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Ithiel Town


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Prolific and influential American architect and engineer, he was a significant figure in the Greek and Gothic Revivals in the USA. He may have studied with Asher Benjamin and in 1810 built the Botanic Garden House, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, in the Federal style. In c.1813 he moved to New Haven, CT, where he built the Center (1812–15) and Trinity (1813–16) Churches, the former a variation on Gibbs's design for St Martin-in-the-Fields, London (1722–6), and the latter an early example of the Gothic Revival. From 1816 he designed many bridges and developed a lattice-truss or girder, patented in 1820, which brought him fame and fortune. He employed latticed scissor-trusses in his Gothic Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, CT (1827–8—designed with Nathaniel Sheldon Wheaton (1792–1862) ). He turned to the Greek Revival around 1820 with several buildings in New Haven, CT, including the Doric State House (1827–31—destroyed). In 1825 he moved to NYC and carried out work of national importance, mainly in an austere Greek Revival style, often incorporating massive anta-like piers. From 1829 to 1835 he was in partnership with Alexander J. Davis, practising as Town & Davis, producing such outstanding monumental work as the State Capitols at Indianapolis, IN (1831–5—destroyed), and Raleigh, NC (1833–40), and the Custom House, NYC (1833–42). The firm also produced the first large asymmetrical Gothic house in the USA at Glen Ellen, Towson, MD (1832–4—demolished). Town published a book on the forming of an Academy of the Fine Arts in 1835. He built up an important architectural library during his career which he was obliged to sell in the Depression of the 1840s. Among his last works was the main front of the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, CT (1842–4).

Doumato (1986 a);Hamlin (1964);Hitchcock & Seale (1976);Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, xiii/3 (Oct. 1954), 27–8;J. Kelly (1948);R. Kennedy (1989);Newton (1942);Placzek (ed.) (1982);P&J (1970–86);Jane Turner (1996);Town (1835, 1842);van Vynckt (ed.) (1993)

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