Architecture Images-New York Architects
Horace Trumbauer (1868-1938)
Born in the Frankford section of Philadelphia in 1868, Horace Trumbauer quit school at age fourteen to enter the architecture profession as an errand boy at G. W. and W. D. Hewitt's prominent Philadelphia firm. Advancing quickly, he was soon promoted to draftsman. After accumulating valuable experience, in 1890 he set out on his own, opening an office at 310 Chestnut Street. According to Trumbauer historian Frederick Platt, the architect received $171.75 for his first commission, a house near Narberth, Pennsylvania for Mrs. A. M. Walker. Soon afterward, he landed his first major commission, designing a mansion in Glenside for sugar baron William Welsh Harrison. When Harrison's mansion burned to the ground in 1893, the businessman again commissioned Trumbauer, who created Grey Towers (now part of Arcadia University), an enormous, crenellated, castle-like mansion that marks the architect's ascendance to prominence in the profession.
Within a few years of completing Grey Towers, Trumbauer's firm, which became known for its elegant homes for America's elite, was flourishing. For several decades, until the stock market crashed in 1929, Trumbauer enjoyed what his stepdaughter called "the big money years." In the 1890s, Trumbauer, chief designer Frank Seeburger, and the other members of the growing office planned large country houses for the wealthy, smaller suburban houses for developers like Wendell & Smith, the creators of Overbrook Farms, and even several buildings for Willow Grove Amusement Park. While working at the amusement park, Trumbauer developed lucrative relationships with its proprietors, the Widener and Elkins families, for whom he would complete numerous important commissions. Significantly, traction magnate Peter A. B. Widener, the family patriarch and vice president of the Free Library's Board of Trustees, was instrumental in Trumbauer's receipt of the main Free Library commission in 1911.
In 1903, Trumbauer married Sara Thomson Williams. For his new family, which included Sara's daughter Agnes Helena, Trumbauer erected a home in the Wynnefield section, on the western edge of the city. There, he enjoyed gardening and collecting architecture books and antiques. In the first years of the new century, Trumbauer's firm expanded its scope, designing not only mansions for the rich in Philadelphia, New York City, and Newport, Rhode Island, but also apartment houses and other large structures. The first, the St. James Apartments on the southeast corner of Thirteenth and Chestnut Streets, was erected in 1902.
Over the next decades, Trumbauer and his staff, who executed more than one thousand commissions, would add office and school buildings, theaters, hospitals, club houses, churches, libraries, museums, and other building types to their ever expanding repertoire. By 1904, when the prominent Architectural Record published a lengthy account of Trumbauer's work, the self-educated architect had become one of the country's most distinguished. Yet, because he worked exclusively in period styles, reviving the architecture of distant times and places, Trumbauer's celebrity did not persist into the mid twentieth century, when critics enamored with European Modernism valued architecture that renounced all historical precedents.
After World War I and the completion of Whitemarsh Hall, Edward T. Stotesbury's tremendous palace outside Philadelphia, Trumbauer built fewer mansions for the nouveau riche. In this period, his commission list included growing numbers of office buildings like the Public Ledger Building, hotels like the colossal Ben Franklin and Chateau Crillon, and medical buildings like Jefferson Hospital's Curtis Clinic and Hahneman Medical College. With collaborators Zantzinger, Borie & Medary, he also erected the magnificent Philadelphia Museum of Art. Among his most important commissions of the period was the Gothic Revival Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina.
With changing tastes and the Great Depression, Trumbauer's practice dwindled in the 1930s and his staff fell from a high of about 30 members to his longtime associate Julian Abele and a few others. Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, Trumbauer died on September 18, 1938. Honorary pallbearers at his funeral included George D. and Joseph E. Widener, architect Charles L. Borie Jr., eminent art dealer Joseph Duveen, and Duke University's Frank C. Brown. Denigrated by modernists for his preference for revival styles, Trumbauer, one of the most accomplished architects of the Gilded Age, was neither appreciated nor understood until the end of the twentieth century, when architects and historians looked back and explored their rich heritage.
