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Henry Hobson Richardson architecture in the Boston area: a gallery

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Trinity Church's architect had a style all his own

Public domain.

Henry Hobson Richardson was one of the top American architects of the 19th century, and his interpretation of the Romanesque style (some call it Richardson Romanesque or Richardsonian Romanesque) resounds down through the decades in the form of several major works.

Some of the best-known reside in the Boston area, where Richardson himself lived, including as a student at Harvard and then after he married a woman from Boston.

Here is a gallery of some of Richardson's most notable local creations.

Jennifer Boyer/Flickr.

Trinity Church

Copley Square, Back Bay

Any rundown of Richardson's work has to commence with Trinity Church. Completed in 1877, it spawned the Richardson Romanesque style and basically made the 39-year-old's career. Note the column-supported arches and the big tower.


Swampyank via Wikimedia.

First Baptist Church

110 Commonwealth Avenue, Back Bay

Also known as Brattle Square Church, this Richardson design went up just before the more famous Trinity Church. It's clear the architect was honing his style a bit, particularly when it comes to the unmistakable tower.


Daderot via Wikimedia.

Robert Treat Paine House

100 Robert Treat Paine Drive, Waltham

Richardson collaborated with landscape legend Frederick Law Olmsted (think Central Park; or, closer to home, the Arnold Arboretum or Franklin Park) on this country house, which was originally part of a larger estate. The City of Waltham owns it now and uses it as part of a park. The house was finished in 1886, the year Richardson died.


Daderot via Wikimedia.

Sever Hall

Harvard Yard, Mid-Cambridge

The architect designed this classroom building in the late 1870s and it was completed in 1880. It is all Richardson Romanesque all the way, showing his fully evolved style, especially in the arches and the prominent towers. Some 1,300,000 bricks were supposedly used in Sever Hall's construction (supposedly, as we're not sure anyone really counted).


Thomas Crane Memorial Library

Thomas Crane Memorial Library

40 Washington Street, Quincy Center

The public library was finished in 1882 and majorly renovated at the start of this century. It represents one of Richardson's "finest mature works ... with its granite base, clerestory windows, tiled gable roof, and cavernous entrance arch..."


Public domain.

Hayden Building

681-683 Washington Street, Chinatown

This is the most intriguing of the lot. In 1970, an enterprising architectural-history student "discovered" the slender, five-story creation, which had never been cataloged as one of Richardson's works. He had designed it in the early 1870s as a commercial building for his wife's family; and it is considered "a prototype for the modern skyscraper" (though it was being used to house a peep show and a bathhouse when its identity was unearthed).

It was about to be demolished, along with the rest of the area, as part of an urban-renewal push. The discovery put the kibosh on those plans, and soon there was an effort to preserve what became known as the Hayden Building. It was converted to apartments earlier this decade.


Sources not otherwise linked to or cited: Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, H. H. Richardson, Complete Architectural Works, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1982; Stonehurst Waltham; Trinity Church's website; "The Architecture of H.H. Richardson," Bluffton University (Ohio).