learning. Never were legislators more sumptuously housed than in the State Capitol at Albany. If you were in business, and you felt that business is best carried out in surroundings of the kind that flourished in the ancient mercantile cities of Europe, then once again Richardson was your man, even if his Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati was not completed until after his death. It was not simply that Richardson was the faithful servant of government, religion, business, education, and the law. It was that he aspired to be—by implication—their leader and their guide.


Richardson’s was above all things an affirmative art. “No” and “I can’t” were noises that he never made when presented with a project that would give the cities and towns of America an ampler, more inventive, and more commanding appearance. It was a part of his general and all-comprehending bigness that within a commitment to society as a whole he kept a close watch on everything that pertained to his individual buildings, to the status of the architect in society, and to the relations between architect and client (and between architect and contractor). Much as Sir Joshua Reynolds a hundred years earlier had redrafted the relationship between painters and society in England, Henry Hobson Richardson had redrafted the working relationship in the United States between architects on the one hand and society in general on the other. A great architect, in his view, came second to no man, and by the time he died in 1886 he had brought a great many people round to his opinion.

There is about Richardson’s childhood and youth an atmosphere of virtually untroubled well-being which makes it pleasant to think about but not easy to describe. All went well for him. He was happy at home, happy in school, and happy in college. Only one small flaw marred the serenity of his youth, as we shall see. He got engaged to be married when he was still at Harvard. (The romance survived an exceptionally long engagement and is reputed to have been without blemish, ending only with his death.) He came of a good family, had enough money to live on, and made friends wherever he went. If he had tantrums, chagrins, reverses, problems of identity, or a run of bad luck, no one has ever brought them to light. Even his ambition evolved slowly and naturally and seems never to have been thwarted. With a combination of Northern energy and Southern good manners, he was regarded by his contemporaries as the ideal young American.

Henry Hobson Richardson was born on September 29, 1838, on the Priestley Plantation in the Parish of Saint James, Louisiana. His great-grandfather was Dr. Joseph Priestley, the polymath (author, it was once calculated, of 141 books) who was a nonconformist minister, a master of many languages both ancient and modern, an experimental educationalist, a pioneer chemist who discovered oxygen, an enthusiast for the French Revolution, and an early supporter of the American colonists in their struggle against the British. Joseph Priestley’s sons were already well established in America when he himself arrived there in 1794. One of them, Richardson’s maternal grandfather, had done very well indeed with sugarcane plantations in Louisiana.


Richardson did not have anything like the intellectual curiosity of Joseph Priestley. Nor did he have anything like Priestley’s spontaneous involvement with people who wished to change the nature of society. Neither in his art nor in his life did he look forward to a world transformed. The world as it was was quite good enough for him. Nor did he have that most engaging of Joseph Priestley’s traits: the readiness to follow up a hundred different subjects at one and the same time. From the moment that he settled on his chosen profession he was a man of one subject, one object, and one ambition: to build as well as he could in materials that had been around forever.

Meanwhile, he took his time over that choice of profession. Not only did he not show any precocious vocation, but he showed no particular drive to succeed. He was a very good mathematician in school, but he showed none of that preternatural intellectual activity that is the mark of the mathematician of genius. He was bright enough to be able to play several games of chess at once while blindfolded, but he seems to have regarded chess as no more than an agreeable distraction. He played the flute rather well, and fenced even better. He was more dandified in his dress than was usual at that time. One of his fellow students remembered him as “a slender, companionable Southern lad, full of Creole life and animation.”

It was fundamental to his success in later life that, without being either a toady or a snob, he gravitated by instinct toward young men who were likely to become persons of importance. Initially it was they who sought him out—at Harvard, for instance, he was elected to the Porcellian Club, which admitted only fifteen members at a time—but he took care not to lose sight of them. When he moved his architectural practice to Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1874, it was in large part because Brookline was at that time a kind of game park in which prominent people could rub up against one another. Once again, it was not that he was on the make—no one ever accused him of that—but rather that he had got a taste for the company of men and women of a certain kind and saw no reason not to indulge it.

