Richardsonian Romanesque

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Trinity Church in Boston, an exemplar of Richardsonian Romanesque style. Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts - front oblique view.JPG
Trinity Church in Boston, an exemplar of Richardsonian Romanesque style.
Richardsonian Romanesque has both French and Spanish Romanesque characteristics, as seen in the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit, by architects George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice in 1891 RRomanesqueDetroit.jpg
Richardsonian Romanesque has both French and Spanish Romanesque characteristics, as seen in the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit, by architects George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice in 1891
Architectural details of the American Museum of Natural History AMNHrearentrance.JPG
Architectural details of the American Museum of Natural History

Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of Romanesque Revival architecture named after the architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). The revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish, and Italian Romanesque characteristics. Richardson first used elements of the style in his Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo, New York, designed in 1870. Multiple architects followed in this style in the late 1800s; Richardsonian Romanesque later influenced modern styles of architecture as well.


History and development

This very free revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics. It emphasizes clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed "Romanesque" arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.

Architects working in the style

The style includes work by the generation of architects practicing in the 1880s before the influence of the Beaux-Arts styles. It is epitomised by the American Museum of Natural History's original 77th Street building by J. Cleaveland Cady of Cady, Berg and See in New York City. It was seen in smaller communities in this time period such as in St. Thomas, Ontario's city hall and Menomonie, Wisconsin's Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, 1890.

Some of the practitioners who most faithfully followed Richardson's proportion, massing and detailing had worked in his office. These include:

Other architects who employed Richardson Romanesque elements in their designs include:

The style also influenced the Chicago school of architecture and architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.[ citation needed ]

Overseas, Folke Zettervall was influenced by the Richardson style when he designed several railway stations in Sweden during this period. [2] In Finland, Eliel Saarinen was influenced by Richardson. [3]


The original building for the Toledo Club in Toledo, Ohio, 1900s Toledo Club, Toledo (Lucas County, Ohio).jpg
The original building for the Toledo Club in Toledo, Ohio, 1900s

Research is underway to try to document the westward movement of the artisans and craftsmen, many of whom were immigrant Italians and Irish, who built in the Richardsonian Romanesque tradition. The style began in the East, in and around Boston, where Richardson built the influential Trinity Church on Copley Square. As the style was losing favor in the East, it was gaining popularity further west. Stone carvers and masons trained in the Richardsonian manner appear to have taken the style west, until it died out in the early years of the 20th century.

As an example, four small bank buildings were built in Richardsonian Romanesque style in Osage County, Oklahoma, during 1904–1911. [4]

For pictures of H. H. Richardson’s own designs and some of the details, see Henry Hobson Richardson.

With the exception of the Richardson Olmsted Complex, none of the following structures were designed by Richardson. They illustrate the strength of his architectural personality on progressive North American architecture from 1885 to 1905.

They are divided into categories denoting the various different uses of the buildings.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Allegheny County Courthouse

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Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge

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Allegany County Courthouse

The Allegany County Courthouse is the Maryland Circuit court for Allegany County, Maryland, United States. It is located in Cumberland's Washington Street Historic District. Although many church spires dot the Cumberland landscape, it is the Allegany County Courthouse that dominates this city's skyline. The building is prominently sited along Washington Street, which rises sharply from Wills Creek running through the heart of Cumberland. Historically, courthouses in America have been one of the most architecturally impressive buildings within a community. In this way, the architecture of the building was able to convey the authority of a local government, as well as instill respect and recognition.

Willoughby J. Edbrooke

Willoughby James Edbrooke (1843–1896) was an American architect and a bureaucrat who remained faithful to a Richardsonian Romanesque style into the era of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States, supported by commissions from conservative federal and state governments that were spurred by his stint in 1891-92 as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department.

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Sioux County Courthouse (Iowa) United States historic place

The Sioux County Courthouse is a Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse in Orange City, Iowa, the county seat of Sioux County, Iowa. Designed by Wilfred Warren (W.W.) Beach, it was built from 1902 to 1904.

Federal Building and United States Courthouse (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) United States historic place

The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, also known as U.S. Courthouse, Sioux Falls, is a historic federal office and courthouse building located at Sioux Falls in Minnehaha County, South Dakota. The building is still in use as a federal courthouse, being the seat of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Federal Building (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) United States historic place

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Spier, Rohns & Gehrke was a noted Detroit, Michigan architectural firm operated by Frederick H. Spier and William C. Rohns, best remembered for designs of churches and railroad stations. These were frequently executed in the Richardson Romanesque style. F.H. Spier, W.C. Rohns and Hans Gehrke were authors of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, tallest building in the city at the time of construction (1895). Hans Gehrke's well known structures include the Fire Department Headquarters on Larned Street in Detroit, and residence of Robert C. Traub in Arden Park residential district of Detroit.

New London Public Library United States historic place

The Public Library of New London is a historic library located at 63 Huntington Street at the corner of State Street, New London, Connecticut. The library was given to the city by Henry Philomen Haven. It was constructed in 1889-92 and was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in the Richardsonian Romanesque style; George Warren Cole was the project supervisor.

Henry C. Koch

Henry C. Koch was a German-American architect based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Starkweather Hall United States historic place

Starkweather Hall, also known as Starkweather Religious Center, is a religious and educational building located at 901 West Forest Avenue in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on the campus of Eastern Michigan University. It was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1972 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It is also part of the Eastern Michigan University Historic District and is the oldest building on EMU's campus.

Eastern Michigan University Historic District United States historic place

Eastern Michigan University Historic District is an area of land on the very south end of the Eastern Michigan University campus. Eastern Michigan University is a comprehensive, co-educational public university located in Ypsilanti, Michigan in Washtenaw County. The university was founded in 1849 as Michigan State Normal School. Several buildings since its founding have achieved historical significance and eventually establishing it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The district was established in 1984.

Dr. K. A. J. and Cora Mackenzie House Historic building in Portland, Oregon, U.S.

The K.A.J. and Cora Mackenzie House is a Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style building in Northwest Portland, Oregon, situated on the corner of NW 20th Avenue and NW Hoyt Street, just blocks from its partner organization, the William Temple Thrift Store. Although the house is most well-known now for its association with the William Temple community, it was originally commissioned in 1891 by Kenneth A. J. Mackenzie, a medical professional in Oregon, and his wife, Cora Mackenzie, as their private residence. The Portland architecture firm of McCaw, Martin, and White was selected by the MacKenzies to design the house. The Mackenzies owned the house and resided in it until Kenneth A. J. Mackenzie’s death in 1920, when it was sold. The house has had several owners since then, eventually being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The house has three stories and is roughly 7,100 square feet. The Mackenzie house is a prominent example of the influence of the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival architectural style on the west coast.



  1. O'Brien, Marta (9 June 2008). "Toronto's Third City Hall". Heritage Toronto. Retrieved 2014-11-25.
  2. "Kumla järnvägsstation" [Kumla Railway Station]. (in Swedish). Retrieved 27 March 2019. Byggnaden är starkt inspirerad av den amerikanske arkitekten Henry Hobson Richardssons arkitektur.
  3. Johnson, Donald L. and Donald Langmead, Makers of 20th Century Modern Architecture: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, Greenwood, 1997, p.290
  4. Claudia Ahmad and George Carney (December 1983). "National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Submission: Richardsonian Romanesque Banks of Osage County TR". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-12.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. "Endangered: Historic Court Buildings". Historic Salem, Inc. Retrieved 2011-12-13.