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Hobson Richardson was born at the Priestley Plantation in the Parish of
St. James, Louisiana, on September 29, 1838. His father, Henry Dickenson
Richardson, was a cotton merchant in New Orleans, and his mother, Catherine
Caroline Priestley, was the granddaughter of Dr. Joseph Priestley, an
English scientist known for discovering oxygen.
Style and Studio
his own individual way, Richardson improvised with Southern French Romanesque
style, using a Beaux-Arts predilection for clear and legible plans and
pro-medievalist picturesque massing. Rustification and polychromy also
marked the structures he designed as he considered the building as a whole
unit. Richardson’s powerful buildings and imaginative use of materials
influenced the generation of modern architects who succeeded him, including
Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Chicago and the Glessners
friends and clients knew him as a large, gregarious individual who was
charming and unconcerned with his health and considerable girth. In The
Story of a House, John Glessner wrote, “He was the most versatile,
interesting, ready, capable and confident of artists, the most genial
and agreeable of companions. Everybody was attracted to him at sight.”
He died from Bright’s disease (nephritis) on April 26, 1886, leaving
behind seventeen unfinished commissions. Eighty commissions, many no longer
in existence, have been attributed to Richardson in a short twenty-year
career; he completed very few structures in the Richardsonian style, but
set the stage for architects who followed. Richardson himself considered
the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail as one of his best works; in
Chicago, he designed the American Merchant Union Express Company Building,
the Marshall Field Warehouse, and MacVeagh House, among others.
The firm continued under the name of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.