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Architect Cass Gilbert

Cass Gilbert (1/28/1858-5/17/1934) New York City, New York (F.A.I.A.)

One of the country's foremost architects, a past president of the American Institute of Architects, and the recipient of many distinguished honors. Born at Zanesville, Ohio, he was educated at St. Paul, Minnesota, in which city his parents settled during his youth. At the age of eighteen, he began architectural training in an office in St. Paul, later in 1879 completed a special course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the late Professor Letang. Early in 1880 he left for Europe to spend several months in study as he traveled in France, Italy, and England. Returning to New York in September of the same year, the young man entered McKim, Mead & White's office where he subsequently served as personal assistant to the late Stanford White, and worked on the plans of a number of the firm's early residences.

In December of 1882, Mr. Gilbert left New York to open an office in St. Paul in association with James Know Taylor, and for a decade practiced under the name of Gilbert & Taylor. During that period the firm's most important commission was the Endicott Building. The partners also devoting considerable time to the preparation of perspectives and water color renderings of buildings, a field of design in which Mr. Gilbert excelled. Later he withdrew from the firm to maintain an independent office in St. Paul, and in 1896 was successful in winning the open competition for the Minnesota State Capitol. As architect of the project he supervised the work until the completion of the structure in 1903, and in his able execution of the task won wide recognition.

The next few years brought further success in planning a number of large public buildings including the Essex County Court House at Newark, New Jersey, and the West Street Building in New York. He won the competition for the New York Custom House in 1905, and moved his office to larger quarters in New York City. There he prepared plans for the sixty-six story Woolworth Building, which, when erected stood at a height far exceeding any other business structure in Manhattan, and brought added renown to Mr. Gilbert. In the following years his practice steadily increased. and with it the number of noteworthy public buildings planned and executed under his direction. Among his outstanding works were the Festival Hall and Art Building (later the Art Museum) at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, 1904; Ives Memorial Library, New Haven, Connecticut, 1905; Central Public Library, St. Louis, built between 1908 and 1912, and the Detroit Public Library, 1914; reconstruction of the Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock, 1912; City Hall, Waterbury Connecticut, 1913; U.S. Treasury Annex, Washington D.C., 1918; Federal Reserve Bank, Minneapolis, 1924; U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., 1925; New York Life Insurance Building on the site of the old Madison Square Gardens, 1925-1928; Gibraltar Building, Newark, New Jersey for the Prudential Life Insurance Company, 1927; U.S. Legation Building, Toronto, Canada, 1928; West Virginia State Capitol, 1928-1932; New York County Lawyers' Building on Vesey Street opposite St. Paul's Church; the Supreme Court Building in Washington, 1933-1935, completed after his death, and the Federal Court House in New York, his last great work on which he was engaged at the time of his death, afterward carried to completion by his son, Cass Gilbert, Jr.

In addition to the above, he participated in various projects including a Campus Plan for the University of Minnesota, and a similar plan for the University of Texas. He also served as Consulting Architect for the New York Authority on the Hudson River, and the Kill Van Kull Bridges.

Throughout his long and successful career, a prominent figure in New York's professional and cultural circles, Mr. Gilbert was honored by degrees from a number of the country's leading educational institutions. An early member of the American Institute of Architects, advanced to Fellowship in 1889, he was elected president of the Institute in 1908 and served a year in that high office. He was also a founder and president (1913-1914) of the Architectural League of New York; member and past-president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' and the National Academy of Design. First appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as Chairman of the Council of Fine Arts, Mr. Gilbert served successively under Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson of the National Commission of Fine Arts. In recognition of his professional standing in the U.S., he was made an honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Architectural Social Union of Liverpool, England, and the Royal Academy of Arts.

A resident of Ridgefield, Connecticut, during his latter years, Mr. Gilbert died there at the age of seventy-five, leaving Cass Gilbert, Jr. to carry on his practice.