Biography of George B. Post

Architect of the American Renaissance (1837-1913)

Chateauesque mansion in 1800s New York City on the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street
Chateauesque mansion George Post designed for Cornelius Vanderbilt II (5th Avenue at 57th Street, NYC). Photo courtesy of Museum of the City of New York / Byron Collection / Getty Images

George Browne Post (born December 15, 1837 in New York City) became one of the most prominent architects in turn-of-the-century America. Famous for his role in designing early skyscrapers, Post developed important relationships through his association with Gilded Age architect Richard Morris Hunt—especially connections to the wealthy Vanderbilt family—that enabled Post to design with many European architectural styles, including Beaux Arts and Chateauesque.

Post experimented with new building materials and methods, like using steel to frame tall buildings, and embraced the latest technologies, such as the elevator. His architecture took on many popular styles of his day, including Neoclassical, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque Revival.

Post earned a degree in Civil Engineering from New York University in 1858. He apprenticed with Richard Morris Hunt, a Paris-trained American expert in Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture. Post was well-prepared to begin his partnership in 1860 with Charles D. Gambrill. The US Civil War disrupted Post's career, as he joined the New York Volunteers from 1861-1865, serving as Officer of the 22nd Regiment. In 1863, Post married Alice M. Stone, and after the war he established his own architectural firm, George B. Post & Sons. The Posts had four sons and one daughter.

George Post has been called an architect of capitalism, of classical revival, and an architect of a period that historians often call the American Renaissance.

Spanning from the 1876 Centennial Celebration of American Independence (i.e., the World's Fair in Philadelphia that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Indpendence) until entry into a great World War in 1917, the American Renaissance was an era of nationalistic pride, economic growth, technological progress, and industrial revolution.

Not quite as famous or historically significant as his contemporary Henry Hobson Richardson, George Post was one of the American-born architects to adapt European styles to represent American ideals.

Although his architecture draws upon historical details, George Post pioneered the architecture that forms our contemporary skyline. His eight-story Equitable Life Assurance Society Building (1870) incorporated the new elevator technology—an innovation which made it more practical to design tall buildings of steel. Post's Western Union Building (1875) rose to ten stories and set the standard for record-breaking office towers. Soaring twenty-stories high, Post's New York World Building (1890) was once the tallest building in New York City.

Unfortunately, many of Post's buildings have been demolished in the name of progress. His neo-Renaissance Product Exchange Building and his French-inspired New York Produce Exchange Building were both destroyed in 1957. Also lost are his New York Cotton Exchange Building and his Union Trust Building in New York.

Nevertheless, George Post remains an integral part of the American Renaissance movement in design, and a leader in the development of a more modern architecture.

The astonishing skyscrapers we see today could not exist if not for the early tall buildings designed by the likes of George Post.

Post died November 28, 1913 at his summer home in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Selected Architecture of George B. Post:

  • 1870: Equitable Life Assurance Building, New York City (NYC), engineered the new "elevator building"
  • 1875: Troy Savings Bank (Music Hall, Troy, New York
  • 1875: Williamsburgh Savings Bank, 175 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York City
  • 1875: Western Union Building, NYC
  • 1875: Chickering Hall, NYC
  • 1883: Mills Building, Broad Street, NYC
  • 1884: New York Produce Exchange, NYC
  • 1885: New York Cotton Exchange, NYC
  • 1890: New York World Building (Pulitzer Building), NYC
  • 1893: Cornelius Vanderbilt residence at 57th street, NYC
  • 1893: Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition

Sources: "George Post" by Kurt Pitluga, International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture, Randall J. Van Vynckt, ed., St. James Press, 1993, pp. 688-689; American Renaissance by Kay Davis, University of Virginia at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/davis/wharton/renaissance/renaissance.html; The American Renaissance 1876-1917, The Brooklyn Museum, Distributed by Pantheon Books, New York 1979, Part I by Richard Guy Wilson; "Geo. B. Post Dead; Noted Architect," New York Times Obituary, November 29, 1913, © The New York Times; Gold Medal Award Recipients, AIA. Websites accessed April 22-23, 2013.

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Craven, Jackie. "Biography of George B. Post." ThoughtCo, Dec. 13, 2016, thoughtco.com/george-b-post-architect-american-renaissance-177381. Craven, Jackie. (2016, December 13). Biography of George B. Post. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/george-b-post-architect-american-renaissance-177381 Craven, Jackie. "Biography of George B. Post." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/george-b-post-architect-american-renaissance-177381 (accessed November 22, 2017).