Thomas Ustick Walter

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Thomas Ustick Walter
Thomas U. Walter - Brady-Handy.jpg
Architect of the Capitol
In office
June 11, 1851 May 26, 1865
Preceded by Charles Bulfinch
Succeeded by Edward Clark
Personal details
Born(1804-09-04)September 4, 1804
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 30, 1887(1887-10-30) (aged 83)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Profession Civil Engineer
Thomas Ustick Walter
Occupation Architect
Buildings Moyamensing Prison
Girard College
Projects United States Capitol dome
Philadelphia City Hall

Thomas Ustick Walter (September 4, 1804 October 30, 1887) was an American architect, the dean of American architecture between the 1820 death of Benjamin Latrobe and the emergence of H.H. Richardson in the 1870s. He was the fourth Architect of the Capitol and responsible for adding the north (Senate) and south (House) wings and the central dome that is predominately the current appearance of the U.S. Capitol building. Walter was one of the founders and second president of the American Institute of Architects.

Henry Hobson Richardson American architect

Henry Hobson Richardson was a prominent American architect who designed buildings in Albany, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and other cities. The style he popularized is named for him: Richardsonian Romanesque. Along with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, Richardson is one of "the recognized trinity of American architecture".

Architect of the Capitol

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is the federal agency responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex, and also the head of that agency. The Architect of the Capitol is in the legislative branch and is accountable to the United States Congress and the Supreme Court.

United States Capitol seat of the United States Congress

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Though no longer at the geographic center of the Federal District, the Capitol forms the origin point for the District's street-numbering system and the District's four quadrants.

Contents

Early life

Born in 1804 in Philadelphia, Walter was the son of mason and bricklayer Joseph S. Walter and his wife Deborah. [1]

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Walter received early training in a variety of fields including masonry, mathematics, physical science, and the fine arts. At 15, Walter entered the office of William Strickland, studying architecture and mechanical drawing, [1] then established his own practice in 1830. [2]

William Strickland (architect) American architect

William Strickland, was a noted architect and civil engineer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Nashville, Tennessee. A student of Benjamin Latrobe and mentor to Thomas Ustick Walter, Strickland helped establish the Greek Revival movement in the United States. A pioneering engineer, he wrote a seminal book on railroad construction, helped build several early American railroads, and designed the first ocean breakwater in the Western Hemisphere.

Works

Girard College, Philadelphia Girard College.jpg
Girard College, Philadelphia

Walter was commissioned by Spruce Street Baptist Church to design its new building at 418 Spruce Street. The 1829 building is today home to the Society Hill Synagogue.

Society Hill Synagogue

Society Hill Synagogue is a synagogue located in the Society Hill section of Center City Philadelphia. The synagogue is home to an active congregation with Shabbat and holy day services, a Hebrew school, adult education, and community programming.

Walter's first major commission was Moyamensing Prison, the Philadelphia County Prison. Designed as a humane model in its time, the prison was built between 1832 and 1835. [2]

Moyamensing Prison

Moyamensing Prison was a prison in Philadelphia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It was designed by Thomas U. Walter and completed in 1835. In use until 1963, it was demolished in 1968.

Walter also designed the First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, which opened its doors in January 1834. [3]

First Presbyterian Church of West Chester

First Presbyterian Church of West Chester is a historic Presbyterian church located at 130 W. Miner Street in West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania. It was designed in 1832 by Thomas U. Walter, who later became the fourth Architect of the Capitol. The church is a stuccoed stone building measuring 75 feet long and 45 feet wide in the Greek Revival style. Additions were built in 1860 and 1955. The front facade features a recessed porch flanked by two projections with pilasters.

In March 1834, the Walter-designed Wills Eye Hospital opened on the southwest corner of 18th and Race Streets in Philadelphia (opposite what is now Logan Circle). [4]

He first came to national recognition for his design of Girard College for Orphans (1833–48) in Philadelphia, among the last and grandest expressions of the Greek Revival movement.

Walter also designed mansions, banks, churches, the hotel at Brandywine Springs, and courthouses. [5] In 1836, he designed the Bank of Chester County at West Chester, Pennsylvania; [6] a decade later, he designed the 1846 Chester County Courthouse in Greek Revival style. [7] He designed the St. James Episcopal Church (Wilmington, North Carolina) which opened in 1840. In Lexington, Virginia, he designed the Lexington Presbyterian Church in 1843. [8] The same year he designed the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In Norfolk, Virginia, he designed the Norfolk Academy in 1840. [9] The Tabb Street Presbyterian Church was erected at Petersburg, Virginia in 1843. [10]

It has also been suggested that Walter designed the Second Empire-styled Quarters B and Quarters D at Admiral's Row in Brooklyn, New York.

