Richard Morris Hunt: Architect of the Gilded Age

(1827-1895)

Black and white engraving of Richard Morris Hunt c. 1894
Engraving of Richard Morris Hunt c. 1894. Cropped image LC-USZ62-36683 courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The 19th century was a time in American history when many businessmen became rich, amassed huge fortunes, and built opulent mansions. Gilded Age architect Richard Morris Hunt became known for designing palatial homes with lavish interiors.

Background:

Born: October 31, 1827 in Brattleboro, Vermont

Died: July 31, 1895 in Newport, Rhode Island

Education:

Richard Morris Hunt was born into a wealthy family.

He traveled extensively through Europe and studied in Geneva, Switzerland and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was made an assistant at the École in 1854.

Selected Buildings by Richard Morris Hunt:

  • 1894-1902: Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum, New York City

Other Projects by Richard Morris Hunt:

Working with artists and craftspeople, Richard Morris Hunt designed lavish interiors with paintings, sculptures, murals, and interior architectural details modeled after those found in European castles and palaces.

Important Styles:

About Richard Morris Hunt:

Richard Morris Hunt was the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. When he returned to the United States, he introduced the country to Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture.

Hunt became famous for designing elaborate homes for the very wealthy. However, he worked on many different types of buildings including libraries, civic buildings, apartment buildings, and art museums.

Hunt also helped establish architecture as a profession in the U.S. He started the first American studio for architect training and helped found the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1855, he served as president of the AIA. He was a mentor to Philadelphia architect Frank Furness and New York City-born George B. Post.

Hunt's brother, William Morris Hunt, was a well-known painter.

Learn More:

  • Richard Morris Hunt by Paul Baker, MIT Press, 1980 (reprinted 1986)
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  • The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt, edited by Susan R. Stein, University of Chicago Press, 1986
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  • American Country Houses of the Gilded Age by Arnold Lewis, Dover Publications, 1982
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  • Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon by Howard E. Covington Jr., Wiley, 2006
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