The Architects and the Trumbauer Firm
Horace Trumbauer established his architectural firm in 1890. He erected buildings throughout the United States: Saint Catherine's Chapel (1901) in Spring Lake, New Jersey, the Hotel Pere Marquette (1925) in Peoria, Illinois, and the New York Evening Post Building (1925). However the vast majority of his buildings were designed for Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. In the greater Philadelphia area, Trumbauer erected several hundred buildings, from modest suburban homes to towering skyscrapers. Two of the most important are the Reading Railroad's imposing, classical station (1928) on Broad Street in North Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania's English medieval style Irvine Auditorium (1929).
In 1906 He recruited the accomplished young architect, Julian Abele, to join him. Over the ensuing 30 years Abele grew into the chief designer and primary consultant for the firm. During those decades, leading up to the Stock Market crash in 1929, as the city's business district shifted west from the Independence Hall neighborhood to Broad Street, Trumbauer and his talented designers, especially Abele, erected dozens of offices, homes, hotels, clubs, and cultural institutions for the city's burgeoning business class in the area.
Like William Penn, who devised Philadelphia's grid plan in the late seventeenth century, and Edmund Bacon, who led the drives to redevelop Penn Center and Market East after World War II, Horace Trumbauer and his gifted associates played a critical role creating the modern skyline around Philadelphia's City Hall. Perhaps more than any other architects, Trumbauer and Abele defined the Philadelphia cityscape we experience today.
Residential Designs by the Horace Trumbauer
During his illustrious, half-century career, architect Horace Trumbauer planned hundreds of residences, from modest suburban houses to sprawling country estates. In the quarter-century leading up to World War I, he cemented his reputation as one of the premier Gilded Age architects, designing dozens of the country's most exquisite and extravagant mansions for captains of industry and finance. After the war, he built fewer residences, large and small, as his practice shifted to commercial and institutional commissions.
Trumbauer opened his architectural office in 1890. According to noted Trumbauer historian Frederick Platt, Mrs. A. M. Walker was the first to commission a design from the young architect. In the spring of 1890, she employed him to plan a modest house for a suburban neighborhood near Narberth, Pennsylvania. When the job was complete, Trumbauer charged $171.75 for his services plus $7.00 for travel.
Following the inaugural commission for Mrs. Walker, Trumbauer planned numerous suburban homes for middle-class clients during the 1890s. Among these, he designed several houses for developers Wendell & Smith for their Philadelphia-area planned communities in Germantown, Wayne, St. Davids, and Overbrook. Typical of his work of this period are two designs for the Overbrook Farms development, one for an eclectic style house with Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Norman influences and the other for a house in the style of contemporary British architect C. F. A. Voysey. These designs were published in the American Architect and Building News in 1893. Although ornamented with details from various historical periods, the designs were nonetheless modern.
Trumbauer combined simple geometric forms in a quiet harmony, eschewing the cluttered, almost frenetic assemblages common to the Victorian era. As he matured as an architect and designed larger and larger homes, Trumbauer continued to develop a noble, classical architecture that was predicated on his discerning sense of form and proportion.
Trumbauer's big break came in 1893, while only 24 years of age, when he designed his first great country estate, a mansion for sugar baron William W. Harrison. Two years earlier he had renovated a house for Harrison in Glenside, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill neighborhood. After the renovated house burned in January 1893, the sugar producer commissioned Trumbauer to design Grey Towers, a much larger house for the same site. Drawing on his experiences in the mid-1880s while working on the design of Drum Moir, a castle-like mansion for Henry Howard Houston, Trumbauer produced a design for a crenelated mansion based on an English castle. Unlike most of his later works, which were orderly and balanced, Grey Towers is a jagged, asymmetrical pile based on medieval precedents. With 40 rooms, many of which were decorated in various French historical styles by the renowned Parisian firm Allard et Fils, Grey Towers was one of the largest residences in the United States. The noteworthy mansion, which was purchased by Beaver College (recently renamed Arcadia University) in 1929, catapulted Trumbauer to fame.
