Bradford Lee Gilbert (24 March 1853–1 September 1911) was a nationally-active architect based in New York City.
Gilbert is best known for designing the first steel-framed curtain wall building in New York, the Tower Building, which opened at 50 Broadway in 1889. The Tower Building is considered New York City's first skyscraper. There is some dispute as to whether the Tower Building had eleven or thirteen floors, depending on which floors were counted and which side of the building was considered. It had to have the steel-frame construction because on its narrow lot, masonry-supporting walls would have allowed almost no free space on the first floor. Gilbert's design used the same frame as a railroad bridge, but rotated vertically. The Tower Building was initially greeted with great skepticism, with members of the public predicting it would blow over. This prompted Gilbert to scale the building in the middle of an 1889 hurricane to demonstrate with a plumb line that the building was not vibrating. The building was razed in 1914.
Born in Watertown, New York, Gilbert had been appointed architect of the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad by the age of 23. Among his extensive work for multiple railroads across the country, Gilbert also designed a previous version of New York City's Grand Central Terminal in 1898. Most of his New York buildings have been demolished, but his landmark eleven story Flatiron Building (1898) still stands in Atlanta, Georgia, and predates the similar and more famous New York City Flatiron Building by five years.
Gilbert was also the supervising architect for the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition (1895) and the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition (1901).
Gilbert died at his home in Brooklyn in 1911.
(listed by year built)
- South Side Sportsmen's Club, Great River, New York, 1866
- Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad East Saginaw Depot, Saginaw, Michigan, 1881
- Beaverkill Lodge - Bradford Lee Gilbert's summer residence (aka Dundas Castle), Craig-E-Clair, Roscoe, New York, ca. 1891
- Tower Building, New York, New York, 1889, razed 1914
- Central Railroad & Rockaway Valley R.R. Station, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, 1890
- Laconia Passenger Station, Laconia, New Hampshire, 1892
- Old Colony Railroad Depot, Canton Junction, Canton, Massachusetts, 1892
- New York, New Haven and Hartford Depot, Bridgewater, Massachusetts, 1893
- New York, New Haven and Hartford Depot, North Abington, Massachusetts, 1894
- Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad Depot, Sedalia, Missouri, 1895
- Flatiron Building, Atlanta, Georgia, 1897
- Boston & Maine RR Passenger Station, Beverly, Massachusetts, 1897
- Central Station, for the Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Illinois, 1893, razed 1974
- D.,L. & W. R.R. Passenger Station, Bernardsville, New Jersey, 1901
- William G. Raoul House, Atlanta, Georgia, 1901 (destroyed by fire in 1991)
Gilbert was also heavily involved in the work of Jerry McAuley at the Water Street Rescue Mission in New York and continued to support the mission after McAuley's death. Gilbert married Maria McAuley, McAuley's widow, eight years after McAuley died of tuberculosis.
- "The Tower Building". New York Achitecture. Retrieved 5 July 2007.
- Edward Robb Ellis (1997). The Epic of New York. pp. 407–8.
- Denenberg, Barry (1 September 2010). "Skyscrapers". Magical Hystory Tour: The Origins of the Commonplace & Curious in America. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- Landau, Sarah Bradford and Condit Carl W. Condit (1996). Rise of the New York Skyscrapers 1865-1913. Yale University Press. pp. 161–66, 416.
- Gray, Christopher (1 July 2007). "The Architect Who Turned a Railroad Bridge on Its Head". New York Times. Retrieved 5 July 2007.
- Gilbert, Sketch Portfolio of Railroad Stations (The Railroad Gazette, 1885). The book notes that his work on railroad architecture was the subject of a special exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World's Fair) in 1893, for which he received a special medal.
- "FLATIRON BUILDING (The English-American Building)". City of Atlanta. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
- White, James Terry (1910). The National Cyclopaedia of American biography XIV. p. 298.
- American Art Annual, Volume 9. MacMillan Company. 1911. p. 311.
- Coe, Daniel (2011). "Bradford Lee Gilbert's Achievements". Retrieved 16 August 2011.
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