Cass Gilbert

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Cass Gilbert (November 24, 1859 – May 17, 1934) was a prominent American architect.[1] An early proponent of skyscrapers in works like the Woolworth Building, Gilbert was also responsible for numerous museums (Saint Louis Art Museum) and libraries (Saint Louis Public Library), state capitol buildings (the Minnesota, Arkansas and West Virginia State Capitols, for example) as well as public architectural icons like the United States Supreme Court building. His public buildings in the Beaux Arts style reflect the optimistic American sense that the nation was heir to Greek democracy, Roman law and Renaissance humanism.[2] Gilbert's achievements were recognized in his lifetime; he served as president of the American Institute of Architects in 1908-09.


Early life

Gilbert was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the middle of three sons, and was named after the statesman Lewis Cass, to whom he was distantly related.[1] Gilbert's father was a surveyor for what was then known as the United States Coast Survey. At the age of nine, Gilbert's family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where he was raised by his mother after his father died. After attending preparatory school in nearby Minneapolis, Gilbert dropped out of Macalester College, before beginning his architectural career at age 17 by joining the Abraham M. Radcliffe office in St. Paul. In 1878 Gilbert enrolled in the architecture program at MIT.[3]

Professional career

Gilbert later worked for a time with the firm of McKim, Mead, and White before starting a practice in St. Paul with James Knox Taylor. He was commissioned to design a number of railroad stations, including those in Anoka, Willmar, and the still extant Little Falls depot.[1] He won a series of house and office-building commissions in Minnesota: the Endicott Building in St. Paul is still regarded as a gem, and many of his noteworthy houses still stand on St. Paul's Summit Avenue. His break-through commission was the design of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City (now housing the George Gustav Heye Center).[1]

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