Renwick, James (1818-1895)
Renwick, James, Jr., 1818-1895
Born in New York City into a wealthy and well-educated family, Renwick initially studied engineering at Columbia University. He graduated in 1836, already interested in architecture but with no formal training. His first major commission came in 1843 to design Grace Church in New York City. Three years later he was working on Romanesque designs for Robert Dale Owen, director of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Renwick designed a medieval castle that was built 1846–49 of red sandstone. Other work was for Vassar College’s main hall (1860) in Poughkeepsie, several churches, banks, hospitals, and asylums. He also designed a number of private houses for wealthy New Yorkers. Already known as a designer of churches, Renwick was asked in 1853 by Archbishop Hughes to design St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, a job that turned out to be a long and much-delayed project. In 1855 Renwick journeyed to Europe where he particularly studied the great French Gothic cathedrals. His original design for St Patrick’s was a grandiose Gothic scheme, which was not fully realized. The church was dedicated in 1879, and completed in 1888. Renwick was also the architect of St. Barnabas Church, Irvington, NY (1863), with a notable window by John La Farge.
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