In the late 1800s, the building of the Villard Mansion was something of a big deal on Madison Avenue. When Henry Villard started to build the mansion, he sought out his brother-in-law, Charles Follen McKim and his associates to help design the mansion. The commission of the Villard Mansion boosted the careers of McKim, William Rutherford Mead and Stanford White who together would form McKim, Mead & White as a result of their success with Villard. Ultimately, these designers were known for their unique styles and were sought out by Villard to design and build what is known today as the Villard Mansion.
Charles Follen McKim
McKim gained his fame as an architect in the late 1800s. McKim studied architecture at Harvard University and the École des Beaux-Arts (“School of Fine Arts”) in Paris. In addition, the architect was trained by Henry Hobson Richardson, who is considered a pioneer in helping to develop an American style of Architecture. McKim was also a relative of Villard’s wife Fanny Garrison through marriage.
William Rutherford Mead
William Rutherford Mead was born in 1846 in Brattleboro, Vermont. Mead studied at Amherst College in Massachusetts where he received a general studies degree, as the institution did not have architecture as a major. Upon graduation, Mead learned more about design and architecture under the tutelage of Russell Sturgis, Jr.’s instruction in America and in Europe.
Stanford White was born in 1853 to the critic and Shakespearean scholar, Richard Grant White. Like McKim, White was also trained as an architect by Henry Hobson Richardson. In addition, White was not just limited to architecture; he excelled at designing furniture and jewelry as well as interior design.
In 1879, the three collaborated to form McKim, Mead & White, an architectural firm that became one of the most influential firms of its time for its unique styles and eloquent work. Aside from their designs within the Villard Mansion, the firm worked on such structures as Madison Square Garden (1891) and Madison Square Presbyterian (1906). In that day and time, their collaboration and relationships spawned their marvelous works at the mansion. Even after Villard left the property, White was commissioned for additional work by the next Palace tenants, the Reids.
Stay tuned for more of our history about the Villard Mansion and other historic aspects of The New York Palace.