James Knox Taylor

James Knox Taylor (October 11, 1857 – August 27, 1929) was Supervising Architect of the United States Department of the Treasury from 1897 to 1912. His name is listed ex officio as supervising architect of hundreds of federal buildings built throughout the United States during the period.[1]

James Knox Taylor
James Knox Taylor & Staff

Early careerEdit

The son of H. Knox and Mary (Young) Taylor, he was born in Knoxville, Illinois, and attended schools in Minnesota. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was a classmate of William Martin Aiken, who would precede him in the position of Supervisory Architect, and Cass Gilbert. After graduation, he worked in the New York City office of Charles C. Haight and later with Bruce Price.[2] In 1882 he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where he formed a partnership with Gilbert, as Gilbert & Taylor. They built many homes and churches. Subsequently, they designed the Pioneer and Endicott Buildings. In 1893 he moved to Philadelphia and formed a partnership with Amos J. Boyden. In 1895 he got a job with Aiken, the Supervisory Architect, as a temporary draftsman. In 1897, following a Civil Service Commission examination,[3] he became the Supervisory Architect, the first architect promoted from within.

Tarsney ActEdit

In 1893 Missouri Congressman John Charles Tarsney introduced a bill that allowed the Supervisory Architect to hold competitions among private architects for major structures. Competitions under Taylor's supervision included the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, James Farley Post Office, Cleveland Federal Building, U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Baltimore, Maryland) and U.S. Customhouse (San Francisco, California) (which are all now on the National Register of Historic Places) among others. The competitions were met with enthusiasm by the community but were also marred by scandal, as when Taylor picked his ex-partner Cass Gilbert for the New York Customs House commission. In 1913 the act was repealed.[4]

In 1912, Taylor returned to MIT for two years as director of the department of architecture, then moved to Yonkers, New York, where for several years he continued practicing. In 1928, he retired to Tampa, Florida, where he died the following year.[5]

Selected worksEdit

From 1897 through 1912 Taylor is credited as "supervising architect" for federal buildings constructed during his tenure, a list which includes dozens of post offices, court houses and other structures. Local architects are often credited as well. As the head of a sizable government office, Taylor's direct involvement with any of these projects is open to question.

A partial list of these works include:


  1. ^ A partial list is given at Emporis.com.
  2. ^ Architects to the Nation: The Rise and Decline of the Supervising Architect's Office by Antoinette J. Lee – Oxford University Press, USA (April 20, 2000) ISBN 0-19-512822-2
  3. ^ "James Knox Taylor likely to be appointed over New yorkers", The New York Times,17 October 1897.
  4. ^ Antoinette J. Lee, Architects to the Nation: The Rise and Decline of the Supervising Architect's Office(Oxford University Press) 2000) ISBN 0-19-512822-2
  5. ^ Cass Gilbert collection, Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota
  6. ^ [1] Archived August 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
Preceded by
William Martin Aiken
Office of the Supervising Architect
Succeeded by
Oscar Wenderoth