The Enduring Legacy of Gilded Age Architecture—Now on HBO

Aspect Gilded Age opens, carriages carry Europe’s decorative treasures (furniture, tapestries, sculptures) to the ruthless railroad magnate George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his social climber wife, Bertha, of Stanford White, the white limestone mansion architect still under the pier. (Carrie Coon) on Fifth Avenue. Blue-blooded neighbors Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and sister Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon) watch from the drawing room window of the 1850 brownstone across East 61st Street.

It’s nearly a decade in the American Renaissance, from the 1870s to the 1920s, a period of extraordinary growth and innovation, when real-life industrialists like the Russells built private homes and built clubs (The University Club) with bosses and politicians. ), commercial (The Belvedere Hotel) and municipal (Minneapolis Institute of the Arts) buildings, public roads (Brooklyn Bridge), monuments (Farragut Memorial), and churches (Madison Square Presbyterian Church). According to architect Phillip James Dodd, their architectural style – the American interpretation of Beaux-Arts classicism – came to define the era and gained popularity after a showcase at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. A American Renaissance: Fine Art Architecture in New York, A standout new and generous book from Julian Fellowes, creator of the HBO series.

Gilded Age production designer Bob Shaw says Van Rhijn modeled the “oversized sandstone” on some period row houses on the south side of Gramercy Park. “There was a time when almost all of New York City was sandstone. Edith Wharton, who isn’t a fan of the old money look, said it looks like the entire city has been dipped in chocolate.

Photo: Alison Cohen Rosa / Courtesy of HBO

Known for its splendor and sculptural decoration, the Beaux-Arts design as interpreted by the star architects of the Gilded Age (who, like their clients, struggled to surpass each other) is a fusion of neoclassical styles including Gothic Revival, French Baroque, Italian Renaissance and Roman. classical. Its name comes from the training some men received at the École des Beaux-Arts in Roman and Greek classicism. (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology imported a French architect for an American program in 1893.) Richard Morris Hunt, the first American graduate of the Paris school, was the most sought-after architect of the time. Hunt, the Vanderbilt family designer for the Biltmore and Breakers properties, is also known for his magnificent entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Also in demand was Hunt’s apprentice, George Post, who had an engineering degree and designed the Williamsburgh Savings Bank and the New York Stock Exchange.

A senior partner at Mead & White, the nation’s first modern architecture firm, and a training ground for many other influential architects, Charles McKim joined Ecole nearly a dozen years after Hunt. Pierpont Morgan and the Boston Public Libraries and Harvard Club are among his works.

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