McKim, Mead & White

McKim, Mead & White was an American architectural firm that came to define architectural practice, urbanism, and the ideals of the American Renaissance in fin de siècle New York. The firm's founding partners Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909), William Rutherford Mead (1846–1928) and Stanford White (1853–1906) were giants in the architecture of their time, and remain important as innovators and leaders in the development of modern architecture worldwide. They formed a school of classically trained, technologically skilled designers who practiced well into the mid-twentieth century.[1] According to Robert A. M. Stern, only Frank Lloyd Wright was more important to the identity and character of modern American architecture.[2]

The principals of the McKim, Mead & White architecture firm: William Rutherford Mead, Charles Follen McKim, and Stanford White (left to right)
Pennsylvania Station in New York City in 1911

The firm's New York City buildings include Manhattan's former Pennsylvania Station, the Brooklyn Museum, and the main campus of Columbia University. Elsewhere in New York State and New England, the firm designed college, library, school and other buildings such as the Boston Public Library and Rhode Island State House. In Washington, D.C., the firm renovated the West and East Wings of the White House, and designed Roosevelt Hall on Fort Lesley J. McNair and the National Museum of American History. Across the United States, the firm designed buildings in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin. Other examples are in Canada, Cuba and Italy. The scope and breadth of their achievement is astounding, considering that many of the technologies and strategies they employed were nascent or non-existent when they began working in the 1880s.[3]

Early yearsEdit

Charles McKim was the son of a prominent Quaker abolitionist who grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. He attended Harvard College and went to Paris to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, a leading training ground for Americans. William Rutherford Mead, a cousin of president Rutherford B. Hayes, went to Amherst College and trained with Russell Sturgis in Boston. The two formed a partnership with William Bigelow in New York in 1877.

White was born in New York City, the son of Shakespearean scholar Richard Grant White and Alexina Black Mease (1830–1921). His father was a dandy and Anglophile with no money, but a great many connections in New York's art world, including painter John LaFarge, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Frederick Law Olmsted.

White had no formal architectural training; he began his career at the age of 18 as the principal assistant to Henry Hobson Richardson, the most important American architect of the day and creator of a style recognized today as "Richardsonian Romanesque". He remained with Richardson for six years, playing a major role in the design of the William Watts Sherman House in Newport, Rhode Island, an important Shingle Style work.

White joined the partnership in 1879, and quickly became known as the artistic leader of the firm. McKim's connections helped secure early commissions, while Mead served as the managing partner. Their work applied the principles of Beaux-Arts architecture, with its classical design traditions and training in drawing and proportion, and the related City Beautiful movement after 1893. The designers quickly found wealthy and influential clients amidst the bustle and economic vigor of metropolitan New York.[4]

Initially the firm distinguished itself with innovative Shingle Style summer houses such as the Victor Newcomb house in Elberon, New Jersey (1880-81) the Isaac Bell house in Newport (1883), Rhode Island, and the Joseph Choate house,"Naumkeag," in Lenox, Massachusetts (1885-88).[5] Their status rose when McKim was asked to design the Boston Public Library in 1887, ensuring a new group of institutional clients following its successful completion in 1895. The firm had begun to use classical sources from Modern French, Renaissance and even Roman buildings as sources of inspiration for daring new work.

In 1877 White and McKim led their partners on a "sketching tour" of New England, visiting many of the key houses of Puritan leaders and early masterpieces of the colonial period. Their work began to incorporate influences from these buildings, contributing to a revival of interest in American art and architecture: The Colonial Revival.[6]

The H.A.C. Taylor house in Newport (1882-86) was the first of their designs to use overt quotations from colonial buildings, but many would follow. A less successful but daring variation of a formal Georgian plan was White's house for Commodore William Edgar, also in Newport (1884-86). Rather than traditional red brick or the pink pressed masonry of the Bell house, White tried a tawny, almost brown color, leaving the building neither fish nor fowl.

The partners added talented designers and associates as the 1890s loomed, with Thomas Hastings, John Carrère, Henry Bacon, Joseph M. Wells on the payroll in their expanding office. With a larger staff each partner could have a "studio" of designers at his disposal, rather like the organization of a modern design firm. This increased their capacity for doing bigger and bigger jobs, such as the design of entire college campuses for Columbia and New York Universities, and a massive entertainment complex at Madison Square Garden. They were entering a new phase of outstanding productivity and achievements.