Capitalizing on the notoriety of Grey Towers, Trumbauer designed the first of a complex of mansions for the intertwined Widener and Elkins families in Elkins Park, directly north of the Philadelphia border at the end of Broad Street. The patriarchs of the two families, Peter A. B. Widener and William L. Elkins were business partners, in-laws, trustees, and great supporters of the Free Library of Philadelphia. When completed, the complex of five mansions and numerous subsidiary buildings, including a polo grounds, would form the most exquisite neighborhood in the entire Delaware Valley.
Trumbauer erected Chelten House, a half-timber Elizabethan mansion, in 1896 for George W. Elkins, the son of the family patriarch. Chelten House burned in 1908 and Trumbauer rebuilt it the following year. For George W. Elkins's daughter Stella and her husband George F. Tyler, Trumbauer erected Georgian Terrace, a mansion south of Chelten House, in 1905. Georgian Terrace now serves as the main building of Temple University's Tyler School of Fine Arts.
For the patriarch William L. Elkins, in 1898 Trumbauer designed Elstowe Manor, an Italian Renaissance style palace as grand as any home in the United States. Parisian interior designers Allard et Fils decorated Elstowe Manor's 45 rooms in elegant French styles with exquisite woods, marbles, and other luxurious materials. Together, Chelten House and Elstowe Manor now form a Dominican retreat.
Adjacent to the Elkins family mansions, Trumbauer built a vast complex of buildings on the Widener family's 300-acre estate. For Peter A. B. Widener, the family patriarch, Trumbauer designed and erected Lynnewood Hall between 1897 and 1900. At the same time, the architect converted Widener's former mansion at the corner of Broad and Girard Streets in North Philadelphia into the Josephine H. Widener Memorial Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Several years later, Widener presided over Trumbauer's selection as the architect of the central library building.
Lynnewood Hall was one of the most imposing, magnificent residences in America when completed in 1900. Based on Prior Park, a mid eighteenth-century Palladian Revival palace in Bath, England designed by John Wood the Elder, the 110-room mansion provided a dignified setting for Widener's famous art collection, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Surrounded by an iron fence one mile in length, the mansion and its formal French garden, which was landscaped by Jacques Gréber between 1914 and 1916, was an incredible accomplishment for an architect who was not 30 years of age when the planning began. For decades after the completion of Lynnewood Hall, Trumbauer added myriad out buildings to the estate including barns, stables, and cottages.
The most important of these was Ronaele Manor, a Tudor Revival mansion. Between 1923 and 1926, Trumbauer designed and constructed the mansion with 60 rooms and 28 chimneys for Widener's granddaughter Eleanor Widener and her husband Fitz Eugene Dixon. Much of the southern section of the Widener estate, which was known as Lynnewood Farm, was developed as an apartment complex in the 1950s. Sadly, today Lynnewood Hall lies in ruins and is threatened with demolition.
The wealthy Widener and Elkins families recommended Trumbauer's burgeoning architecture firm to their friends and associates. Several commissioned the favored architect. For example, coal millionaire Edward J. Berwind, who had collaborated with Widener on the financing of the New York City subway system, commissioned Trumbauer to design The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island at the turn of the century. Based on the mid eighteenth-century French Château d'Asnières outside Paris, The Elms was one of the most exquisite vacation villas in Newport, a gathering place for the country's rich and powerful. Purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1962 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996, The Elms is one of only a few Trumbauer residences open to the public.
During the teens, Trumbauer designed Miramar, a grand French classical vacation villa in Newport, for Eleanor Elkins Widener. Widener summered at Miramar with her second husband Alexander Hamilton Rice, the son of a former Massachusetts governor. She met Rice in 1915 at the dedication of Harvard University's Widener Library, which she had commissioned from Trumbauer to memorialize her son, Harry Elkins Widener, who died on the Titanic in 1912. Like several other great Trumbauer houses, Miramar was set in formal French gardens designed by famous landscape architect Jacques Gréber. A renowned planner, Gréber not only prepared the final plans for Philadelphia's Fairmount or Ben Franklin Parkway, but also collaborated with architect Paul Cret on the Rodin Museum, which sits on the Parkway west of the Central Library building.
