Last modified on September 21, 2020, at 02:55

Henry Hobson Richardson

Henry Hobson Richardson​ ​

(American architect)​

Henry Hobson Richardson.jpg

Born September 28, 1838​​
Priestley Plantation
St. James Parish, Louisiana
Died April 27, 1886 (aged 47)​​
Brookline, Massachusetts

Resting place:
Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline​

Spouse Julia Gorham Hayden Richardson (married 1867-1886, his death)​

Six children:
Henry Dickson and Catherine Caroline Priestley Richardson
Alma mater:
Tulane University
Harvard University
Ecole des Beaux Arts

Religion Episcopalian

​​ Henry Hobson Richardson, also known as H. H. Richardson (September 28, 1838 – April 27, 1886), was an American architect whose designs inspired what became known as the "Richardsonian Romanesque" style.[1] He is sometimes called "the father of American architecture" and ranks alongside such giants in his field as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.[2]


The eldest of four children, he was born on the Priestley Plantation in St. James Parish nearly sixty miles from New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were Henry Dickson Richardson, a cotton and iron merchant, and the former Catherine Caroline Priestley, a granddaughter of the English chemist Joseph Priestley, who in 1774 discovered oxygen. Educated in public and private schools in New Orleans, Richardson had an aptitude for drawing. In 1855, he attended Tulane University in New Orleans before entering Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to study civil engineering.


Upon his Harvard graduation in 1859, his interest lay in architecture. Richardson's father had died in 1854, when Richardson was sixteen years of age. His stepfather, John D. Bein, agreed to finance studies at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France, at which he studied under Louis Jules André and worked for a French architectural firm. At start of the American Civil War, Richardson's friends persuaded him to remain in France and not fight for the Confederate States of America. After the war, Richardson settled in New York City. He lived in the Staten Island borough, where five of his six children were born. One of his neighbors was the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.[2] His first commission was a Unitarian church in Springfield, Massachusetts, completed in 1866. Early in 1867, he wed the former Julia Gorham Hayden, the daughter of a Boston physician.[3][4]

In 1867, he entered into a long partnership with Charles D. Gambrill, but both found that they worked best independently of each other. His commissions came mostly from New York and New England, including Trinity (Episcopalian) Church in Boston, which on its completion in 1872 earned Richardson a national reputation. He relocated in 1874 to Brookline in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, where he opened a solo office in 1878. Among the structures that he designed were public buildings, libraries, commercial buildings, railroad stations, and private residences. Although most of his commissions came from New York and Massachusetts, he also designed work built in Pittsburgh (Allegheny County Courthouse), Chicago (Marshall Field Wholesale Store), Albany, New York (the state capitol), Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, and from his home state New Orleans and Baton Rouge. He inspected his building projects with a focus on details. He almost single-handed revived the Spanish-French Romanesque style of architecture, which became known as "Richardsonian Romanesque." Richardson influenced young architects such as Louis Sullivan, who formulated the "form follows function" dictum. Richardson was affiliated with the American Institute of Architects, the Archaelogical Institute of America, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Institute of British Architects.[3]

Death and familyEdit

Richardson died in Brookline at the age of forty-seven of Bright's disease, a kidney ailment. He is interred at Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline. His survivors included his wife and their six children. Five of the six included Julia Hayden Richardson Shepley (1867–1965), John Cole Hayden Richardson (1869–1922), Henry Hyslop Richardson (1872-1933), Philip Richardson (1874–1948), and Frederick Leopold William Richardson (1876-1965). The oldest and youngest child died two months apart. At least two of the sons, Philip and Frederick, were also architects.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Henry Hobson Richardson. Retrieved on May 2, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 H. H. Richardson: American Architect. Retrieved on May 3, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Richardson, Henry Hobson. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography: Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on May 2, 2020.
  4. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography uses these sources for the article on Richardson: Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works (1888); Henry-Russell Hitchcock, The Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times (1961) and Richardson as a Victorian Architect (1966), and The Dictionary of American Biography.

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