The Biography and Design of Latrobe’s “Clifton”, Richmond, Virginia


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The Biography and Design of Latrobe’s “Clifton”, Richmond, Virginia

  1. 1. The Biography and Design of Latrobe’s “Clifton”, Richmond, Virginia Jessica Marie Bankston A Research Project Prepared Under the Direction of Dr. Charles E. Brownell In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for ARTH 789 Department of Art History Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia April 2010
  2. 2. 1 Introduction. Do you find this image lackluster (fig. 1)? The research that has been published on this design isn’tmuch better. I’m showing you a 19th century Richmond landmark. In 1808, Benjamin James Harrisacquired the parcels of land that soon would hold this structure, “The Clifton House.” Clifton stood nearwhat is today Old 14th and Bank Streets (fig. 2), and was demolished in the summer of 1903. Scholars andhistorians have attributed the design of this dwelling to B. Henry Latrobe, due to its striking similarity to thedesign illustrated in this perspective for an undated, unnamed house in Richmond, coupled with the uncannymatch to the site depicted in the drawing. Mystery has surrounded how the commission came to be, butthis research will examine the sequence of events, as well as the characters involved. Before thispresentation is through, older architectural historians will have reason to hang their heads. This research is organized into three parts, or surprises. Surprise number one will begin by closelyexamining the first design documentation for this structure: Latrobe’s perspective and a corresponding siteplan. This examination will uncover nine clues to reveal the first surprise, and ultimately unveil a newhypothesis that the drawings were intended for a different, much earlier, patron than Benjamin James Harris. Surprise number two looks at Latrobe’s professional exposure from as early as his initial years in theoffice of S.P. Cockerell in late 18th-century England. This understanding, coupled with an assessment of thelast surviving design documentation for the executed structure, will allow for a proposal of a direct lineagebehind the design Latrobe presented for this site. Also, a closer study of this last recorded account of theexecuted design prior to its demolition will shed light on the possible proposed interior floor plan. For surprise number three, we will meet George Russell Tolman, an early 20th-century architectworth remembering who documented and made drawings of the Clifton site, which no Richmond audiencehas yet seen. We learn this man was only briefly a resident of Richmond, but his time spent in the office ofMarion J. Dimmock, architectural contributions to the U.S. Life Saving Service, and colorful backgroundmake him an architect worthy of knowing and now remembering. So let’s dive into surprise number one!
  3. 3. 2 Surprise One — An Unexpected Guest. B. Henry Latrobe’s drawings for a house in the City of Richmond situated on a hillside along theJames River have for many years been confirmed as the altered Benjamin James Harris house that came tobe known as “Clifton.” VCU student James Bodman has argued this house was built by George Winston1 ,the eminent Richmond contractor, who altered the design considerably. A perspective of the originaldwelling and corresponding site plan proposed by Latrobe are housed in cold storage in the Prints andPhotographs Division of the Library of Congress 2 in Washington, D.C., and an appointment to view theoriginals housed there was granted for this research. The first clue to the surprise was Latrobe’s perspective itself. This illustration in particular stands asa work of art in its own right (fig. 1). One simply cannot grasp the level of detail from reproductions in books,and in person, gains a much clearer understanding of the detail and exactness of the site and surroundinglandscape imparted by Latrobe. He communicated this vision beginning by lightly sketching the sitetopography and structure in pencil, followed by inked lines over the structural walls of the dwelling and itsdetails (ornament, figures, fence and carriage), as well as the depiction of the city below the hillside,warehouses, and ships in the James River and docking at Rocketts. His final step was washing the entireillustration in color. Latrobe made this particular dwelling on this particular site come to life. Just as he had done withprevious, important presentation drawings for residential commissions such as the Pennock House (fig. 3) orSedgeley Villa, he depicted the owners of the home engaged in some activity, and even illustrated the samemodel of carriage from the latter (fig. 4): a Post-Chaise3 pulled up to the front entryway with a passenger1 For more on George Winston, see Bodman’s masters thesis “The Building Career of George Winston (1759-1826).”2 The Library of Congress received the two drawings as a general transfer from the Architect of the Capitol in 1872. In1897 they were deposited in the newly formed Department of Graphic Arts, which became the Division of Prints in 1899.The provenance of the drawings prior to 1872 is less clear; the curator and archivist of the Architect of the Capitol has norecord of how long their department had the drawings or where they came from. It is possible that the transfer was soinformal that there was no documentation created. For more information on the issue of provenance, see Woan, “TheDelicate Issue of Provenance.”3 Carriage Museum of America. This carriage, called a Post-Chaise was driven by postillion and originally built to carrymail in England. They were popular as private coaches in the colonies and Europe, accommodating two passengerscomfortably, and allowing for baggage to be placed on the back and the roof for long distances.  It is believed thatColonial Williamsburg has one in use and the Henry Ford Museum has one on display. 