Throughout his long career, Trumbauer built numerous other stately suburban and seaside homes including a residence for C. J. Matthews (1910) in Langhorne, Pennsylvania and Androssan, meaning "high promontory," a residence for Robert L. Montgomery (1913) in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
In addition to these mansions and villas, Trumbauer also erected several lavish urban townhouses including one on New York City's Fifth Avenue for Miramar-owner Eleanor Elkins Widener (1922). The Edward C. Knight House at 1629 Locust Street in Philadelphia is an excellent example of Trumbauer's townhouse designs. Erected in 1902, Knight's French-inspired home reveals the architect's ability to bestow dignity and grandeur on a smaller scale and in an urban setting. Trumbauer also designed a grand summer residence for Knight in Newport.
In 1909, Trumbauer, with the help of his gifted assistant Julian Abele, designed one of his greatest urban townhouses, a residence for James B. Duke, also on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The wealthy Duke was an associate of Peter A. B. Widener, the founder of American Tobacco Company, and the benefactor of Duke University. Like many of Trumbauer's most impressive commissions, the Duke mansion was conceived in a mid eighteenth-century French classical style. According to Trumbauer scholar Frederick Platt, it is based on architect Etiene Laclotte's Hôtel Labottière, constructed in Bordeaux in 1773. Dignified, noble, and grand, the Duke mansion, which is now occupied by New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, is closely related stylistically to the Central Library building. Notably, Trumbauer commissioned famed architectural illustrator Jules Guerin to execute perspective renderings of the two related buildings, the Duke mansion and the central library building. Guerin's beautiful watercolor of the library building now hangs in the Central Library's Executive Offices.
During the twenty years after World War I, Trumbauer shifted his practice, building fewer and fewer grand residences, which had been the mainstay of his firm, and more and more commercial and institutional buildings. Whereas, for example, in 1902 Trumbauer's firm erected eight residences and one church. In 1925 the firm was at work on not only one home but four office buildings, a hotel, and the campus for Duke University. Between 1916 and 1921, during the transition away from residential design, Trumbauer planned and constructed Whitemarsh Hall, his greatest but one of his last palatial estates.
Commercial and Institutional Designs by the
Horace Trumbauer Architectural Firm
Although architect Horace Trumbauer forged his reputation at the end of the nineteenth century with his grand homes for wealthy financiers and industrialists, he and his staff of designers also planned numerous other types of structures. From simple mill and office buildings to churches, railroad stations, hotels, skyscrapers, and educational and cultural buildings, Trumbauer and his team erected many significant commercial and institutional buildings in the Philadelphia area and throughout the United States.
In 1895, he branched out, building several structures at Willow Grove Amusement Park including the famous Music Pavilion. Through this commission, Trumbauer met his greatest benefactors, the intertwined Widener and Elkins families, whose rapid transit company financed the park. Situated at the end of a trolley line, the park provided weekend riders for a transit system that primarily carried weekday commuters. Over the next four decades, Trumbauer designed several mansions and other important buildings for the Wideners and Elkins.
Peter A. B. Widener, the patriarch of the Widener family, was also instrumental in the selection of Trumbauer to design the Free Library's central building as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on which he collaborated with the firm of Zantzinger, Borie & Medary between 1911 and 1928. One of the most important commissions from the families came in 1912 when Eleanor Elkins Widener retained Trumbauer to design a main library for Harvard University as a memorial to her son Harry Elkins Widener, a Free Library trustee who had died in the Titanic disaster earlier that year. Trumbauer's only other library commission, Harvard's classical Widener Library opened with a solemn ceremony on June 24, 1915.