Flowering and major worksEdit

McKim, Mead and White gained prominence as a cultural and artistic force through their construction of Madison Square Garden. White secured the job from the Vanderbilt family, and the other partners brought former clients into the project as investors. The extraordinary building opened its doors in 1890. What had once been a dilapidated arena for horse shows was now a multi-purpose entertainment palace, with a larger arena, a theater, apartments in a Spanish style tower, restaurants, and a roof garden with views both uptown and downtown from 34th Street. White's masterpiece was a testament to his creative imagination, and his taste for the pleasures of city life.[7]

The architects paved the way for many subsequent colleagues by fraternizing with the rich in a number of other settings similar to The Garden, enhancing their social status during the Progressive Era. McKim, Mead and White designed not only the Century Association building (1891), but also many other clubs around Manhattan: the Colony Club, the Metropolitan Club, the Harmonie Club, and the University Club. The latter is certainly the best of its type, standing proudly on Fifth Avenue next to St. Thomas Church (Bertram Goodhue, architect) and near townhouses also designed by the firm. Its magnificent entry hall, library, and dining rooms are a testament to the talents of White and his associates.

Though White's subsequent life was plagued by scandals, and McKim's by depression and the loss of his second wife, the firm continued to produce magnificent and varied work in New York and abroad. [8] They worked for the titans of industry, transportation and banking, designing not only classical buildings (the New York Herald Building, Morgan Library, Villard Houses, and Rhode Island State Capitol), but also planning factory towns (Echota, near Niagara Falls, New York; Roanoke Rapids, Virginia, and Naugatuck, Connecticut),[9] and working on university campuses (the University of Virginia, Harvard, and Columbia). The magnificent Low Library (1897) at Columbia was in many ways a tribute to Thomas Jefferson's at the University of Virginia, where White added an academic building on the other side of the Lawn.

Some of their later, classical country houses also enhanced their reputation with wealthy oligarchs and critics alike. The Frederick Vanderbilt mansion at Hyde Park (1895-98), New York, and the White's "Rosecliff" for Tessie Oelrichs (1898-1902) in Newport were elegant venues for the society chronicled by Edith Wharton and Henry James. Newly wealthy Americans were seeking the right spouses for their sons and daughters, among them idle aristocrats from European families with dwindling financial resources. When called for, the firm could also deliver a house full of continental antiques and works of art, many acquired by Stanford White from dealers abroad. The Clarence McKay house in Roslyn, New York, was probably the most opulent of these flights of fancy. Though many are gone, some now serve new uses, such as "Florham," in Madison, New Jersey, (1897-1900) now the home of Fairleigh Dickinson University.[10]

New York's enormous Penn Station (1906-10) was the firm's crowning achievement, reflecting not only their commitment to new technological advances, but also to architectural history stretching back to Greek and Roman times.[11] McKim designed New York's greatest monument to Progressive era ideals of civic dignity, capitalist power, and democratic government, alas lost to the greed of its owners during the 1960s and replaced by the ironically named Madison Square Garden arena and an underground maze of public spaces. The firm's final contribution to the city was the Municipal Building (1910-13) adjacent to City Hall, tragically built following the deaths of both White (1906) and McKim (1909) and the financial collapse of the original partnership.[12]

Later partnershipsEdit

The firm retained its name long after the deaths of founding partners White (1906), McKim (1909), and Mead (1928). The major partners became William M. Kendall and Lawrence Grant White, Stanford's son. [13]

Among the firm's final works under the name McKim, Mead & White was the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Designed primarily by partner James Kellum Smith, it opened in 1964.[14]

Smith died in 1961, and the firm was soon renamed Steinmann, Cain and White. In 1971, it became Walker O. Cain and Associates.[15]

