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The Story of Architect Stanford White

Feb 12, 2020 | Architect, Architecture, Featured Professional, Featured Projects, Historic Architecture, Stanford White

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Stanford White was an American architect who had a brilliant career in the late 19th century. Although White didn’t have any formal training to be an architect, he was Henry Hobson Richardson’s principal assistant, who at that time was known as the world’s greatest architect.

During the six years White had worked as Richardson’s assistant, he learned quite a bit. After deciding to exit the position, White embarked on a 1½ year tour of Europe, which seemed to cement what was to become part of his style. 

When White returned to America, he teamed up with architects Charles Follen McKim and William Rutherford Mead. They created the architectural firm McKim Mead & White (MMW), which went on to become the most successful and prolific architectural firm during that era.

Stanford White had great abilities as a draftsman, designer, architect, and interior decorator. Although the firm of McKim Mead & White was responsible for much of New York City’s important architectural accomplishments, the credit was always given in collaborative fashion, so direct credit to one architect was never given.

The buildings that were credited to MMW included: Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island; Madison Square Garden II in New York City; Washington Square Arch in New York City; Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia; New York Herald Building, and the list goes on. They also worked on churches and government buildings, including the original renovation of the White House in 1902, where they relocated the president’s offices on the second floor to the executive office building, now known as the West Wing.

Unfortunately, White’s death came in the form of murder by the husband of White’s mistress, Evelyn Nesbit. She was an artist’s model, chorus girl, actress, and the desire of White’s eye. This prompted a big scandal that seemed to shadow White’s brilliant career and achievements. He was ironically shot to death at Madison Square Garden, the very building his firm designed, in front of hundreds of witnesses. Many movies and books were written about his life and death, including one by his very own great-granddaughter Suzannah Lessard, entitled The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family.

From the ADG Design Studio

Working on a new fireplace screen for architect Paul Williger…

by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting