Cass Gilbert

   Today begins a week-long celebration of the Woolworth Building in New York City, which was designed by architect Cass Gilbert’s 100 years ago. The celebration spreades throughout the northeast with tours of many of Gilbert’s masterpieces, and includes a walking tour of downtown Waterbury (which has several Cass Gilbert buildings, including a newly renovated City Hall) on Thursday.

Waterbury City Hall. Photographs by John Murray

   Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) was as prolific an architectural designer as he was talented. Generating more than 700 proposed or completed buildings, memorials, and plans for projects in America and on the international stage, he used a keen acumen and a sophisticated aesthetic sense in envisioning the built environment. After stints with McKim, Mead & White (1880-1882) and working in partnership with James Knox Taylor (1885-1891), Gilbert was able to move from St. Paul, Minnesota to New York when he received commissions for the Broadway Chambers Building and the United States Custom House. By the first decade of the 20th-century, he had secured a national reputation and had become entrenched in the circles of the architectural and social elite, enabling him to develop and expand his design skills and practice further. The scope of his professional life includes forays into every major building type: residential, ecclesiastic, commercial, transportation, and, to a large extent, civic buildings that grace many urban places today. His two best-known projects are the Woolworth Building (1910-1913) and the United States Supreme Court (1928-1935). Countless others are known to many in regional contexts, including:

Dozens of houses and churches in the St. Paul, Minnesota area (1884-1899)
Minnesota State Capitol (1896-1905)
United States Custom House in New York (1899-1907)
Saint Louis Art Museum (1901-1904)
Finney Memorial Chapel in Oberlin, Ohio (1905-1908)
Union Central Life Insurance Company Building in Cincinnati (1911-1913)
Detroit Public Library (1913-1921)
U.S. Army Supply Base, now known as the Brooklyn Army Terminal, (1918-1919)
West Virginia State Capitol (1924-1932)
Bayonne (N.J.) Bridge (1928-1931)
Federal Courthouse at Foley Square (1929-1936)
United States Legation, Ottawa (1928-1932)
comprehensive plans for state universities in Minnesota and Texas and elsewhere (1902-1920)
a group of civic buildings in Waterbury, Connecticut

   These and many other projects by Gilbert speak of a long and storied career that drew inspiration from the teachings of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and historicist leanings as well as modern technologies and orientation in building.

The logo for the the week-long celebration of Woolworth’s.

When Waterbury City Hall was re-opened in Januray 2011, four former mayors participated in the ribbon cutting. From left to right was then current mayor, Mike Jarjura, Joe Santopietro, Mike Bergon and Sam Caligiuri.

   The Waterbury portion of the Cass Gilbert celebration is on Thursday 4/24/13, from 11:00 am – 3:30 pm. The tour will begin in front of The Connecticut Community Foundation Building at 43 Field Street in downtown Waterbury. The tour will end at Waterbury City Hall, 235 Grand Street.

   Noted architectural historian and author, Barbara Christen, will be leading a walking tour of 5 magnificent buildings designed by Cass Gilbert in Waterbury, Connecticut. After the walking tour we will have a light lunch which is included in the price of this event, and then we will attend the Forum on Preservation and Adaptive Reuse of Gilbert Buildings.

   The price of this event includes the walking tour, lunch, and the Forum.

   The walking tour will commence with meeting representatives of the Connecticut Community Foundation providing an orientation to the Cass Gilbert buildings in Waterbury. We will then visit the Cass Gilbert Lincoln House (beg. 1916) and Henry Sabin Chase Dispensary (1921-1923) and then proceed on to the Waterbury National Bank (1920-1921) and its interior before visiting the Chase Companies Headquarters (1916-1919) and ultimately, City Hall (1913-1915), the site of a fine restoration in 2010 by DeCarlo & Doll working with the Waterbury Development Corporation.

Sandwiches as a light lunch will be provided as part of the tour after seeing the Waterbury City Hall.

   This event will then conclude with attendance at the Forum on the Preservation and Adaptive Reuse of Gilbert Buildings which will provide an opportunity for those representing completed Gilbert projects to share some of their experiences, and for those in the midst of a restoration to share their visions, as well as some of their issues and concerns. For more information about the Forum, click here.

   Price: $35.00