  4. 4. 3waiting inside (fig. 5). Here we see Latrobe putting a personal touch on the drawing, perhaps indicating anunconscious or even conscious objective to make the proposal sing. Below the elevated plateau on which this house sits is an extraordinarily accurate record of thesurrounding Richmond landscape (fig. 6). Nearly every feature illustrated in this portion of the drawing can becorroborated by other early 19th-century Virginia landscapes or Richmond maps. The first fire insurancedeclaration known to be associated with this building and structure tells us that the site is “...situated on apart of the ground formerly appertaining to the Old Council Chamber...,”4 which was a spur of the ShockoeHill Plateau. Old Council Chamber became known as Mayo’s hill5, as the Mayo family owned this as well asthe sloping land behind the house and descending tree line. T. Tyler Potterfield, authority on the historiclandscape of Richmond, was generous with his expertise and offered some insights as to thecorrespondence of the drawing and the Richmond landscape: “The trees in the foreground probably are landmarks of the Shockoe Creek slope.  The Mayo Family would shortly after this image terrace this area into Mayo’s addition at right angles to the creek...The buildings just beyond the trees are on or adjacent to Main Street west of Pear Street. The house on the hill appears to be situated on Libby Hill about on the site of the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument...Just east of that is Bloody Run Valley, followed by Chimborazo Hill. The ships are located at the mouth of Gillies’s Creek at Rocketts. The long buildings are probably warehouses. There is tall Mill or warehouse beyond them.  At the far right of the image is an outline of what may be Powhatan’s seat.” 6 Nearly everything in what Potterfield describes is brought into even clearer focus with Latrobe’searlier sketch of this area from “Mr. Nicolson’s house above Rocketts” (fig. 7). The house on the hill could infact be Mr. [George] Nicolson’s, once mayor of the city, as it is described to have sat on one of the “mostcommanding heights over looking the city and surrounding country.” 7 Also in this 1796 sketch we seecrisper, closer views of Rocketts, the tall mill and the farther warehouses. Missing from this illustration are thenearer warehouses, which perhaps means they were not yet built or we out of view from this angle.4 Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia declaration 1086 (March 1818).5 Richmond City Deeds, Book 29, Page 596.6 Potterfield, message to author.7 Mordecai, Richmond In By-Gone Days, 103.
  5. 5. 4 The level of detail Latrobe executed beyond the structure and site itself to the developing City ofRichmond, Shockoe Bottom and Rockett’s in the distance, speaks to the possible objectives of the work.As a lover of the 17th century landscape painter Claude Lorrain, he strove to create little kingdoms you couldtravel through. 8 The Latrobe that illustrated these drawings had an objective to do just that for the viewer,while offering the vision of a stately, palatial dwelling that overlooked all of the town and landscape below,and he had the time available to create the means to achieve that objective. Shockoe Creek, just east of this hill, is out of view and rightfully not depicted in the perspective, butis clearly delineated in the site plan. From the lavish detail and skillful atmospheric perspective or theaccurate site plan, we understand a substantial site that was perfect for a stately dwelling oriented tooverlook the river and town, as well as encompass sloping gardens, trails, and a large “stable yard andoffices” complex. It would have sat on the upper part of this hill, adjacent to the major civic buildings,churches and theaters. Our second clue is how strangely the the size of the property illustrated differs sodramatically from the size of the ground transferred to Harris in May 1808; only two lots totaling 60 feet inwidth and 100 feet deep9, and lower on the slope, closer in to the more proletarian activities of town. Nearly every mention of Clifton in 20th century research will maintain that the structure was builtbetween 1807 and 1809. In 1950, Mary Wingfield Scott was the first to connect the executed house withLatrobe’s perspective and site plan, but does not provide any explanation for her believed 1808 year ofconstruction. In various publications, where citations on this date exists one is pointed to fire insurancepolicies of 1818 or 1822, only adding to the mystery. Harris’s purchase of the lots in May 1808 would’ve leftleft little time to complete construction on a house of this magnitude, and it is unlikely that construction wasunderway before he owned them. If in fact Clifton was built during this period, timing is our third clue. For more than 30 years, it haspuzzled Dr. Brownell how Latrobe and Harris made contact. There is no correspondence in Latrobe’sdetailed letterbooks, which cover the years 1803-17 in detail. Brownell has proposed that Latrobe andHarris made contact during the trial of Aaron Burr in Richmond in 1807, in which Latrobe would testify. The8 For a further discussion on Claude Lorrain’s influence on Latrobe’s landscapes, see Latrobe’s View of America, 18-29.9 Richmond City Deeds, Book 5, Page 214.