Trumbauer's association with the Widener and Elkins families led to commissions from their wealthy and powerful associates in Philadelphia, New York City, and elsewhere. For example, Peter A. B. Widener introduced business associate and founder of the American Tobacco Company James B. Duke to Trumbauer. For Duke, Trumbauer not only erected city and country homes, but also designed Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Trumbauer and his long-time chief designer Julian Abele, who completed the firm's work at Duke after Trumbauer's death in 1938, planned the east campus in the Georgian style between 1925 and 1927 and the west campus in the Gothic style between 1926 and 1939. One of America's greatest college campuses, Duke is a Trumbauer masterpiece.
More than any other neighborhood, Trumbauer and his staff left their mark on the area around Philadelphia's City Hall. In the Center City area alone, they built more than 40 structures including several large hotels, apartment and office buildings, and homes for cultural institutions. In 1901, the architect designed his first major building in the neighborhood, the urbane St. James Apartments at Thirteenth and Walnut Streets, an eclectic, Beaux-Arts influenced apartment house for the city's elite. At the same time, Trumbauer collaborated with famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham on the second Land Title Building, a classically ornamented skyscraper at Broad and Sansom Streets. A few years later, he built the first of several buildings, a maternity ward, for Hahnemann Hospital. During the second half of the first decade of the century, he erected two important club buildings in the neighborhood, the brick Georgian style Racquet Club (1906) on Seventeenth between Walnut and Locust Streets and the French-inspired Union League Annex (1909) on Fifteenth Street at Sansom.
Trumbauer also designed numerous important buildings for the neighborhood during the second decade of the century. In 1912 he planned the high-rise Adelphia Hotel for the northeast corner of Thirteenth and Chestnut Streets. The next year, he and his staff designed the Stock Exchange on Walnut Street west of Broad. To house the exchange and offices, Trumbauer planned a sophisticated, tripartite building with discernable base, middle, and capital; in the middle section, he frankly revealed the underlying steel frame while simultaneously dematerializing the brick infill with texturing. Two years later, Trumbauer employed innovative cast concrete ornamentation for his elegant, French classical Widener Building on South Penn Square. Not long before the United States entered the World War, Trumbauer and his designers planned the impressive, classical Beneficial Savings Fund Society building (1916) at Twelfth and Chestnut Streets. Almost unchanged in nine decades, Beneficial Savings Fund Society building, which shares many details with the Free Library's central building, is perhaps the best preserved Trumbauer building in the city.
In the 1920s, as Trumbauer's emphasis shifted further from grand residential commissions to commercial and institutional commissions, he erected sundry buildings in Center City. Adding to his many buildings south of City Hall, he constructed the utilitarian, high-rise Bankers' Trust Office Building (1922) on the northeast corner of Juniper and Walnut Streets and the Albert M. Greenfield Building (1925, demolished) at 1313 Walnut Street. To the east, Trumbauer built two major buildings, the Georgian style Public Ledger Building (1923), a headquarters for the important daily newspaper, at Sixth and Chestnut Streets and the enormous Ben Franklin Hotel (1925) at Ninth and Chestnut Streets. To the west, in addition to completing the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Trumbauer and his staff erected several buildings including the sleek Le Chateau Hotel (1928), a skyscraper with Gothic ornament at Nineteenth and Locust Streets on Rittenhouse Square. In the late 1920s, Trumbauer also designed a towering station for the B & O Railroad on Market Street along the east bank of the Schuylkill River, but the station was never built.
Toward the end of his career, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Trumbauer experimented with a modern style based on the soaring vertical lines of Gothic cathedrals and popularized by illustrator Hugh Ferriss, who sketched enigmatic, looming skyscrapers. Relaxing his steadfast commitment to historical styles, he designed two major hospital buildings in Center City in this modern, vertical style, the Hahnemann Medical College building (1927, now called the South Tower) at 230 North Broad Street and the Jefferson Hospital Curtis Clinic (1930) on Walnut west of Tenth Street.
