Henry Hobson Richardson, portrait by Sir Hubert von Herkomer
Henry Hobson Richardson (September 29, 1838–1886) was a prominent American architect of the 19th Century whose work left a significant impact on Boston, Chicago and Staten Island.
Richardson was born at Priestly Plantation in St. James Parish, Louisiana and went to study at Harvard College. Initially he was intenterested in civil engineering, but eventually shifted to architecture which led him to go to Paris in 1860 to attend the famed Ecole des Beaux Arts - a school which was to play an increasingly important role in training American architects. Richardson returned to the U.S. in 1865.
The style that Richardson favored, however, was not the more classical style of the Ecole, but a more medieval-inspired style, influenced by William Morris, John Ruskin and others. Richardson developed a unique idiom, however, improvising in particular upon the Romanesque of southern France. The term "Richardsonian Romanesque" has sometimes misled people to assess it as one of the Victorian revival styles, akin, perhaps to Neo-Gothic, but it was actually much more personal, a synthesizing of the Beaux-Arts predilection for clear and legible plans with the heavy massing that was favored by the pro-medievalists.
If a single work of Richardson's had to be selected over others it would have to be Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston). Richardson's work thus stands out for its innovativeness. When you see an 1880s building with massive rusticated,semi-circular arches supported on clusters of squat columns, round arches over clusters of windows on massive walls, you are seeing Richardsonian Romanesque.
Richardson built the house at 45 McClean Avenue for himself and his family in Arrochar on Staten Island in 1868. The Richardson family lived there from 1869 until 1874 when they moved to Brookline, Massachusetts so that Richardson could supervise the construction of Trinity Church in Boston
Following Richardson's early death in 1886 at age 48, the style that he had pioneered was picked up by a variety of other architects whose works are grouped under the name of Richardsonian Romanesque.