  6. 6. 5level of detail and labor applied to the perspective and site plan would have required Latrobe to be on thesite, and the time consuming process of sketching, inking over, and layering color wash seems highlyunfitting for him to make time for during his June and September visits. In his correspondence betweenMarch 1807 and October 1807 10 Latrobe specified at least eight times to various individuals the heaviness ofhis work load that “occupies [him] day and night.” 11 During this time, Latrobe was consumed with movinghis family to Washington and working on the U.S. Capitol, in addition to projects at the Navy Yard, theTreasury, the White House, other engineering projects, and recently awarded commissions for the NewOrleans Customs House and the Philadelphia Bank. In addition, as a result of the martial fervor aroused byBritish aggression, Jefferson called for an early meeting of Congress on October 26th. This put Latrobeunder sudden pressure to complete the enormous Hall of Representatives. It hardly makes sense that a manwith such obligations would make the time required to produce this landscape for Harris, of whom Latrobekept no record of and who did not yet even own the land on which the structure would eventually stand.Latrobe would not have accepted this commission at this point in time.12 Upon examining Latrobe’s site plan for this proposal, one soon observes that trimming along the leftside has cropped off an inscription original to the drawing (fig. 8), leaving only the descenders of thearchitect’s distinctive letters. The notion of figuring out what Latrobe wrote was quickly admonished to anunlikely fancy. Instead, the site plan was compared against recorded plans and plats of the city during thistime. If accepting the belief that this dwelling was constructed in 1808 or 1809, Richard Young’s map fromabout 1809-1810 (fig. 9) offered the closest Richmond comparison to go by. The open, undeveloped spacecorrelated with the large site mapped by Latrobe, but lacked the identification of what was expected for thisperiod, Council Chamber Hill and/or Mayo’s hill. The presumed mis-identification appears again on RobertJames’ 1804 map, stating “Watson’s” across the area. We learn from a 1798 fire insurance declaration that10Latrobe’s correspondence during this period is highly documented due to his acquisition of a polygraph pen, withwhich he created copies of all of his letters. Any activity between 1807-1808 is most likely recorded in the volumes ofThe Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe.11 Latrobe, The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, vol. 2, to Mary Elizabeth Latrobe, 396; to John Carroll, 434;to Issac Hazelhurst, 450 and 458; to Samuel Hazelhurst, 468; to John Welsh and Thomas Ross, 479; to Albert Gallatin,486; to Lewis DeMun, 490.12 Latrobe even says of his assistant Adam Traquair during this same period, “[he] is like all young beginners in business:so much afraid of losing any part of what is offered to him, that he puts it out of his power to execute anythingsatisfactorily.” Latrobe, The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, vol. 2, 486.
