The partnership of McKim, Mead and White was formed in 1878 with Charles Follen McKim, the idealist and designer, William Rutherford Mead, the pragmatist who ran the office and in his own words, “kept (his) partners from making dam fools of themselves,” and William B. Bigelow, a classmate of McKim’s from the Beaux-Arts years. When Bigelow retired the following year, Stanford White, a skilled artist, joined the firm. The success of the firm was based on collaboration, and the strengths and weaknesses of each partner complementing the others. Between 1879 and 1912, the firm became the largest and most important office in America with a staff that grew to over 100. Within the first 30 years the firm received and executed nearly 1000 commissions, championed the movement to introduce classical order to America’s cities, trained the next generation of American architects, and created standards of conduct for professional practice in this country. The partners designed houses as well as large institutional and commercial buildings. Partner, Stanford White extended the traditional limits of the firm’s architectural services to include interior decoration.
Among McKim, Mead & White’s most renowned works are the New York Institute for the Blind, Bronx Grit Chamber of Wards Island Water Pollution Control Plant, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, The Gould Memorial Library, Cornelius Baker Hall of Philosophy, and the Hall of Languages in the Bronx; the Boston Public Library in Boston Massachusetts; the Morgan Library, Madison Square Gardens, the New York Herald Building, the New York Racquet Club, Pennsylvania Station, the University Club in Manhattan, New York; The Rhode Island State Capitol, the Isaac Bell House in Newport, Rhode Island; and the American Academy in Rome.
Charles Follen McKim
B. 1847 Pennsylvania
D. 1909 St. James, New York
Charles Follen McKim attended Harvard University, and the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. He apprenticed as a draftsman with Henry Hobson Richardson, ultimately becoming one of the most important architects in the American Neoclassical revival. McKim is best known for his advocacy of Beaux-Arts architecture in styles that represent the American Renaissance such as the Boston Public Library. He was one of the founders of the firm of McKim, Mead, and Bigelow, which in 1879 became McKim, Mead, and White. McKim was one of the founders of the American Academy in Rome; received a gold medal at the Paris exposition of 1900; and received the King's Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects. His name is particularly associated with the University Club in New York, with the Columbia University buildings, and with the additions to the White House (1906).
William Rutherford Mead
B. 1846 Vermont
D. 1928 Paris, France
William Rutherford Mead was a graduate of Norwich University and Amherst College, and apprenticed for three years with Russell Sturgis in New York City. Mead spent two years in Florence before starting an architectural partnership with Charles McKim in New York City in 1872. In 1879, they were joined by Charles F. McKim to form McKim, Mead, and White, of which he was principal until his death in 1928. In 1902, Mead received the decoration of Knight Commander of the Crown of Italy from King Victor Emmanuel in recognition of his pioneer work in introducing the Roman and Italian Renaissance architectural style in America.
B. 1853 New York
D. 1906 New York
Stanford White, the son of the Shakespearean scholar and essayist, Richard Grant White, was a talented and versatile draftsman. In 1880 he joined Charles Follen McKim and William Rutherford Mead in founding McKim, Mead and White, which soon became the most prominent architectural firm in the country. Until about 1887 their organization concentrated on designing large country and seaside mansions in what was called the Shingle style. White’s career was rich, and varied, from designing the summer homes of the Astor’s and the Vanderbilts, to such formidable structures as the Washington Square Arch, Madison Square Garden and the New York Herald Building. During his prominent career, White was commissioned to design a broad range of private residences and public institutions, some of which are historical landmarks today.