Selected worksEdit

New York CityEdit

Building Location Year Features Image
Villard Houses Manhattan 1884  
Harvard Club of New York Manhattan 1894  
169 West 83rd Street Manhattan 1885 for David H. King, Romanesque revival
900 Broadway Manhattan 1897  
Former New York Life Insurance Company Building Manhattan 1894–98 White marble Renaissance palazzo-style building. MMW took over the commission upon the death of Stephen D. Hatch in 1894.[16]  
Madison Square Garden II Manhattan 1890 second of four buildings known by this name; razed in 1925  
Century Club Manhattan 1891  
Cable Building Manhattan 1893  
West End Collegiate Church Manhattan 1892 Verify Attribution  
Washington Arch, Washington Square Park Manhattan 1892  
Metropolitan Club Manhattan 1893  
Prospect Park Brooklyn 1895–1900 Various features including Parade Place on Lookout Hill, Peristyle, Park Circle granite fixtures, Lullwater Bridge, 1895 Maryland Monument on Lookout Hill  
Morningside Heights campus, Columbia University Manhattan 1893–1900 general design and individual buildings including Low Memorial Library, Philosophy Hall, John Jay Hall, Avery Hall, Hamilton Hall  
University Heights campus, New York University Bronx 1891–1900 including Hall of Fame for Great Americans 1900, now site of Bronx Community College  
Harmonie Club Manhattan 1905  
New York Herald Building Manhattan 1895 razed in 1921  
Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn 1895  
University Club of New York Manhattan 1899  
Pennsylvania Station Manhattan 1904–1910 above-ground portion razed in 1963  
New York Public Library branches Manhattan and the Bronx 1902-1914 designed 11 branches including Hamilton Grange Branch 1905–1906, 115th Street Branch 1907–1908  
Morgan Library & Museum Manhattan 1903 expanded in 1928  
IRT Powerhouse Manhattan 1904  
390 Fifth Avenue Manhattan 1906 for the Gorham Manufacturing Company  
Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument Brooklyn 1908  
Knickerbocker Trust Building Manhattan 1909 for the Knickerbocker Trust Company; now razed  
Manhattan Municipal Building Manhattan 1909–1915  
James A. Farley Building Manhattan 1911–1914 designed as the architectural twin of New York City's Pennsylvania Station; annex also designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1932  
998 Fifth Avenue Manhattan 1912  
Bellevue Hospital Center Manhattan 1912  
Racquet and Tennis Club Manhattan 1916–1918  
Hotel Pennsylvania Manhattan 1919  
Town Hall Manhattan 1921  
110 Livingston Street Brooklyn 1926 former Elks Lodge, former headquarters of New York City Department of Education  
Savoy-Plaza Hotel Manhattan 1927 razed in 1965  
Liggett Hall, Governors Island Manhattan 1929  
DeKalb Hall and Information Science Center Brooklyn 1955
North Hall at Pratt Institute Brooklyn 1957

New England and New York StateEdit

Building Location Year Features Image
Newport Casino Newport, Rhode Island 1880  
John Howard Whittemore House Naugatuck, Connecticut 1880s [17]
Isaac Bell House Newport, Rhode Island 1881–1883  
Cyrus McCormick summer estate, shingle-style Richfield Springs, New York 1882 razed 1957
Emdalar Castle - Tickner Estate South Kingstown, Rhode Island 1883 Restored to its original condition in 2014.  
Narragansett Pier Casino Narragansett, Rhode Island 1883  
Salem School (Naugatuck, Connecticut) Naugatuck, Connecticut 1884 [17]  
Wolf's Head Society, "Old Hall", Yale University New Haven, Connecticut 1884  
Charles J. Osborn Residence Mamaroneck, New York 1885 Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club since 1952[18]
"Four Chimneys" Mansion New Rochelle, New York ?
John F. Andrew Mansion, 32 Hereford Street Boston, Massachusetts 1886
William G. Low House Bristol, Rhode Island 1887 epitome of Shingle Style architecture; razed 1962  
Algonquin Club Boston, Massachusetts 1888
Johnston Gate, Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts 1889  
Fayerweather Hall, Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts 1890
Walker Art Building, Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine 1894
Whittemore Memorial Library Naugatuck, Connecticut 1894 [17]
Adams Power Plant Transformer House Niagara Falls, New York 1895  
Boston Public Library Boston, Massachusetts 1895  
Dudley Pickman House, 303 Commonwealth Avenue (Back Bay) Boston, Massachusetts 1895
Reid Hall, Manhattanville College Purchase, New York 1895
Rhode Island State House Providence, Rhode Island 1895–1904  
Garden City Hotel Garden City, New York 1895 burned 1899
House for Frederick Vanderbilt, "Hyde Park" Hyde Park, New York 1895–1898  
Woodlea Briarcliff Manor, New York 1895 now Sleepy Hollow Country Club  
James L. Breese House "The Orchard" Southampton, New York 1897-1906
Rosecliff Newport, Rhode Island 1898–1902
Harbor Hill Long Island, New York 1899–1902 razed 1947
Symphony Hall Boston, Massachusetts 1900  
Hill-Stead Museum Farmington, Connecticut 1901 estate of Alfred Atmore Pope, designed with Theodate Pope Riddle  
Astor Courts Rhinebeck, New York 1902–1904 estate of John Jacob Astor
Rockefeller Hall, Brown University Providence, Rhode Island 1904 now Faunce House  
Naugatuck High School Naugatuck, Connecticut 1904 Hillside Middle School since 1959  
New England Trust Company Building Boston, Massachusetts 1906
Waterbury Union Station Waterbury, Connecticut 1909 Renaissance Revival style featuring a clock tower modeled on the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy[19]
Plymouth Rock portico Plymouth, Massachusetts 1920  
Foster Hall, University at Buffalo South Campus Buffalo, New York 1921
Harvard Business School Boston, Massachusetts 1925
Ira Allen Chapel, University of Vermont Burlington, Vermont 1925  
Olin Memorial Library, Wesleyan University Middletown, Connecticut 1925
Memorial Chapel, Union College Schenectady, New York 1925
Lincoln Alliance Building Rochester, New York 1926
Rochester Savings Bank Rochester, New York 1927  
George Eastman House Rochester, New York c.1903 Eastman hired McKim, Mead & White to design the interior of his Georgian Colonial Revival Mansion which was nearly an exact, large scale duplicate of the Robert Root House that was built by the firm in Buffalo, New York c.1894[20]
Burlington City Hall Burlington, Vermont 1928  
Levermore Hall, Blodgett Hall, and Woodruff Hall, Adelphi University Garden City, New York 1929
Schenectady City Hall Schenectady, New York 1931–1933  
The Little Red Schoolhouse, Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts 1937
Ballou Hall, Tufts College Medford, Massachusetts 1955 Renovation[21]  
Housatonic Railroad Station[22] Stockbridge, Massachusetts 1893 English Gothic Revival style, stone
New York Central Railroad Station Ardsley-on-Hudson, New York 1895 Shingle Style with Tudor and Romanesque Revival elements[22]
Park Lane Apartments Mount Vernon, New York 1929
The Cedars/Lord's Castle Remodel Piermont, New York 1892 "The original gable ends were stepped, the pointy "Gothick" windows were Edwardianized, the wooden porches reconstructed in stone, the tower on the west capped with a conical roof, the forest of delicate chimney pots combined and bulked up, and the reconfigured interior given heavy doses of classical columns, balusters, dadoes, fireplaces and moldings." [23][24]