Among the notable residences designed by Walter were his own home, located at High and Morton Streets in the Germantown section of Philadelphia ; the Nicholas Biddle estate Andalusia; Inglewood Cottage; and St. George's Hall, residence of Matthew Newkirk, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad (PW&B). [11] Walter also designed the Garrett-Dunn House in Philadelphia's Mt. Airy neighborhood , which was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning on August 2, 2009.

Among his smaller designs was the 1839 Newkirk Viaduct Monument, commissioned by the PW&B to mark the completion of the first rail line south from Philadelphia.

The U.S. Capitol and its dome

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished capitol dome LincolnInauguration1861a.jpg
Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861, beneath the unfinished capitol dome

The most famous of Walter's constructions is the dome of the U.S. Capitol. By 1850, the rapid expansion of the United States had caused a space shortage in the Capitol. Walter was selected to design extensions for the Capitol. His plan more than doubled the size of the existing building and added the familiar cast-iron dome.

There were at least six draftsmen in Walter's office, headed by Walter's chief assistant, August Schoenborn, a German immigrant who had learned his profession from the ground up. It appears that he was responsible for some of the fundamental ideas in the Capitol structure. These included the curved arch ribs and an ingenious arrangement used to cantilever the base of the columns. This made it appear that the diameter of the base exceeded the actual diameter of the foundation, thereby enlarging the proportions of the total structure. [12]

Walter family with servant, circa 1850 Thomas Ustick Walter & family c1850.jpg
Walter family with servant, circa 1850

Construction on the wings began in 1851 and proceeded rapidly; the House of Representatives met in its new quarters in December 1857 and the Senate occupied its new chamber by January 1859. Walter's fireproof cast iron dome was authorized by Congress on March 3, 1855, and was nearly completed by December 2, 1863, when the Statue of Freedom was placed on top. He also reconstructed the interior of the west center building for the Library of Congress after the fire of 1851. Walter continued as Capitol architect until 1865, when he resigned his position over a minor contract dispute. After 14 years in Washington, he retired to his native Philadelphia.

In the 1870s, financial setbacks forced him to come out of retirement, and he worked as second-in-command when his friend and younger colleague John McArthur, Jr. won the competition for Philadelphia City Hall. He continued on that vast project until his death in 1887.

Other honors

For their architectural accomplishments, both Walter and Benjamin Latrobe are honored in a ceiling mosaic in the East Mosaic Corridor at the entrance to the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

Walter's grandson, Thomas Ustick Walter III, was also an architect; he practiced in Birmingham, Alabama, from the 1890s to the 1910s. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Tabb Street Presbyterian Church is a historic Presbyterian church located at Petersburg, Virginia. It was designed by architect Thomas Ustick Walter and built in 1843, in the Greek Revival style. It has stucco covered brick walls and features a massive Greek Doric order pedimented peristyle portico consisting of six fluted columns and full entablature. It has two full stories and a gallery. A three-story rear brick wing was added in 1944.

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References

  1. 1 2 Frary, Ihna Thayer (1940). They Built the Capitol. Ayer Publishing. p. 201.
  2. 1 2 Mason, Jr., George C. (1888). "Memoir". Proceedings of the ... annual convention of the American Institute of Architects. 21-22: 101–108.
  3. Filemban, Mustafa. "WC History: The Shipwrecked Entrepreneur". www.downtownwestchester.com. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  4. Tasman, William (1980). The History of Wills Eye Hospital. Harper & Row. ISBN   978-0061425318.
  5. "Thomas Ustick Walter- Historic Architecture for a Modern World". Philaathenaeum.org. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  6. "Bank of Chester County, 17 North High Street, West Chester, Chester County, PA" (Searchable database). Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey, Engineering Record, Landscapes Survey Collection. Retrieved 2012-11-12.
  7. dsf.chesco.org Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine . - Chester county courthouse West Chester, Pennsylvania
  8. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (March 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Lexington Presbyterian Church" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
  9. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (July 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Norfolk Academy" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. and Accompanying photo
  10. Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (February 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Tabb Street Presbyterian Church" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
  11. "St. George's Hall. [graphic]". The Library Company of Philadelphia. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  12. August Schoenborn at the archINFORM database
  13. Fazio, Michael W. (2010) Landscape of Transformations: Architecture and Birmingham, Alabama. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press ISBN   978-1-57233-687-2
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Bulfinch
Architect of the Capitol
1851–1865
Succeeded by
Edward Clark