Despite this turn toward a modern style of design, the Trumbauer firm is best remembered for its elegant, dignified buildings in revival styles, especially an eclectic style based on a Beaux-Arts reinterpretation of the classical vocabulary.
Streetscapes/Manhattan Town Houses of
Horace Trumbauer; Sumptuous Sophistication for the Country Estate Set
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Published: August 25, 2002, Sunday
A NEW book due out this fall reviews the career of Horace Trumbauer, the Philadelphia mansion architect who built grand country places for the very rich. But he also created some of the most sumptuous town houses ever seen in Manhattan, and the author Michael Kathrens hopes that his book, ''American Splendor: The Residential Architecture of Horace Trumbauer,'' will reclaim the reputation of one of America's most successful residential designers.
Born in 1868 in moderate circumstances in suburban Philadelphia, Horace Trumbauer went to work at 14 for the architects George and William Hewitt. ''America's leading designer of great houses was a middle-class Philadelphian'' with no advanced education, Mr. Kathrens says in the book, which is to be published in October by Acanthus Press.
In 1890, Trumbauer opened his own office, an ambitious step for a 21-year-old; one of his first projects was a jail in Jenkintown, Pa. He began designing upper-middle-class houses for suburban developers, and in 1893 got a break that defined his later career.
William Welsh Harrison's house, Rosedale Hall, burned down and the owner retained Trumbauer to build anew. The new Grey Towers was a lumbering, rock-faced house designed like a Germanic castle, with no hint of the sophisticated French classic styling that marked Trumbauer's later career.
But commissions began to flow from leading Philadelphia families. In 1900, he completed Peter A. B. Widener's 110-room Palladian-style Lynnewood Hall, set on 150 acres in Elkins Park, Pa. Then Edward J. Berwind, the coal magnate, hired Trumbauer for his big limestone house in Newport. R.I. That house, the Elms, is sublime, writes Mr. Kathrens, his first French neo-Classic house, executed with a suave knowledge of 18th-century French design.
While Trumbauer was developing his practice in giant country estates, some New York City commissions arrived, many from Philadelphians. The first two were in 1904, both on the Upper East Side. John and Alice Drexel built the cool, reserved, limestone at 1 East 62nd Street from Trumbauer's designs; they had had the architect make plans for a site at 13 East 54th Street, but the impending construction of the St. Regis Hotel at 55th Street and Fifth Avenue provoked Mr. Drexel to seek quieter surroundings.
In the same year, I. Townsend Burden, who owned an iron foundry, built 2 East 92nd -- replaced by the present apartment house at 1107 Fifth Avenue -- a French town house of red brick and stone, roughly similar to what is now the Neue Galerie building at 86th Street and Fifth. Later, Marjorie Merriweather Post took over the house and subsequently turned it over to the developer of 1107 Fifth, in exchange for a triplex in the finished building.
In 1909, George J. Gould, son of the financier Jay Gould, finished a Trumbauer house on the northeast corner of 67th Street and Fifth Avenue; this has also been replaced, although some of the balcony ironwork was reused as a decorative touch on the apartment building that replaced it.
The next year, Adelaide Douglas, whom Mr. Kathrens identifies as the mistress of J. Pierpont Morgan, used Trumbauer's design to build 57 Park Avenue near 38th Street in the Louis XVI style, and in 1912 the tobacco merchant James B. Duke finished his $1 million new house at 78th Street and Fifth, the most expansive and probably the best known Trumbauer building in New York. Set well back from the street, the three-story house appears to have only two stories. With eight bedrooms, it housed Duke, his wife and daughter, and 14 servants.
In 1914, James Speyer, a banker, built the elegant, classical house at 87th Street and Fifth Avenue, later replaced by the apartment building at 1056 Fifth Avenue. It shared with the Duke house a leisurely, even lazy, low scale, as if they did not partake of the land-squeezing ethic of most New York building projects. Some idea of how a Trumbauer client entertained is the musicale given by the Speyers in 1920 -- 100 guests for buffet supper and the violinist Fritz Kreisler in concert.