New JerseyEdit

Building Location Year Features Image
Florham Campus, Fairleigh Dickinson University Madison and Florham Park, New Jersey 1897 originally "Florham," the estate of Hamilton Twombly and Florence Vanderbilt, one of many Vanderbilt houses  
Orange Public Library Orange, New Jersey 1901  
St. Peter's Episcopal Church Morristown, New Jersey 1889-1913 English-medieval style parish church.  
Hurstmont Morristown, New Jersey 1902-3 Private estate.
FitzRandolph Gate Princeton, New Jersey 1905 The official entrance of Princeton University  
University Cottage Club, Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey 1906 One of the Eating clubs at Princeton University  
Pennsylvania Station Newark, New Jersey 1935 Art Deco style[22]  

Washington, D.C.Edit

Building Location Year Features Image
White House, West Wing and East Wing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 1903 Renovation  
Roosevelt Hall, National War College Fort Lesley J. McNair 1903–1907  
National Museum of American History 1300 Constitution Avenue NW 1964  
Patterson Mansion 15 Dupont Circle NW 1903  
St. John's Church, Lafayette Square 1525 H Street NW 1919 Renovation  
Pedestal, Jeanne d'Arc[25] Meridian Hill Park 1922 Measures about 10 feet long and 6 feet high

Other U.S. locationsEdit

Building Location Year Features Image
First Methodist Episcopal Church, Lovely Lane United Methodist Church Baltimore, Maryland 1884  
Cramond Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania 1886  
McKelvy House (formerly "Oakhurst"), Lafayette College, College Hill Easton, Pennsylvania 1888 [26]
New York Life Insurance Building Kansas City, Missouri 1890  
Open Gates, George Sealy Mansion Galveston, Texas 1891  
Germantown Cricket Club Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1891  
The Agricultural Building at the World Columbian Exposition Chicago, Illinois 1893  
Old Cabell Hall, Cocke Hall, and Rouss Hall, University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia 1898 approx
Savoyard Centre Detroit, Michigan 1900 originally State Savings Bank; National Register of Historic Places 1982  
Protection of the Flag Monument Athens, Pennsylvania 1900–1902
English Building, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Champaign, Illinois 1905
Carr's Hill, or University of Virginia President's House Charlottesville, Virginia 1906  
Omaha National Bank Building Omaha, Nebraska 1906 originally the New York Life Building, 1889)[27]  
Girard Bank Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1908  
Fayette National Bank Building Lexington, Kentucky 1914 [28]  
Minneapolis Institute of Arts Minneapolis, Minnesota 1915  
Peabody Demonstration School Nashville, Tennessee 1915 now University School of Nashville
National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Library and Museum Niles, Ohio 1915  
Butler Institute of American Art Youngstown, Ohio 1919 listed on National Register of Historic Places  
Cohen Memorial Hall (Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery), Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee 1928 approx
Milwaukee County Courthouse Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1931  
Chittenden Hall, University of Vermont Burlington, Vermont 1947
Dietrich Hall, now Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1952
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, North Carolina 1929 Expansion of campus  

