Biography of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue

American Ecclesiastical Architect (1869-1924)

Black and white portrait of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, American Architect, in academic regalia
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images (cropped)

American architect Bertram G. Goodhue (born April 28, 1869 in Pomfret, Connecticut) was an innovator who combined Gothic and Hispanic designs with modern ideas. He revolutionized church (ecclesiastical) architecture by reawakening Medieval traditions, with a focus on modern detailing within traditional designs. His fanciful Spanish Churrigueresque buildings for the Panama-California Exposition brought new energy to Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the United States. Later in his career, Goodhue moved beyond Gothic ornamentation to explore classical forms, designing landmark buildings such as the Nebraska State Capitol.

Goodhue could not afford to attend college, although he was a known sketch artist throughout the New Haven military academy he attended. Instead of college, at age fifteen he went to work in the New York office of Renwick, Aspinwall and Russell. For six years he studied under James Renwick, Jr., architect of many public buildings and churches, including Smithsonian Institute Castle in Washington, DC and Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. In 1891, he joined Ralph Adams Cram and Charles Wentworth in a Boston partnership that later became Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. The firm opened a branch in New York City, which by 1913 Goodhue had made his own.

Although Goodhue's early works were noted for their high Gothic style, he later adopted a Romanesque style. By the end of his career, his work tended toward simple, classical lines. The Los Angeles Central Library, completed after his death, has elements of Art Deco design. Today Goodhue is considered an American modernist.

You've probably seen his work, without knowing it. Goodhue is said to have invented two font styles: Merrymount, designed for the Merrymount Press of Boston; and Cheltenham, designed for the Cheltenham Press in New York City; Cheltenham was adopted by The New York Times for their headline typeface and by the L.L. Bean company for their distinctive logo.

Goodhue died in New York City on April 23, 1924. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Architectural Drawings and Papers, 1882-1980 are archived at Columbia University in New York.

Selected Projects Attributed to Goodhue:

Bertram G. Goodhue was a known collaborator in architectural projects. The 1910 Cadet Chapel at West Point in New York is attributed to Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, although Goodhue was the lead architect. Projects from his own New York City office took advantage of a growing United States market of public and ecclesiastic architecture from coast to coast. His most notable works include the First Baptist Church (1912) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Church of the Intercession (1915) and St. Bartholomew's Church (St. Bart's, 1918) both in New York City. California works include the 1915 Panama-California Exposition Buildings in San Diego, the 1926 Los Angeles Central Public Library (LAPL), and the 1924 Master Plan for the California Institute of Technology. In between New York and California look for the 1922 Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska and the 1924 National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC.

In the Words of Goodhue:

" ...the trouble in our houses today is that we want everything to seem rich and extravagant—we want money, and then we want to show it in our surroundings."

—from The New York Times, A Renowned Architect's Home of His Own by Christopher Gray, January 22, 2006 [accessed April 8, 2014]

Learn More:

  • Bertram Goodhue: His Life And Residential Architecture by Romy Wyllie (2007)
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  • Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue by Richard Oliver, MIT Press, 1983
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  • Alice in Wonderland - A Play With Illustrations by Bertram Goodhue
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  • A book of architectural and decorative drawings by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, 1924
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Source: The Alexander S. Lawson Archive, Ithaca Typothetae at [accessed April 26, 2012]