  7. 7. 6Col. John Mayo did in fact own the land. The parcel comprised several government buildings including theone-story 32’ x 30’ brick Council Chamber building 13 that Mayo converted to his city dwelling to overseeconstruction and activity of his 14th Street Bridge14. The policy notes that the property lies on what isreferred to as “Watson’s tenement,” which likely meant Mr. Watson tended and leased part of the property. Itis not until Young’s 1817 map15 do we see the parcel clearly identified and still belonging to “J. Mayo” andget a much clearer understanding of how Latrobe’s plan would have integrated into the area. Overlaying theLatrobe site plan on this map so that it is situated between Broad and Franklin Streets results in the east andwest borders of the proposed estate almost lining up exactly with the “old bed” of Shockoe Creek and thewestern line of Mayo’s property on Council Chamber Hill (fig. 10). The entrance to this proposed estate,indicated by two pillars about midway on the left side of the drawing, would also line up almost perfectly withRoss Street, creating a stately entryway. However, supposing the Benjamin James Harris house was built bythis time, only lower on the hill, there is more conflict. The map still says “Mayo” and the lower area whereClifton eventually stood on the two narrow lots purchased in 1808 demonstrate that Harris never received theproposed grand grounds along with this house. This was Mayo’s land, with which this Latrobe site planperfectly corresponded. The accurate match between Latrobe’s site plan and this parcel of land belonging to John Mayomakes one stop and think — and revisit the cropped inscription earlier mentioned, which becomes our fourthclue. Could the drawings have been intended for Col. John Mayo? Putting this infant notion to the true testwas authorized with the availability of a sketch Latrobe had made of the Hermitage, Col. Mayo’s rural seat(fig. 11). He had visited the Colonel at his country home in July, 1797, which was located near where theScience Museum of Virginia stands today. Latrobe drew the house and fully inscribed the drawing at thebottom. With the magic of Photoshop, an unmistakable match was made apparent (fig. 12), resulting in newevidence. Suddenly more clues snapped into focus. Number five: wouldn’t a Colonel require stable yardsand offices, especially one with as much Richmond clout John Mayo, a member of the eminent Mayo family,13 Scott, Old Richmond Neighborhoods, 121.14 For more on Mayo’s Council Chamber Hill and suburban residences, Hermitage and Belville, see Mordecai, RichmondIn By-Gone Days, 39-40.15The dotted line through Mayo’s parcel on Young’s 1817 map is probably indicative of a ward division line, hence theword “division” just above the line north of Broad Street.
  8. 8. 7and representative of Henrico in the Virginia General Assembly? 16 At the Hermitage, this was in fact thecase. An 1885 description of the property notes brick outbuildings that included “kitchen, laundry, servants’houses, and stables.”17 Clue number six: unlike Harris, there are multiple instances of documentation puttingLatrobe and Col. John Mayo not just in contact with one another, but in the presence of one another. Beforevisiting The Hermitage, Latrobe tells of earlier in May 1797, he had been with Mayo to visit his new mill “twoor three times.” 18 The strengthening conception that Latrobe’s presentations were created for a new Col. Mayoresidence on Council Chamber hill were all but solidified with several final facts. By 1798, while still inRichmond, Latrobe made a sketch of a view of Richmond east of Capitol Square from the banks of theJames River (fig. 13). He noted in the description Col. Mayo’s city home, which was the old CouncilChamber building mentioned earlier that he had converted to a residence. Mayo benefited from thisconvenient location, “for, with a spy-glass, he could see from thence all that was passing on his bridge.”19The dwelling had been damaged by a lightning strike,20 and was then rented to Mr. McRae “of the Council ofState.”21 He was then living full time at Hermitage, but regardless enters clue number seven. Mayo likelydesired an urban dwelling to continue oversight of the activity and construction on his new toll bridge. Couldhe have discussed with Latrobe a design for this site? The answer is unequivocally yes, if we look at aLatrobe sketchbook called “Designs of Buildings Erected or Proposed to be Built in Virginia.” The book isunfinished. In it, on the back of the plans for “Shockoe Church” (fig. 14) on Broad Street, Latrobe noted toleave “10 Blank Leaves after this for John Mayos house...,” 22 and other designs. No one has ever been ableto find any further information on “John Mayo’s house,” our eighth clue.16 Burr, “Camp Lee,” 562.17 ____, “Camp Lee,” 561.18 Latrobe, The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, vol. 1, 46.19For a brief history on Mayo’s bridge and relationship to Council Chamber hill, see Mordecai’s Richmond In By-GoneDays, 39-40, 243.20 Cohen and Brownell, The Architectural Drawings of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 81.21 Carter, Van Horne and Brownell, Latrobe’s View of America, 144. Interestingly, probably the same Mr. (Alexander)McRae, a lawyer and later Consul to Paris, who in 1802 purchased and moved to 311 North Ninth Street and by 1809created his own double-bowed dwelling; see Jurgens, “The Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House, Richmond, 1808-1809,” 288.22 Fazio and Snadon, The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, cat. 621.