His fellow Porcellians did not know about his architectural interests and certainly didn’t spot him as a future leader of his profession. It came as a surprise when he decided, at an undisclosed time and for an undisclosed reason, to apply for admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. To get into the Ecole was in itself an achievement, since the examination was in French, lasted a month, and was conducted in public. At the first attempt, in the fall of 1859, he failed in descriptive geometry, a subject that he had first looked at only four weeks before. But in November, 1860, he came eighteenth in a field of a hundred and twenty and became the second American (after Richard Morris Hunt) to win admission.

He had not intended to stay long in Paris. Louisiana was still his home, and it was taken for granted that he would eventually return there and set up an architectural practice in New Orleans. But before this could come about, the Civil War wrought a total change in his circumstances. His family lost their money. His income dwindled, arrived irregularly at best, and finally stopped altogether. From being one of the richer young Americans in Paris he became a pauper, obliged to work all day for his living and to study by night. Though buoyed and bolstered by his inborn high spirits, he had a difficult time. But as one of his Parisian roommates said later, “Misfortune gave him maturity of mind.” By 1862 this most gregarious and sought-after of men was writing to his fiancée, Julia Gorham Hayden, that “study and society are incompatible … I hardly have time to take my meals … I intend studying my profession in such a manner as to make my success a surety and not a matter of chance…. Every day I find new beauties in a profession which I already place at the head of all the Fine Arts.”

What were the “new beauties” in question? As to that, surmise is all. Richardson was in Paris at a time of great ebullition for architects and architecture. The Second Empire conceived of architecture as the handmaiden of statecraft. It would have been difficult to be an architectural student in Paris between 1860 and 1865 and not hear talk of the new Opéra, the new Palais de Justice, the new extension of the Louvre, and the new Gare du Nord, the two big new state theaters in the Place du Chatelet, and, not least, the new Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Richardson is not known to have regarded any of the new official buildings in Paris in the light of revelation. But the projects listed above set the scale for his American career, insofar as they were, one and all, projects of weight and moment, by which an entire society was to be given a new tone. In this sense, the “new beauties” of which he spoke could have been a matter of scale, social responsibility, and enduring moral force.

But the “new beauties” may have resided as much in the practice of architecture itself, and specifically in the Beaux-Arts atelier system. The office of a major French architect in the 1860’s was likely to be a combination of workshop, club, commune, and guild. The members of the atelier were a fraternity--almost a priesthood --rather than a gang of superior day-laborers. The atelier was an ideal society in miniature, in which men found fulfillment in an atmosphere of selfless endeavor.


Richardson undoubtedly fell short of the complete Parisian experience in the early 1860’s in that, like Hunt before him, he was not interested at all in the new materials that were getting to be more and more important in the evolution of architecture. He was already what he was to be throughout his life: a masonry man, as opposed to an iron-and-glass man. Victor Baltard’s Halles Centrales were under way throughout his years in Paris, but there is no indication that he ever thought about them. That buildings should be built as lightly as umbrellas would not have seemed to him desirable. The very openness and candor of iron and glass, their impersonality and virtual anonymity—all these would have been uncongenial to Richardson. Architecture, for him, was a stylish and evocative way of separating outdoors from indoors.

Besides, there was the possibility that radical change in architecture would be the forerunner of radical change in life. Had not Plato said that when the laws of art change, the laws of the state change with them? And Richardson didn’t want the laws of the state to change.

He was a convinced and practicing conservative. He liked to work with established institutions, established fortunes, and established individuals. This was a practical preference, as well as a matter of principle. In his concern for “a rich, bold, living architecture,” he liked to revise and improve as he went along. (“Architects should not be made the convenience of contractors,” he wrote in the margin of a pencil sketch in 1870.) Where possible, he refused to be pinned down to finished preliminary drawings, preferring to work with the growing building as a sculptor works with clay.

This called for steady nerves, a cool head, an understanding builder-engineer, and a client who would not jib at the bills. In Orlando Whitney Norcross (1839-1920) Richardson had an associate who suited his nature ideally. He was, says the critic James F. O’Gorman, “an inventive self-trained engineer” to whom no problem of construction was insoluble. With one or another of the quarries and millworks that he had at his disposal, he could supply a range of materials that satisfied even Richardson.

