Richard Morris Hunt

Richard Morris HuntRichard Morris Hunt (1827-1895) was the preeminent architect of America's Gilded Age.

Hunt was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, to a wealthy and prominent family of legislators. His brother, William Morris Hunt, was a successful portrait and landscape painter.

Hunt was the first American to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He brought the Beaux-Arts style, popular in French circles, to America. His work reflected the ideals of the upper-class families who commissioned elaborate homes during the Gilded Age.

Hunt received several important commissions during his career. He designed one of the first American skyscrapers, the New York Tribune Building (1876); the entrance wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1895-1902); the base for the Statue of Liberty (1881-1885); and the World's Columbian Exposition Administration Building (1891-1893).

Hunt received several residential commissions from the Vanderbilt family, including Cornelius Vanderbilt II's mansion at 742-746 Fifth Avenue (1879-1883) in New York City and The Breakers (1893-1895) in Newport, Rhode Island. He also designed William K. Vanderbilt's Marble House (1888-1892) in Newport and George W. Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate (1888-1895) in Asheville, North Carolina.

Hunt moved to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1860. He married Catherine Howland of Newport and took up residence at Hilltop Estate.

While living in Newport, Hunt received a number of commissions, including the J. N. A. Griswold House (1861-1864), now the Newport Art Museum; William Wetmore's Château-sur-Mer (1870s); Ogden Goelet's Ochre Court (1892); William Backhouse Astor Jr.'s Beechwood (1880s); and Oliver H. P. Belmont's Belcourt Castle (1894).

Hunt worked with a team of artists and craftsmen to recreate the interiors of European castles and palaces. Paintings, sculptures, gilded walls and ceilings, and imported or specially designed furnishings recreated the lifestyles of European nobility in America.

Hunt was one of the founders of the American Institute of Architects.

Kay Davis, University of Virginia, ©2001-2003