  9. 9. 8 Our ninth and final clue comes from John Mayo, himself. In March 1797 Mayo wrote a letter to oneof his tenants, a Mr. Boulton. On the back of the letter is an eerily comparable sketch of a five part villa withcolumns in the rear wings (fig.15). It appears the sketch has no relationship to the content of the message,but could indicate the beginning conversations of and ideas for Latrobe’s plan, not yet incorporating thedouble bows. All of these clues also mean that Latrobe’s finished perspective and site map drawings werecompleted by Latrobe circa 1798, when he was living in Richmond, when he would have had more time tocomplete such a detailed proposal, and as he says himself, when “the application to me for designs werevery numerous, and my fancy was kept employed in building castles in the air...”23 This perspective and siteplan is, in fact, the Mayo House. Let us give a new name to the drawings and the built structure: The Mayo-Harris House. This a happy discovery for Latrobe historians, and it leads us to our next surprise. Surprise Two — Ancestors Revealed. When Latrobe arrived in Virginia in 1796 he was the first professionally trained architect practicing inthe country. He brought with him experience and planning ideas that when applied to the first Virginiadwelling commissions would sometimes work, other times fail, but ultimately leave a marked influence. Atthe Mayo-Harris House, he applied double bows on the south and rear facade, a center cupola, and wingsat either side creating a five-part villa plan. We see Latrobe endeavoring for this composition time and timeagain after arriving in Virginia, but it never quite sees reality. When considering the measured drawings fromTolman’s 1903 inspection against five “relatives,” the possible interior arrangement at Clifton can be found. Latrobe’s first exposure to a double canted bay facade could have been when he worked in S. P.Cockerell’s office on the remodeling of Wyndham House24 in Salisbury, England (fig. 16). The project arose in1788-90 and it is possible that Latrobe was involved in the design.  The renovated house resulted in adouble canted bay facade on the east front, and also featured a recessed center entryway and oculiskylights. Around the same time, Cockerell’s office undertook another renovation on Daylesford (1788-92) 25,23 Cohen and Brownell, The Architectural Drawings of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 80.24 Fazio and Snadon, The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 41.25 Ibid, The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 47.
  10. 10. 9in Gloucestershire (fig. 17), which also resulted in a double canted bayed facade. It was during this periodthat this combination on the facade was ingrained in Latrobe’s repertoire. The next important example in the line of descent was Alderbury House (1791-1796) 26 nearSalisbury (fig. 18). Latrobe copied this plan into his “English notebook,” which he brought with him toVirginia, and is now in the Library of Congress. Here Cockerell’s firm, and perhaps Latrobe himself, executeddouble canted bays on the northern front facade with a recessed entryway.  Note the increased similaritybetween the Mayo-Harris perspective and Alderbury’s roof, chimney and entry treatments. The interior planfeatured an oculus skylight (fig. 19) at the upper center stair hall. Most notably, Clifton as executed andAlderbury measure approximately 60’ in length, and share partially uniform room arrangements. Once in the United States, Latrobe took this English country estate idea to the extreme, with Mill Hill(fig. 20). Plans for this massive 7,000 square foot country estate are dated 1796, were unbuilt, and for anunknown client. Mill Hill offers a study in Latrobe’s attempt to apply his experience with large English countryestates to the American climate and social context of the Virginia gentry, but as Michael Fazio and PatrickSnadon observe, this vision "had not fully matured." 27  Here Latrobe introduced the five-part villa plan createdby the introduction of wings at either side as a development devised to answer the climate requirements, butdid not answer it correctly. Instead, vernacular builders like George Winston got the right answer with theapplication of a long porch along a facade. Mill Hill omits a cupola or rotunda of any sort, and the bays arepositioned on the north and main elevation, where one housed the servant staircase, alongside other serviceareas and lesser used rooms such as the kitchen and passageways. This combined with placing principalrooms along the south facade became Latrobe’s lifelong principle of residential design. It is likely that the next use of this combination of elements came to pass for Col. Mayo around1798. Whether to Latrobe’s knowledge or not, the plan was ultimately and severely altered years later forBenjamin J. Harris. In lieu of an oculus skylight, Latrobe proposed a cupola and rotunda, which was lost.However, Latrobe’s major refinement of relocating the double bows to the south facade along with theprincipal rooms in order to allow the client to enjoy any sweeping views, was retained. double bows to the26 Ibid, The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 63.27 Fazio and Snadon, The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 229.