But before Norcross could exercise his talents, there had to be both a client and a commission. At the outset of Richardson’s career in the United States, both of these were in very short supply. Established in a small way in New York, Richardson found that work was hard to come by. He had to sell the general library that he had bought at Harvard and before long he was down almost to his last dollar, though still conspicuous for his English suits, his English shoes, his well-chosen cravats, and his strong and still-slender build. Somewhere, somehow, he had to make an impressive beginning as his own master.

As has already been said, Richardson was not the man to spend his time with nonentities. Even when he spent the night in a Paris police station after taking part in a demonstration against the appointment of the architect and writer Violletle-Duc to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, it turned out that he shared a cell with Théophile Gautier—poet, novelist, and critic of art—and for that reason was released by the intercession of the Minister for Fine Arts. And when he got his first American commission in November, 1866, it was in part because a classmate of his had married well and was in a position to intercede on his behalf. When told of his success, Richardson burst into tears and said, “That is all I wanted— a chance .”

But it is one thing to have a chance and quite another to make full use of it. Richardson never faltered in a situation of that sort, and in building his Unitarian church at Springfield, Massachusetts, he did as he always did. Deploying the powers of persuasion, which, as one of his friends said, “could charm a bird out of a bush,” he invented and reinvented his design several times over. With hindsight we can detect already both the asymmetrical cunning with which he would continue to order his internal spaces and a delight—never to be lost—in the monumental properties of rough-cut American stone. The general impact of the work seems to have been that of a young man with a future. With his first solo work, and in his thirtieth year, Richardson was on the move.

It was to be quite some time, even so, before his work took on that full-blown look that we call “Richardsonian.” There is an insufficiency about his work in the 1860’s that has nothing to do with his gifts, or his resources, or his ambition. It was due in part to the fact that the right job in the right place had not yet come along, and in part to the realization, for Richardson, that architecture could only be learned by doing it. There was no substitute. Nor was there any way not to fall below that ideal of excellence whose fulfillment comes only with time. There might be fine individual features, like the tower of the Brattle Square Church in Boston. There might be demonstrations of ease and fluency in the adaptation of styles that owed nothing to America, like the Second Empire offices of the Western Railroad in Springfield, Massachusetts. But neither of these has the fulfilled, the almost predestined, look of the work for which Richardson is best known. There was something not quite centered about them, just as there was something not quite centered about Richardson’s geographical position, with his house on Staten Island, his office in Manhattan, and almost all his major commissions in Massachusetts.

There was a spectacular failure, too: a failure on the grand scale that could not be written off as one can write off a private house that stands behind high walls and can be covered in time with creeper. This was the high school in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was an immensely ambitious building: a building almost insanely out of style with the plain and earnest activity that was to go forward within it. The main tower reaches for the sky like a cry for help. The turrets look as if they had been bought on sale and added for no other reason. The external double staircase is absurd. It is a building that might be anything, anywhere, anytime, where the world was out of joint.


Yet so rich and strong was Richardson’s nature, and so speedy its power of assimilation, that when he was asked in 1870 to design the State Hospital in Buffalo, New York, the result was strong precisely where the Worcester High School had been weak. Sturdy twinned towers rise naturally from a structure that has precisely the amount of jut and thrust that were needed. Corner turrets look spontaneous and not stuck on. Hip-roofed dormers rehearse the forms of the towers and turrets. Lintels and colonnettes between the dormers show a finesse of detailing that is quite new in Richardson’s work.


Through no fault of Richardson’s the Buffalo State Hospital took a long time to build. Meanwhile, in June, 1872, Richardson won the competition for the new Trinity Church in Boston, with which his name was to be made once and for all. The cornerstone was laid on May 20, 1875, and in November, 1876, the work was complete in all essentials. Trinity Church, dedicated in February, 1877, was then and is still the most commanding single building in Boston.

