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Gervase Wheeler

A British Architect in America, 1847-1860

Renee Tribert

Publication Year: 2011

Gervase Wheeler was an English-born architect who designed such important American works as the Henry Boody House in Brunswick, Maine; the Patrick Barry House in Rochester, New York; and the chapels at Bowdoin and Williams colleges. But he was perhaps best known as the author of two influential architecture books, Rural Homes (1851) and Homes for the People (1855). Yet Wheeler has remained a little known, enigmatic figure. Renee Tribert and James F. O'Gorman's study sheds new light on the course of Wheeler's career in the states, and brings crucial issues to the fore--the international movement of ideas, the development of the American architectural profession, the influence of architectural publications on popular taste, and social history as expressed in the changing nature of the American house. Wheeler's career is traced chronologically and geographically and the book is lavishly illustrated with over fifty images, including building plans and historical photographs.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: The Driftless Connecticut Series & Garnet Books


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

Immigration was an important factor in the early development of the architectural profession in the United States. From the arrival on these shores of English-born Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1796 onward, architects trained elsewhere brought with them direct knowledge of European architecture to supplement the ...

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pp. 1-15

Sources suggest that Wheeler’s family was originally from Margate, Kent, although he was born in St. Pancras, North London. Members of his family were interred at the parish church in Margate, and when Wheeler returned to England after his years in America, he at first took up residence there. ...

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pp. 16-17

Gervase Wheeler disembarked at New York from the General Victoria out of London on 10 February 1847. The passenger list gives an estimate of his year of birth as 1823 and his age as 24, although the 1881 English census gives his age then as 56 thus making his year of birth 1825 and his age on arrival in the United States 22. ...

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pp. 18-28

The “fancy work” mentioned in Wheeler’s letter refers to the interior decoration of the Bowdoin Chapel building, and marks another strategy by which Wheeler sought to establish himself in America. In this instance, he offered his services at cost in order to be given the opportunity of proving himself. ...

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pp. 29-33

As we know, Wheeler had traveled in Connecticut in 1847. He there met Henry Austin, an architect of local renown in New Haven, and established an agreement to work with him in an arrangement that allowed him employment at Brunswick as well. Other than correspondence from Wheeler himself, however, there has been no ...

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pp. 34-42

After his year and a half in Austin’s orbit, Wheeler must have felt confident enough of his reputation, or perhaps sufficiently frustrated with the interpretation and execution of modes in that office, to establish his own practice. He had moved to Hartford by April 1849. With his residence at the American House, ...

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pp. 43-48

Although he gave the impression of enjoying a healthy practice in Hartford, we soon find Wheeler seeking work in Philadelphia. A business flyer printed for him in the city gives his address as 70 Walnut Street (in the American Fire Insurance Company building, just down from the Insurance Company of North America ...

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NEW YORK CITY, 1850–1851

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pp. 49-57

By late February 1851 Wheeler had returned to New York.1 Waiting for more permanent office space, he rented rooms at 304 West Fourteenth Street; by May he was listed in the city directory as “Architect, University, Washington Square.”2 As he had in Hartford, Wheeler recognized the advertising possibilities ...

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pp. 58-64

Although Wheeler probably began to write the articles that eventually became Rural Homes in Philadelphia or Hartford, and the book was published in New York City, he signed the preface at Norwichtown, Connecticut. After only six months in New York, Wheeler turned up in the vicinity of Norwich, which may have ...

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NEW YORK CITY, 1853–1860

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pp. 65-95

Wheeler continued to roam during these years, as he had since his arrival in America. Most notable among his trips was a return to Europe, perhaps near the end of 1852. Little is known of this, though Wheeler specifically mentioned visiting London.1 Whatever the reason for the journey, by July 1853 he was back ...

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pp. 96-98

After thirteen years in America, in the first days of 1860 Wheeler returned to England with his family for reasons about which we can only speculate: the unsettled political climate in advance of the Civil War, lack of recognition by his colleagues at the A.I.A., homesickness? He had had a rather successful career ...

Appendix: Wheeler’s Addresses in the United States

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pp. 99-100


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pp. 101-110


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pp. 111-113

E-ISBN-13: 9780819571465
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819571458

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The Driftless Connecticut Series & Garnet Books
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OCLC Number: 781678736
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gervase Wheeler

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Subject Headings

  • Architects -- Great Britain -- Biography.
  • Architecture -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Wheeler, Gervase -- Criticism and interpretation.
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