  11. 11. 10south facade along with the principal rooms in order to allow the client to enjoy any sweeping views, wasretained with the main entry again on the north facade. Latrobe probably made a final recommendation to his office assistant Adam Traquair to prepare aversion of the plan around 1801 for the Stier family at Riversdale (fig. 21), just north of Washington, nearBladensburg, Maryland. This design was almost a twin to the Mayo-Harris house, and replicates all the keyelements: a five-part villa plan with wings, double bows on the south facade, roof line, chimneys and even acupola, which we see drawn on the north elevation. Here we can peek into what Latrobe had possiblyproposed for Mayo with Riversdale’s 2nd story plan. Beneath the rotunda we find a proposed “gallery,”which Dr. Brownell has interpreted to have been meant to house part of the Stier family’s outstandingcollection of over sixty paintings, by many great masters. If the Mayo-Harris house came first, the idea that agallery was intended for the Stier art collection is dashed. We saw how Latrobe had worked with oculusskylights in prior designs. It is possible that Latrobe simply encouraged a cupola over rotunda in theseVirginia homes as a stylish feature, as in his recently proposed Tayloe house of 1796. This would make moresense than to suit an art collection, on which curved walls with poor lighting would be difficult to display. If we overlay the Mayo-Harris unmeasured footprint with Riversdale, we see how close the five-partvilla plan really is. Then, comparing the executed Clifton to Riversdale shows us the south facade’s doublebows and center hall division as a marked match. If Riversdale was a project delegated to Traquair to workup in the simplest way possible, it is likely that plan represents what Latrobe proposed for Mayo. In theexecuted structure, the wings were eliminated to suit the width of Harris’s two lots, and the purpose of themwas improved by adding a long porch between the two canted bays. The body of the plan was compressedto roughly half the depth, losing the classic Latrobe northern plan. It it not so much a surprise how close theconnection is between Riversdale and Clifton; the two have always been tightly associated. The largersurprise is in how far back the idea runs, and how close the executed structure — and the surviving Latrobeideas — match the early strand, specifically in the Alderbury plan. Reviewing this lineage has been an eye-opener to how this design evolved. Now, let us enjoy one final surprise.
  12. 12. 11 Surprise Three — A Welcome Addition. At the close of this research there is still much to learn about George Russell Tolman, the architectwho completed the only formal architectural study of Clifton, just prior to its demolition in the summer of1903. However, Richmond can now meet an architect who practiced locally and nationally, and trained andworked with some of the best known Richmond architects from the turn of the 20th century. Tolman wasborn in Boston on December 5, 1848. He started out as a draftsman and by the 1870s, partnered withGeorge F. Moffette to form the Boston firm, Moffette and Tolman. The firm designed the CharlestownSavings Bank in 1876 (fig. 22), a design mix of high Victorian gothic and the modern french executed just tenyears earlier than our very own Founders Hall, in the same taste. Over the next decade most the activity documented in Tolman’s life highlights his work as a skilledillustrator in Boston. In 1882 Tolman illustrated “12 Sketches of Old Boston buildings,” which was praised forit’s artistic merit by members of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 28 Then came Edwin G. Porter’sRambles in Old Boston, New England in 1887, also illustrated by Tolman, where he appeared to employ the“dazzle style” of illustration (fig. 23). The work was highly praised as “a sumptuous record of rambles in thenorth end of Boston, where most of the lingering vestiges of the colonial epoch are to be sought.”29However shortly after this point Tolman’s personal life would become the focus of his energies. In October1888 he married Eva Frances Stover, but in less than nine months, left his new wife. In a suit filed November1893 it was recorded that one child was born to the couple, which died within a few days of it’s birth, andthat Tolman denied its paternity.30 In the record he also states that he offered his wife to come live with himas man and wife but that she refused, reasoning she was afraid of him. Tolman was ordered to pay his wifealimony, but evidently never did, as the case was appealed and dragged out for the next two years. In the meantime, Tolman’s career hit its stride. He was hired by the government, initially with theTreasury Department as a draftman, Perhaps his brother Albert Tolman assisted in getting him this position,as in the U.S. Census of 1880, Albert is listed specifically as “Architect with the US Treasury,” while Georgewas only listed as “architect.” Here he worked on projects at the Kittery, Maine Navy Yard, then designed the28 Ellis, et al, “June Meeting, 1882. Letter from William H. Whitmore...George S. Hillard," 335.29 "Current American Literature." Rev. of Rambles In Old Boston, 320.30 “George Russell Tolman, Appellant, V. Eva Frances Tolman.” Washington Law Reporter, 771.