Trinity Church as we see it today is not the church that Richardson saw dedicated. It has been amended and added to, inside and out, and almost always to its detriment. The ciborium covering the altar dates from the 1890’s. John La Farge’s mural paintings have “sunk” to a point at which we cannot judge them fairly. The “French medieval” stainedglass windows are quite out of key with Richardson’s intentions. It should also be said that Trinity Church as it was designed by Richardson speaks for an aesthetic of bricolage , shopping around, that until quite lately was very much out of fashion. To eyes trained by looking at buildings by, say, Mies Van Der Rohe, it seems axiomatic that new buildings should be in one style and speak for one man, one time, and one place. But Richardson in Trinity Church was quite prepared to begin with foliage carved in a style derived from the High Victorian Gothic churches of England and shift to the round arches of French Romanesque as he went along.


Described this way, Trinity Church sounds like something run up by a dealer in architectural old clothes. What kind of a genius is that , people would have asked in the 1920’s, who relies on cross-continental salmagundi when asked for an original design? Even in the late 1880’s, Richardson’s friend and first biographer, Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, felt bound to answer that question. After a point-by-point comparison of the tower at Salamanca with the tower in Boston, she concluded that Trinity Church “looks as though the man who built it had been born to build in just this way; it looks like the result of a genuine impulse and not of a lesson learned and then repeated.”

Mrs. Van Rensselaer also knew that Richardson’s was an art of color, texture, scale, and pace. Richardson planned Trinity as what he called “a color church” inside and out. Now that more than a hundred years have had their way with the exterior, it is worth remembering what Mrs. Van Rensselaer had to say about its initial appearance: “The yellowish-grey granite employed throughout for the rock-faced ashlar is soft and warm in tone, having much the effect of a sandstone. The trimmings are of that red Longmeadow sandstone which by its admirable texture and beautiful color has done so much for Boston buildings. The lower roofs are of plain slates, the roof and louvre-boards of the tower of semiglazed red tiles, and the crockets of red terra-cotta. The pronounced yet harmonious effect of color thus produced is one of Trinity’s greatest merits and at the time when it was built seemed the most boldly novel of them all.”


Richardson’s idea of a “color church” necessitated an inner space that would be, in his own words, “unembarrassed by conditions.” To bring this about, he decided that it would be quite wrong to allow the building materials to dictate the decoration in any way. He embarked, therefore, on a campaign of deception and of dissemblement. Furring and plastering were everywhere, encasing the four great granite piers that bore the weight of the tower and covering the huge barrel vault of trefoil section. Where iron rods were carried across on a level with the cusps of the arches, Richardson disguised them with wooden tie beams. The “material of actual construction,” according to Henry Van Brunt, was nowhere visible “to afford a key of color to the decorator.”

Color was to be all in that interior, and it was in that context that Richardson was able to realize what had clearly been a long-standing dream of his: a collaboration between equals in the decoration of a great public building. John La Farge worked on Trinity Church, and to great effect. So did the young Augustus Saint-Gaudens. From England, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones were called in. What Richardson wanted was that nothing less than the spirit of the age should take up residence in Trinity Church.

In 1874 he moved his residence and his office to Brookline, where he had as his neighbors an honor roll of distinguished Americans in the fields of medicine, law, economics, engineering, history, politics, connoisseurship, and the study of trees. Richardson did not build himself a splendid new mansion in Brookline—in fact he lived and died as the tenant of a house-cum-office that was none too large for his purposes—but he did undoubtedly see himself as the center of an ideal society. There were his wife and children: loving, eager, well-favored, stable. There were his assistants, including Stanford White, who was with him from 1872 to 1878. There was Frederick Law Olmsted, on whose neighborly judgment he relied very much. There were the neighbors, and the distinguished visitors from out of town, who crowded into the house on Sunday afternoons to hear quartets by Haydn and Beethoven and look at the designs on display.

What Richardson may have re-created in Brookline was the atmosphere of the Parisian ateliers that he had known not so many years before. There was the same atmosphere of hard and selfless work, powered by high spirits, uninhibited social exchange, and ritual feasting. There was the same enclosed world of collective effort. Richardson was all things in one to his assistants: father, teacher, employer, playmate, and god. Nor was it only architecture that they learned from him. In all his dealings with them he was a model of courtesy, though he was content with nothing short of their best. He gave them the run of his library, the benefit of his experience of the world, and the best of food and wine. They could play tennis on his court (though not for more than thirty minutes during any one working day). And if it was found that three of them could get inside one of his vests, he didn’t mind that, either—just once.

He hated to turn young people down. When Charles McKim asked to join his firm in 1870, he said, “My dear fellow, I haven’t a thing in my office for my one and only draftsman to do.” But somehow he found work for McKim. Even when he was mortally ill with Bright’s disease, a professional discussion would bring back color to his cheeks and fire to his eye. He lived for work—but for work done in the company of others and warmed by their enthusiasm.


Paris had taught him to love work of that kind. It may even have brought Richardson consolation of a more secret sort, in that as a very young man he was nominated for West Point, only to be turned down on account of an impediment in his speech. It is never agreeable to be rejected, and to be rejected on that particular ground leaves a lasting mark. Collective acceptance of the kind that Richardson found first in the Parisian ateliers and later in an atelier of his own founding may have been all the more precious to him if it helped to erase the memory of rejection at West Point.

Be that as it may, it is not fanciful to suppose that there was an element as much of thanksgiving as of gluttony in the scale on which Richardson entertained his guests. Something of traditional Southern hospitality may have entered into it, also, as on the occasion when the Wintersnight Club dined at his house. “The wines came from old cellars in New Orleans,” one guest remembered, “the oysters from Baltimore, and the terrapin from Augustin’s famous Philadelphia restaurant, with a chef in attendance all the way.”

Richardson was only thirty-five when he moved to Brookline, a mere eight years since he had designed his church at Springfield, Massachusetts. His was a prodigious ascension, but it did not leave him winded. To get his career in proportion, we must remember that at the time of the dedication of Trinity Church, in 1877, Richardson had a scant nine years to live. As yet in the future were the libraries, the railroad stations, the two buildings for Harvard, the City Hall for Albany, a house in Washington for Henry Adams, the Chamber of Commerce for Cincinnati, the Wholesale Store for Marshall Field in Chicago, a pyramidal monument in Wyoming Territory, and many other, smaller constructions. We almost believe what he said to one prospective client: “I’ll plan anything a man wants, from a cathedral to a chicken coop. That’s the way I make my living.”

There were of course dangers in that universal readiness. Everyone agrees that Richardson in his last years took on more work than he himself could seriously oversee. But he had something to say, he had not long to live, and he had a very good staff. Besides, he did not wish to fall short of the role that had been thrust upon him; that of Mr. Architecture. From being an obscure beginner on Staten Island, he had risen in hardly more than a decade to being the most talked-of architect in America. And he held that place: in 1885 American Architect and Building News took a poll as to what were the ten finest buildings in the country. Five of them were by Richardson, as it turned out, and Trinity Church, Boston, came at the top. Who can blame him if he wanted to redefine the potential of American architecture before he died?

If, in his private homes and commercial buildings, the forms of long ago were mated with the needs of the late nineteenth century, it was in part because Richardson was determined to uphold what he saw as the canons of great art in the face of architectural practices that were shoddy and mindless to an extreme degree. He upheld those canons for all to see, in exterior elevations that were rarely without strength of mass and distinction of detail; but he also upheld them where almost nobody would see the result—in the central light well of the Cheney Building in Hartford, Connecticut, for instance, where the decorative ironwork was like Victorian lace.

There was something paradoxical, even so, in the repeated use of eleventh- and twelfth-century forms in a newly industrialized society. Furthermore, ornamental masonry of the kind that Richardson favored was very expensive. And it served no commercial purpose whatever: who needs balconies, castellations, crocketing, and asymmetrical towers in a department store? There is a point at which practical unfitness overlaps aesthetic unfitness and, by way of that, moral unfitness. Richardson would never have expressed himself in those terms, but for whatever reason, we undeniably detect a certain flight from ornament in his last years—above all in what many people now see as his masterpiece, Marshall Field’s Chicago store.

The Field store represented a particular challenge to Richardson. “There is no public building in Chicago worth seeing,” he wrote to his son late in 1885, thereby omitting his own American Merchant’s Union Express Building- whether from modesty or from a specific distaste it is now impossible to say. Chicago was, therefore, the place of all places in which a blow could be struck for a new architecture. Richardson was still a masonry man: someone who thought of architecture initially in terms of masonry-bearing walls. The Field building had an iron skeleton internally, but in all that could be seen from the street, it was solid stone, with the full thickness of the red Missouri granite walls revealed at second-floor window height.

