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Trinity Church in Boston, an exemplar of Richardsonian Romanesque style.
Architectural details of the American Museum of Natural History

Richardsonian Romanesque is a style of Romanesque Revival architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose masterpiece is Trinity Church, Bostonmarker (1872–77), designated a National Historic Landmark. Richardson first used elements of the style in his Buffalo State Asylum for the Insanemarker in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker, designed in 1870.

History and development

This very free revival style incorporates 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italianmarker Romanesque characteristics. It emphasizes clear, strong picturesque massing, round-headed "Romanesque" arches, often springing from clusters of short squat columns, recessed entrances, richly varied rustication, boldly blank stretches of walling contrasting with bands of windows, and cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.

The style includes work by the generation of architects practicing in the 1880s— before the influx of Beaux-Arts style&mdash. It is epitomised by the American Museum of Natural Historymarker's original 77th Street building by J. Cleaveland Cady of Cady, Bird and See in New York Citymarker. Some of the practitioners who most faithfully followed Richardson's proportion, massing and detailing had worked in his office. These include Wadsworth Longfellow and Frank Alden (Longfellow, Alden & Harlow of Boston & Pittsburgh); George Shepley and Charles Coolidge (Richardson's former employees, and his successor firm, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge of Boston); and Herbert Burdett (Marling & Burdett of Buffalo).

The style also influenced the Chicago school of architecture and architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. In Finlandmarker, Eliel Saarinen was influenced by Richardson.


Research is underway to try to document the westward movement of the artisans and craftsmen, many of whom were immigrant Italians and Irish, who built in the Richardsonian Romanesque tradition. The style began in the East, in and around Boston, where Richardson built the influential Trinity Church on Copley Squaremarker. While it was losing favor there, it was gaining popularity further west. Thus stone carvers and masons trained in the Richardsonian manner appear to have taken the style west, until it died out in the early years of the 20th century.

As an example, four small bank buildings were built in Richardsonian Romanesque style in Osage County, Oklahomamarker, during 1904-1911.


For pictures of H.H. Richardson’s own designs and some of the details, see Henry Hobson Richardson.

None of the following structures were designed by Richardson. They illustrate the strength of his architectural personality on progressive North American architecture from 1885 to 1905.

They are divided into categories denoting the various difference uses of the buildings.

Civic Buildings

Image:Minneapolis City Hall circa 1900.jpg|Minneapolis City Hallmarker, Franklin Bidwell Long and Frederick G. Kees, architects, finished 1906

Image:CincinnatiCityHall.jpg|Cincinnati City Hall, Samuel Hannaford, architect, completed 1893.

Image:Toronto City Hall.jpg|Clocktower of Toronto City Hallmarker, E. J. Lennox, architect, 1889-99: arcading and rusticated brownstone

Image:Ontario Legislative Assembly, Toronto, May 2006.jpg|Ontario Legislature, Torontomarker, Ontariomarker

Image:Lee courthouse.jpg|The Lee County, Texasmarker Courthouse, 1899: cautious Romanesque features applied to a conservative design

Image: SLCCityAndCountyBldg.jpg|Salt Lake City and County Buildingmarker, Salt Lake City, Utahmarker, Monheim, Bird, and Proudfoot architects, 1894

Image: 0321071421a.jpg|Brooklyn General Post Office, Cadman Plazamarker. Mifflin E. Bell, 1885-91

Image:Landmark Center.jpg|Old Federal Courts Building, St. Paul MN (now Landmark Centermarker), (Willoughby J. Edbrooke, designed 1892,‎ completed 1901).

Image:BarbourCountyCourthouse.jpg|The Barbour County Courthousemarker in Philippi, West Virginiamarker, completed 1905.

Image:The History Center-Old City Hall.JPG| Old City Hallmarker in Fort Wayne, Indianamarker, completed in 1893.

Image:Dallas - Old Red Museum 01.jpg|Old Dallas County Courthouse, now Old Red Museummarker, built in 1891.

Educational Institutions and Libraries

Image:Victoria College.jpg|Old Vic, the main building of Victoria College, Torontomarker, built in 1892 by W. G. Storm

Image:Pillsbury Hall.jpg|Pillsbury Hall, on the University of MinnesotamarkerMinneapolismarker campus; LeRoy Buffington, architect, Harvey Ellis, designer, 1887

Image:CullenOld.png|The Cullen Building on the campus of Southwestern Universitymarker, built in 1898

Image:June03 007.jpg|Crouse Collegemarker built on the campus of Syracuse Universitymarker in 1881

Image:Tolley_Administration_Building,_Syracuse_University.JPG|Tolley Administration Building at Syracuse, built in 1889

Image:Fogg Memorial, South Berwick, ME.jpg|Fogg Memorial Building at Berwick Academymarker, South Berwick, Mainemarker, built in 1894 by George A. Clough and Hiram Fogg

Image:OrtonHall.JPG| Orton Hall, The Ohio State Universitymarker, completed 1893.

Image:Durand Art Institute.jpg|Durand Art Institute, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois. Henry Ives Cobb architect, completed 1891.

Service-related buildings

File:Union Depot, Pueblo, CO.jpg|Pueblo Union Depotmarker in Pueblo, Coloradomarker, James A. McGonigle of Leavenworth, Kansasmarker and Sprague and Newall of Chicago, Illinoismarker, architects, 1889-90

Image:Chestnut_Hill_Water_Works_high-service_pumping_station.jpg|The High Service Building at Chestnut Hill Water Works, Beacon Streetmarker, Boston, Massachusettsmarker; Arthur H. Vinal, architect, 1887

File:CRRNJ Terminal, Liberty State Park, Jersey City NJ.jpg|Communipaw Terminalmarker, Jersey City, New Jerseymarker, William H. Peddle of Peabody & Stearns, architects, 1889

Churches and chapels

Image:RRomanesqueYpsilanti.jpg|Starkweather Chapel, Ypsilanti, Michiganmarker; George D. Mason of Detroit, Michiganmarker, architect, 1888: Clearly-articulated clustered forms in a mock-military exercise in rustication

Image: Shadyside_presbyterian.jpg|Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh. Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects. 1898.


Image:Cupples house 1890.jpg|Cupples Housemarker on the campus of Saint Louis Universitymarker, St. Louis, Missourimarker, 1888-1890

image: James J. Hill House.jpg| James J.marker Hill Housemarker 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesotamarker. Peabody & Stearns; Mark Fitzpatrick, architects, completed 1891.

See also




  • Kelsey, Mavis P. and Donald H. Dyal, The Courthouses of Texas: A Guide, Texas A&M University Press, College Station Texas 1993 ISBN 0890965471
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture in America unpublished manuscript
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Starkweather Memorial Chapel, Highland Cemetery, Ypsilanti, Michigan, Unpublished paper 1983
  • Larson, Paul C., Editor, with Susan Brown, The Spirit of H.H. Richardson on the Midwest Prairies, University Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and Iowa State University Press, Ames 1988
  • Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, H.H.Richardson: Complete Architectural Works, MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1984 ISBN 0262150239
  • Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, and Andersen, Dennis Alan, Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H. H. Richardson, University of Washington Press, Seattle WA 2003 ISBN 0-295-98238-1
  • Van Rensselaer, Mariana Griswold, Henry Hobson Richardson and His Works, Dover Publications, Inc. NY 1959 (Reprint of 1888 edition) ISBN 0486223205

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