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Architect of the Gilded Age: The Triumphant Tale of Richard Morris Hunt

Richard Morris Hunt was one of the most important architects in American history. His talent and vision brought respect to his profession in the mid 19th century and helped to craft the seductive style of the Gilded Age.

So why are there so few examples of his extraordinary work still standing in New York City today?

You’re certainly familiar with the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the grand entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two commissions that came late in Hunt’s life.

And perhaps you’ve taken a tour of two luxurious mansions designed by Hunt — The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.

The mansion of Mrs. Caroline Astor

But Hunt was more than just pretty palaces.

He championed the profession of the architect in a period when Americans were more likely to associate the job with construction or carpentry. Hunt brought artistry to the fore and trained the first official class of American architects from his atelier at the Tenth Street Studio in Greenwich Village.

He promoted certain European styles of design — collectively known as the Beaux-Arts architecture — to growing wealthy class of Americans who wished to emulate the grand and regal lifestyles of French aristocracy.

His legacy includes prominent organizations promoting both the field of architecture and the need for effective urban design. Along the way he built hospitals, libraries, newspaper offices, artist studios, churches and even the first American apartment building.

Join us for this look at a true arbiter of American architecture.


Young Richard Morris Hunt, in a painting by Thomas Couture

Pavilion de la Bibliothèque Imperiale, the Louvre, Paris

Courtesy Rijksmuseum

The U.S. Capitol Building in 1855, before the wooden dome was removed.

Courtesy the Architect of the Capitol

The Thomas Rossiter House

Tenth Street Studio, Greenwich Village

Courtesy Library of Congress

Presbyterian Hospital

Photo by E. & H.T. Anthony Co. about 1872

The New York Tribune Building

Lenox Library

The Vanderbilt’s Petit Chateau on Fifth Avenue

The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

Pictured here in 1936 with FDR giving a speech at the 50th anniversary celebration. Preston Stroup / AP

The Breakers, Newport RI

1904, photo courtesy the Library of Congress

The Biltmore, Asheville NC

Library of Congress

Metropolitan Museum Entrance Hall

Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum


Richard Morris Hunt / Paul R. Baker
The Architectural Heritage of Newport Rhode Island / Antoinette F. Downing and Vincent J. Scully Jr.
Richard Morris Hunt: A Sketch of His Life and Adventures / Lloyd J. Farrar
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home / Denise Kiernan
The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt / Edited by Susan R. Stein
The Art Story: Richard Morris Hunt


After listening to this week’s episode on Richard Morris Hunt, dive back into past episodes which intersect with his story.

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3 replies on “Architect of the Gilded Age: The Triumphant Tale of Richard Morris Hunt”

OK, so this Patreon must declare that this page is just crying out for a photo and text of the FABULOUS Hosteling International on Amsterdam and 103 on the NYCHA Campus of Frederick Douglas Houses. With its own wonderful story worthy of a full episode of Da Boyz as a make up!

I love listening to you guys. I love The Gilded Age. I have read dozens of books on the subject and have toured many Vanderbilt and other Gilded Mansions. You do a great job. Thank you so much.

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