Today we see the long-vanished Field building with eyes that have over and over again seen plainness in architecture raised to the point of sublimity. But Richardson’s contemporaries had never before seen a comparable plainness in a commercial building that filled a whole city block.

In the Field building Richardson was aiming at what he called “a careful study of the piers and a perfectly quiet and massive treatment of the wall surfaces.” “Quiet and massive” are not the first words that come to mind when we think of Richardson. “Busty and vivacious” might be more apt, indeed, for the swelling masses and the chatterboxy detail with which he liked to keep the eye alert and amazed. But in his last years there was a marked falling-off in his tendency to “throw the book” at us.


He himself thought particularly well of the “quiet and massive” qualities of the Allegheny County buildings in Pittsburgh, which occupied his firm from 1884 until two years after his own death. The buildings in question are a combination of courthouse and jail. Charm would no doubt be out of place in a complex of this kind, and Richardson ruled out one aspect of charm by choosing a grayish Milford granite instead of the warmer and more varied kinds of stone that he used with such dexterity elsewhere. His jail is one of the more sinister constructions of its kind. One would have to be very sure of the infallibility of justice not to shiver at the evident relish with which Richardson, that kindest of men, made quite sure that the men and women who were sentenced in his courthouse would be committed forthwith to a living tomb. His mastery of mass and his sense of the spectacular are here mustered in the interests of one thing only: the punishment of men by other men, and their banishment from the sight of all other human beings.

It would be difficult, and perhaps pointless, to define any one style as “late Richardson.” Richardson in the 1880’s spread himself very thin, and, like every other architect with a large office, he sometimes took work to keep the office busy. But there is here and there a sovereign plainness that could have come from no other hand but his. The arklike Emmanuel Church of 1885-86 in Pittsburgh is a particularly cogent example. So is the use, in the Stoughton House in Cambridge and elsewhere, of unornamented shingle as an exterior covering. The severe but hospitable spaces of the Boston and Albany Railroad station at Chestnut Hill could also be adduced as an example of a purified and slimmed-down “late Richardson” idiom.

But no sooner would that be said than contradictory evidence would come to mind. Richardson in his last years was a master of the custom-built one-family house. As if still in reaction against the angelic but predictable rectangular living spaces that had been put about by Andrew Jackson Downing and others in the 1840’s and 1850’s, Richardson in the Paine House in Waltham,the Hay House in Washington, and others devised huge baronial halls with staircases wide enough for swordplay and decoration that shamed the Oriental rugs on the floor. Forgotten was the slablike form of the Field store; banished, the holy stillness of the Emmanuel Church. Here, as elsewhere, Richardson defies definition. “Like a legendary hero”—I quote again from Henry-Russell Hitchcock—“he lived for new problems, dreaming of ice-houses and river boats to conquer while the smooth machine of his office turned out the late buildings to which his name was signed.”

He was, of course, mortally ill. Had he not died, and had he retained the radiant good health on which people remarked in his youth, he could have lived through World War I. What we hesitate to define as “late Richardson” might by then have seemed like a transitional phase in more than fifty years’ activity. As it is, the career of Henry Hobson Richardson is one of the great unfinished poems of American cultural history, and Richardson himself is one of America’s lost leaders: a man who almost singlehandedly brought architecture from its position as hardly more than a subdepartment of contracting to the very front rank of the professions. Let us hope that somewhere in the Elysian fields Richardson is dining today, as he so often dined in life, off a magnum of champagne and an untold quantity of very good cheese.

This article is adapted from Three Centuries of Notable American Architects, a sumptuous new volume published by American Heritage. Edited by Joseph J. Thorndike, Jr., it offers illuminating profiles of America’s master builders. Containing 352 pages and more than 300 illustrations, the book is available to our readers at a special, prepublication price of $34.95, plus $1.95 for shipping and handling. A deluxe edition with gold-stamped cover and durable slip case is available for $5.00 more. You may get a copy of either one by sending a check to American Heritage, Dept. CS, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020. Castellating Kansas

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