Everyone starts somewhere. Even lauded Starchitects like the trio of McKim, Mead & White had to make their way up from someplace. C.F. McKim was raised in a notable Abolitionist household. High on activism, low on money. Stanford White’s father was a poorly adjusted snob and intellectual, someone we might today dub “financially challenged”. William Rutherford Mead was the cousin of a future U.S. President—a connection that, alas, never proved useful. Mead was the only one of the three to get a college degree and, likely, never designed anything. He was destined to be the glue that kept the partners from making “damned fools of themselves”.
LANDMARK WEST! is honored to have Prof. Mosette Broderick—architectural historian and author of Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White—take us behind the drafting table for a unique peek at the early years of “The Real Architects of New York City”, the individuals who became the icons.
Recalls Prof. Broderick, “Long, long ago when I was in college, my art history instructor stood on Madison Avenue looking at 78th Street and pointed to the SW and NW corners and remarked that these were architecturally significant houses by a once famous architectural firm. The class was blank. But one student piped up. Yes, she responded, the house on the north side was designed by Stanford White and my grandfather killed him.” Hmmm.
Few knew of McKim, Mead & White then, but now they are the best known architects of the period. McKim, Mead and White were each rather undistinguished as young men. How did they ever become the gold standard of American architecture? The answer: three losers become one big winner working together! The sum of the parts.