Henry Murphy (architect)

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Henry Murphy (right) with his wife Rosalie Smith Exum.

Henry Killam Murphy (1877–1954) was an American architect who was hired by Chiang Kai-shek for a variety of projects.

Early life[edit]

Henry Killam Murphy was born in 1877[1] in Connecticut to parents Alice Button Killam and John Murphy.[2] Murphy graduated from Hopkins School in 1895 and went onto Yale University. Murphy then graduated from Yale, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, in 1906. He began working as an architect in New York, taking on jobs such as designing the early Loomis Chaffee campus in 1912.[3]

Murphy was married four times, and had no children.[4] His first marriage was in 1905 to Edna Mitchell Cook, who died in 1918. His second marriage in 1920 was to Ethel Andrews, from whom he was divorced in 1926. (She would remarry John Marshall Harlan II in 1928.) In 1930 Murphy married the art historian and collector of Eurasian bronzes Dagny Carter, author of China Magnificent, Five Thousand Years of Chinese Art (first published 1936).[5] In 1949 he married his fourth wife, Rosalie Smith Exum, in North Carolina.[6]


An plan from 1922 by Murphy's firm for the Hopkins School campus

Henry Murphy built a wide range of buildings throughout his career, including several[7][8][9] buildings in his home state of Connecticut. Murphy even worked for his alma mater Hopkins School, designing the early campus in 1922 and center building Baldwin Hall in 1925.[3]

Murphy made eight trips to China, the first for a few weeks in 1914, the last and longest from 1931 to 1935. In the early 1920s, Murphy designed several landmark buildings for Tsinghua University, Beijing, including The Grand Auditorium and the Main Library. He was an advocate of traditional Chinese architectural styles, adapted to modern uses.

Murphy attracted the attention of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and was hired in 1928 to design a modern capital for China in the ancient city of Nanjing. One of his more notable proposals was to save the wall around the city as a concourse. Murphy designed other Chinese buildings such as the Memorial Hall for Revolutionary Martyrs on Purple Mountain over Nanjing.[3] Chiang Kai-shek was not Murphy's only connection to China. Murphy also designed a small "Chinese village" of eight homes in Coral Gables, Florida, as well as the Chinese Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning[10]

Murphy returned to the United States in 1935 and retired to a house he designed in Branford, Connecticut. He died in his Connecticut house in 1954.[3]


  1. ^ Primary Sources for the Study of Art, Architecture, and Drama In Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale Library. Retrieved April 11, 2006.
  2. ^ Descendants of Benjamin King from Rootsweb in August 2000.
  3. ^ a b c d "From Hopkins' Baldwin Hall to China's Memorial Hall" for Views on the Hill Spring/Summer '06 by Thom Peters.
  4. ^ Cody, Building in China, p.51 n5.
  5. ^ "Milestones", Time magazine, 28 July 1930
  6. ^ North Carolina Index to Marriages 1741-2004
  7. ^ Derby Neck Library for New England Carnegies by Corinne H. Smith. Retrieved April 11, 2006.
  8. ^ Crown Street, 305 for Yale Buildings and Ground. Retrieved April 11, 2006.
  9. ^ Whitney Avenue, 175 for Yale Buildings and Ground. Retrieved April 11, 2006.
  10. ^ Sightseeing Opportunities in Coral Gables for Pedestrian Guides. Retrieved April 11, 2006.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jeffrey W. CODY, Building in China: Henry K. Murphy's "Adaptive Architecture", 1914-1935, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.