Other countriesEdit

Building Location Year Features Image
Bank of Montreal Head Office Montreal, Quebec, Canada 1901–1905 additions  
Bank of Montreal Building Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada 1913
American Academy in Rome Main Building Rome, Italy 1914  
Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana, Cuba 1930  

Notable architects who worked for McKim, Mead & WhiteEdit



  1. ^ See Mark Alan Hewitt, The Architect and the American Country House, 1890-1940, (New Haven, Yale Univ. Press: 1990) pages 15-67,for a discussion of their influence.
  2. ^ Stern, Robert A. M.; Gilmartin, Gregory; Massengale, John Montague (1983). New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism, 1890-1915. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-0511-5. OCLC 9829395.
  3. ^ Samuel G. White, McKim Mead and White: Masterworks (New York, Rizzoli: 2003).
  4. ^ Leland M. Roth, McKim, Mead and White, Architects, (New York, Harper & Row: 1985)
  5. ^ See Vincent Scully, Jr. The Shingle Style and the Stick Style: architectural theory and design from Richardson to the origins of Wright (New Haven, Yale Univ. Press: 1971)
  6. ^ William B. Rhoads, The Colonial Revival, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, (New York, Garland Publishing: 1977) pages 594 and 942.
  7. ^ Richard Guy Wilson, McKim, Mead and White, architects (New York, Rizzoli: 1983).
  8. ^ Mosette Broderick, Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age (New York, Alfred Knopf: 2010).
  9. ^ Leland Roth, "Three Factory Towns by McKim, Mead and White," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 38, No. 4 (1979): 317-347.
  10. ^ See Samuel G. White, The Houses of McKim, Mead and White (New York, Rizzoli: 1998).
  11. ^ See Steven Parissien, Pennsylvania Station: McKim, Mead and White (London, Phaidon: 1996).
  12. ^ A Monograph of the Works of McKim, Mead and White, (New York, Architectural Book Publishing Company: 1925).
  13. ^ "[Mead's] widow receives all the estate of about $250,000"], New York Times (November 27, 1928); "Mrs. Olga Kilenyi Mead, widow,... bequeathed her entire estate to the trustees of Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts" in New York Times (April 23, 1936). The money was used to build the Mead Art Building, which was designed by James Kellum Smith of McKim, Mead and White.
  14. ^ "Mission & History". National Museum of American History. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2018-02-14.
  15. ^ Patricia McGraw Anderson (1988). The Architecture of Bowdoin College. Brunswick, Maine: Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2013-08-07. Archived 2014-10-18 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Goeschel, Nancy (February 10, 1987). "Former New York Life Insurance Building" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Blackwell, D. and The Naugatuck Historical Society 1996 "Images of Naugatuck". Arcadia Publishing
  18. ^ Charles J. Osborn Residence
  19. ^ Potter, Janet Greenstein (1996), Great American Railroad Stations
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-31. Retrieved 2020-03-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ Tolles Jr., Bryant Franklin (1973), Gridley J.F. Bryant and the First Building at Tufts College (PDF)
  22. ^ a b c Potter, Janet Greenstein (1996). Great American Railroad Stations. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 94, 154, 164. ISBN 978-0471143895.
  23. ^ "Piermont Historical Society". Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  24. ^ "Big Old Houses: I Love This House". New York Social Diary. 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  25. ^ Art and Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. 1922.
  26. ^ "McKelvy House" on the Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project website
  27. ^ Bluffton University Digital Imagine Project
  28. ^


  • Baker, Paul R. Stanny: The Gilded Life of Stanford White. New York: Free Press, 1989. ISBN 0-02-901781-5
  • Broderick, Mosette. Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America's Gilded Age New York: Knopf, 2010. ISBN 0-394-53662-2
  • McKim, Mead & White. A Monograph of the Work of McKim, Mead & White, 1879-1915. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., 1915-1920, 4 volumes. Reprinted as The Architecture of McKim, Mead & White in Photographs, Plans and Elevations, with an introduction by Richard Guy Wilson (New York: Dover Publications, 1990). ISBN 0486265560
  • Roth, Leland M. The Architecture of McKim, Mead & White, 1870-1920: A Building List (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities). Garland Publishing (September 1, 1978). 978-0824098506
  • Roth, Leland M. McKim, Mead and White, Architects. Harper & Row; First edition (October 1985). 978-0064301367

External linksEdit