I first learned about Stanford White in E. L. Doctorow’s book Ragtime. It was the lurid tale of lust and murder regarding Stanford White that remained in my mind until I moved to New York City many years ago. Over a long period of time, I have come to learn Stanford White was much more than the scandal that I first associated with him. Stanford White was a master designer and instrumental in many of the great architectural works of the city.
Without knowing it, I came across the legacy of Stanford White time and time again while living in the city. Slowly I learned many of the great architectural prizes that exist in the city are White's designs. There are Stanford White treasures all over New York and the ones that are gone nonetheless register prominently if only in photographs. For example the long gone great Penn Station was designed by the prestigious architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. I had been looking at images of Penn Station long before I moved to New York in the early 80’s. Penn Station’s demise in 1963 by no means crushed the spirit and importance of this building. Tragically its structure was destroyed for something inferior, but the old Penn Station’s voice speaks loud and clear from the many photographs that exist.
Today Madison Square Garden is a very popular sports complex in the place where Penn Station was located, but the original Madison Square Garden was on the other side of town, between Park and Madison Avenues, from 26th to 27th Street, near Madison Squar Park. It was much different than the current Madison Square Garden. The Madison Square Garden of old was a grand gathering spot with all forms of entertainment. It was beautifully designed with a nod to pageantry and pomp. White’s touch was everywhere from the Augustus Saint-Gauden’s bronze Diana figure which soared 32 stories above street level to the staff uniforms. The original Madison Square Garden was destroyed in 1926 but it is still referred to and talked about when conversation is centered around great New York City architecture.
Samuel G. White the great-grandson of Stanford White and Elizabeth White wrote the recently published Stanford White, Architect. In this very handsome book, a posthumous tribute, we learn much about the work of Stanford White. Many of White’s architectural treasures exist in New York, from the elaborately designed Veterans Room and Library, at the Armory on 67th Street and Park Avenue to Admiral David Glasgow Farragut monument, created with Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the north end of Madison Square Park. An assortment of Stanford White buildings are in the city, as well, from great Stuyvesant Fish House to very tony Metropolitan Club.
The architectural team of McKim, Mead and White produced a great body of work and no one person better personified the ethos of the time and the passions of his clients than Stanford White. Please join the author Samuel White as he presents a slide lecture and discussion of Stanford White, Architect at the Mid-Manhattan Library on Tuesday, April 14 at 6:30.