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Robert Henderson Robertson (1849–1919)

  New York works;
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Park Row Building
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  010 The New York Savings Bank
012 Park Row Building
018 American Tract Society Building.  

Robert Henderson Robertson was a prolific designer on residential, commercial, and institutional buildings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Early in his career, Robertson worked with architect William Potter, but by 1881 had established his own office. Much of his early work reflects the influence of Henry Hobson Richardson's Romanesque Revival designs, evident, for example, at the Lincoln Building (1889–90) on Union Square, a transitional skyscraper, incorporating an elevator and iron construction, but lacking a steel-skeleton frame. Robertson was one of the first architects to develop a practice that relied heavily on skyscraper commissions. Among his other extant skyscrapers are the American Tract Society Building (1894–95) and the Park Row Building (1896–99), once the world's tallest office building. In the 1890s and early twentieth century, Robertson's designs reflect the change in architectural taste towards building inspired by Renaissance and Classical architecture. 

The original Phelps mansion, built in 1852, was substantially altered by architect Robert Henderson Robertson, a charter member of the three-name, fancy-monicker wing of the architectural profession. In 1888, he was retained to alter the house, adding the top story, rear addition, and observatory. What a skillful job he did! I am a big fan of R.H.R.'s work, especially his sprawling mansion for the Webb family on the shore of Lake Champlain in Charlotte, Vermont. The house and its great lawn are the site of the annual Mozart Festival, held at Shelburne Farms each August.

Closer to home, I am heartened to note that no less than six of Robertson's works are already designated landmarks: the New York Savings Bank, astride the Eighth Avenue gateway to Chelsea; the Lincoln Building on Union Square; the Moses Allen and Alice Dunning Starr House at 5 West 54th Street; the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on the Upper West Side; St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Hamilton Heights Historic District at Convent Avenue and West 141st Street; and the great Park Row Building in Lower Manhattan.