  13. 13. 12Marine Barracks for the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard. By 1890 Tolman was residing in Washington, D.C.Within a year he succeeded Albert Bibb as architect for the U.S. Life Saving Service, which would eventuallyturn into the U.S. Coast Guard. Tolman’s largest contributions there included the design of a station forQuonochontaug at Charlestown, Rhode Island. A modification of this station was included in thegovernment exhibit at the Chicago Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893. 31 Tolman’s design for the station was even used in 1903 in Virginia Beach at what is now known asthe Old Coast Guard Station at 24th Street & Oceanfront, and was featured in the Society of ArchitecturalHistorians volume for Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, in 2002. He continued to designstations for the U.S. Life Saving Service, including the “Duluth” prototype (fig. 24), which “utilized thearchitectural features popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, specifically the ShingleStyle with Colonial Revival elements.” 32 However, the separation from his wife continued to causedisturbances in his life, as Tolman failed to pay alimony as ordered, resulting in a warrant issued. Ultimatelyhe was quietly released from the U.S. Lifesaving Service in July 1896. Little is known of Tolman’s life between this point and his arrival in Richmond, sometime around1902. Upon his arrival, Tolman partnered with “the dean of the architectural profession” Marion J. Dimmockfor two notable projects. For the Capitol expansion competition, the team submitted a proposal for anorthern addition (fig. 25), which did not get selected. Dimmock and Tolman were more successful with theirproposal for the wing additions at one of the greatest 18th century Virginia houses, Westover plantation (fig.26). Tolman’s submersion in New England and close studies there of 18th and 19th century Americanarchitecture probably qualified him as a proficient colonial revivalist and neoclassicist in practice, making hima complimentary partner for Dimmock, and possibly owed attribution for colonial revival style commissionsproduced during his time in Richmond. Of course, in the summer of 1903 he studied the Clifton site whiledemolition was underway, which was later published in the American Architect and Building News thefollowing January. Drew Carneal, the praised historian and author of Richmond’s Fan District, has creditedTolman with training architect W. Duncan Lee, possibly opening the door for Lee to join Dimmock’s firm in31 York, “The Architecture of the United States Life-Saving Stations,” n.p.32 "Connolly & Hickey, Portfolio, Squan Beach Life Saving Station."
  14. 14. 131907. It appears George Tolman left Richmond sometime around 1906, as he was no longer listed in theRichmond city directory. With additional research more may be known about what happened to Tolman after his departurefrom Richmond and where his career ultimately led. The last bit of information this researcher coulddetermine was that he eventually returned to Massachusetts, and according to the 1930 U.S. Census, wasliving with nieces and nephews in Plymouth at the age of 82. 33 Conclusion. This research has established new theories on the origination of B. Henry Latrobe’s drawings for astately dwelling sited on Council Chamber Hill, just east of the capitol of Richmond. It has proposed theoriginal intentions of the architect, his professional maturity and corroborated his understanding of theAmerican climate and residential needs. By examining the last surviving documentation of the built structure,other works by Latrobe in Virginia, and works he was familiar with in England, this research has determined aline of ancestry for the proposed design. Lastly, this research has uncovered an unknown Richmond architect who was a consummatecolonial revivalist, who played an important role in the design of late nineteenth century lighthouses of theU.S. Life Saving Service, and possibly had a hand in some of the colonial revival structures erected inRichmond just after 1900. Any other individual with different experiences and competencies may not haveprovided us with this incredibly accurate and historically important rediscovered record documenting adistinguished lost structure once hailed as “the finest house ever built in Richmond,” 34 the Mayo-Harrishouse.33 Tolman perhaps died within the decade, but Massachusetts records indicates another George R. Tolman who was anarchival scholar from the Concord area, and who passed away in 1909. Who’s Who In American Art 1564-1976: 400Years of Artists in America, Vol III published in 1999 has an entry for a George Tolman as a painter, architect andillustrator, born in 1848 but mistakenly gives the death date of the other George Tolman; 1909.34 “A Glimpse of the Past: Old Houses in Richmond.” The Richmond Dispatch, 2.