Richard Morris Hunt

From Academic Kids

Statue of Liberty, Pedestal by Richard Morris Hunt
Statue of Liberty, Pedestal by Richard Morris Hunt

Richard Morris Hunt (October 31, 1827, Brattleboro, Vermont - 1895) preeminent figure in the history of American architecture.

In 1846 Hunt was the first American architect to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and was regarded well enough to supervise work on the Louvre under Napoleon III. After his return in 1855, he founded the first American architectural school at his Tenth Street Studio (beginning with only four students), co-founded the American Institute of Architects and became its President in 1888, brought the first apartment building to Manhattan in a burst of scandal, and set a new ostentatious style of grand houses for the social elite and the eccentric, competitive new millionaires of the Gilded Age.

Hunt's greatest influence is his insistence that architects be treated, and paid, as legitimate and respected professionals equivalent to doctors and lawyers. He sued one of his early clients for non-payment of his five percent fee, which established an important legal precedent. One of his 1859 students at the Tenth Street Studio, William R. Ware, was deeply influenced by Hunt and went on to found the first two university programs in architecture: MIT in 1866, and Columbia in 1881.

Despite his extensive social connections in Newport among the richest Americans of his generation, Hunt was widely admired for his energy and good humor. Legend has it that while on a final walk-through of the Vanderbilt Mansion, Hunt discovered a mysterious tent-like object in one of the ballrooms. Investigating, he found it was canvas covering a life-sized statue of himself, dressed in stonecutters' clothes, all carved in secret as a tribute by the gang of stonecutters working on the house. Vanderbilt permitted the statue to be placed on the roof of the mansion.

Hunt designed New York's Tribune Building, one of the earliest with an elevator, in 1873. Other buildings of note that Hunt designed include the Theological Library and Marquand Chapel in Princeton, the Scroll and Key building at Yale, and the Fogg Museum of Art in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Until the Lenox Library, none of Hunt's American works were in the Beaux-Arts style with which he is associated. Late in his life he became involved in the Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, at which his Administration Building received the gold medal from the Institute of British Architects.

Today, Hunt's handiwork can be seen on the Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and on the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many of Hunt's New York houses have been destroyed.

Hunt often employed sculptor Karl Bitter to enrich his designs. Both Hunt and his frequent collaborator, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, were associated with the City Beautiful Movement.

Residential Works

  • William K Vanderbilt House, Fifth Avenue, NYC, 1878-1882
  • Henry Marquand House, NYC, 1881-84
  • James Pinchot House, "Grey Towers," Milford, Pennsylvania 1884-86
  • William Borden House, Chicago, Illinois, 1884-89
  • Ogden Mills House, Fifth Avenue, NYC, 1885-87
  • Archibald Rogers House, Hyde Park New York, 1886-89
  • William K Vanderbilt House, "Marble House," Newport, Rhode Island, 1888-92
  • Ogden Goelet House, Newport, Rhode Island, 1888-93
  • Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont House, "Belcourt Castle", Newport Rhode Island, 1891
  • Elbridge Gerry House, NYC, 1891-94 Newport, Rhode Island,
  • John Jacob Astor IV House, Fifth Avenue, NYC, 1891-95
  • Dorsheimer-Busk House, Newport, Rhode Island, 1890-93
  • George Washngton Vanderbilt House, ‘Biltmore" Ashville North Carolina, 1890-
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, "the Breakers", Newport, Rhode Island, 1892-95
Missing image
Biltmore, Ashville North Carolina


  • Stein, Susan Editor, The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt , University of Chicago Press, 1986
  • Kvaran. Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture of America

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