Construction on the house for Marion S. Amory Carhart at 3 East 95th Street was interrupted by World War I, and she died in 1918 before she could occupy the building, which was a linchpin in a projected colony of mansions on the block.
In the 1920's, Trumbauer continued with his grand country houses, like the 100,000-square-foot Whitemarsh Hall, built for Edward T. Stotesbury, a financier, outside Philadelphia in Springfield. Mr. Kathrens quotes Henry Ford, upon visiting the house, as saying, ''It's a great experience to see how the rich live.''
Trumbauer's last grand building in Manhattan, the 40-room Herbert N. Straus residence at 9 East 71st Street, survives. Straus, one of the owners of R. H. Macy & Company, stopped construction when the Depression deepened in 1931, and after he died in 1933 some of the 18th-century interiors he had bought in France for installation in the house wound up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Wrightsman Galleries. The house was later used as a school and then reverted to single-family occupancy.
Trumbauer died in 1938, but his office, under its head designer, Julian Abele, lasted until the 1950's, although the market for grand French-style houses was by that time extremely lean. Later, Trumbauer's reputation fell into the shadows for several reasons. The sophisticated French houses at which he excelled seemed irretrievably irrelevant at a time of aggressive modernism, without even the patriotic associations of the Georgian and Federal styles.
Also, the presence of Mr. Abele, an African-American who joined in the early 1900's, attracted somewhat wishful stories that Trumbauer could not draw and that Abele was really the architect in the firm, when, in fact, there is little internal evidence of how the design process really worked.
Henry Hope Reed, in the introduction to Mr. Kathrens's book, calls this ''politically correct,'' and notes that ''the very presence of Abele only underscores the extraordinary stature of Trumbauer.''
Mr. Kathrens, whose book includes photographs and floor plans of only the architect's most important residential works, a small fraction of his 1,100 commissions, said: ''I'm trying to resurrect Trumbauer's reputation. He was a very private man, he didn't court the press.'' This reticence has affected the way history has been written, added Mr. Kathrens, who works in the wholesale gift industry.
He admires not only Trumbauer's connoisseurship of French 18th-century design but also his mechanical grasp of how a great house works. ''He integrated the entertaining, living and especially the service areas in these big houses so well -- look at the basement plan of 9 East 71st Street,'' Mr. Kathrens said, referring to the complicated network of pantries, storerooms, food preparation areas and servant's spaces in the Straus house, ''and yet he was self-taught, with no academic training.''
The fate of Trumbauer's houses has been mixed. One masterpiece, Lynnewood Hall, is ''really in horrible condition,'' Mr. Kathrens said, and partly stripped. And he mourns especially the demolition of Whitemarsh Hall in 1980. But in New York City, the Duke house, at 78th Street and Fifth Avenue, is now New York University's Institute of Fine Arts and is generally intact.
The old Carhart house, at 3 East 95th Street, has received rough treatment during its occupancy by the Lycée Français, but the school went to contract earlier this year with an undisclosed developer, and the closing on the property is expected next year after the school moves out.
An obstacle to the restoration of Trumbauer buildings, Mr. Kathrens said, is inherent in the style itself. Because French antiques still command very high prices, ''it's much more difficult to furnish a house in 18th-century French'' than in Georgian, Mr. Kathrens said, adding that, for one large house, ''one dealer told me it would be about $70 million to furnish it properly.''
Published: 08 - 25 - 2002 , Late Edition - Final , Section 11 , Column 1 , Page 7
Correction: September 8, 2002, Sunday
The Streetscapes column on Aug. 25, about the architect Horace Trumbauer, misstated the name of the woman for whom he designed the mansion at 3 East 95th Street. She was Marion B. Carhart, the widow of Amory S. Carhart -- not Marion S. Amory Carhart.
Copyright New York Times.
|With special thanks to http://www.library.phila.gov/|