Ernest Flagg

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Ernest Flagg
Ernest Flagg cph.3b10385.jpg
Born (1857-02-06)February 6, 1857
Brooklyn, New York
Died April 10, 1947(1947-04-10) (aged 90)
New York City
Nationality American
Alma mater École des Beaux-Arts
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Margaret E. Bonnell (m. 1899)
Children Betsey Flagg Melcher
Parent(s) Amelia Louisa Hart
Jared Bradley Flagg
Buildings Scribner Building
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Singer Building
Charles Scribner's Sons Building
Singer Castle
Projects United States Naval Academy
Sheldon Library, 1901
Lawrence Library, 1901

Ernest Flagg (February 6, 1857 – April 10, 1947) was a noted American architect in the Beaux-Arts style. He was also an advocate for urban reform and architecture's social responsibility.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Flagg was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father Jared Bradley Flagg was an Episcopal priest and a notable painter.[2][3] Ernest left school at 15 to work as an office boy on Wall Street. After working with his father and brothers in real estate for a few years, he designed duplex apartment plans in 1880 with the architect Philip Gengembre Hubert, for the co-operative apartment buildings Hubert was known for.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Flagg's cousin through his marriage to Alice Claypoole Gwynne,[4] was impressed by Flagg's work and sent him to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1889–1891, under his patronage.

Professional career[edit]

In 1891, Flagg began his architectural practice in New York, greatly influenced by his knowledge of the French ideas of architectural design, such as structural rationalism.

During this time he joined with John Prentiss Benson to create Flagg & Benson, which later became Flagg, Benson & Brockway with the addition of Albert Leverett Brockway. FB&B designed St. Luke's Hospital in New York City.[5]

In 1894, he established the architectural firm of Flagg & Chambers with Walter B. Chambers, whom he met in Paris. Usually, Flagg alone credited for some of the work he and Chambers worked on together, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the U.S. Naval Academy, and Pomfret School in Connecticut which he saw as "part of the process of evolution that would contribute to the creation of a national style of architecture.”[6]

Louisa Flagg Scribner, Flagg's sister, was the wife of Charles Scribner II. Through this familial connection, Flagg designed six structures located in Manhattan for the publishing family.[7]

His contributions to zoning and height regulations were essential to New York's first laws governing this aspect of the city's architecture. Flagg argued in favor of zoning laws which would regulate the height and setback of buildings, to allow light and air to reach the streets below them.[8] He was a president of the New York Society of Beaux-Arts Architects. A small collection of Flagg's personal and professional papers is held in the Department of Drawings & Archives at Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

Personal life[edit]

Ernest Flagg married Margaret E. Bonnell on June 27, 1899 in New York City. They had one daughter, Margaret Elizabeth, who became a well-respected small-scale portrait painter and is known professionally as Betsy Flagg Melcher.[9]

In 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Flagg were on their way to a party held by Stowe Phelps, a fellow architect, when their limousine struck and killed a boy (James McNamara) who had suddenly skated in front of the car. The couple drove the boy to the hospital but he died en route.[10]


The Singer Building, once the tallest building in the world
Cherokee Apartments

Selected writings[edit]

  • Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction (1922)
  • Le Naos du Parthenon (1928)


  1. ^ Bacon, Mardges (1986). Ernest Flagg: Beaux-arts Architect and Urban Reformer. 
  2. ^ Flagg, Ernest. Genealogical Notes on the Founding of New England: My Ancestors Part in that Undertaking. Hartford, Conn., 1926, p. 135.
  3. ^ Flagg, Lucius C.S. Family Records of the Descendants of Gershom Flagg. Quincy, Ill., 1907, pp. 125, 128.
  4. ^ Eighth Generation Archived 2009-11-23 at the Wayback Machine. Descendants of Bartholomew Flegg & Graff, Rebecca Irwin."Genealogy of the Claypoole Family of Philadelphia." Philadelphia, Pa., 1893, pp. 124 & 145.
  5. ^ Albert L Brockway
  6. ^ Bacon, Mardges (1986). Ernest Flagg: beaux-arts architect and urban reformer (!st ed.). MIT press. pp. 134–137. ISBN 978-0262022224. 
  7. ^ "Streetscapes/The Charles Scribner House; A Quintessential Flagg Building Is Being Restored".  External link in |website= (help);
  8. ^ Fire Engine Co. 67 Landmarks Preservation Commission
  9. ^ Betsey Flagg Melcher Archived 2011-06-07 at the Wayback Machine. Luce Foundation Center for American Art.
  10. ^ "BOY SKATER KILLED BY DINERS' AUTO; Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Flagg's Car Runs Down Lad at Stowe Phelps's Door." New York Times, February 24, 1912.
  11. ^ Pierce, J. Kingston. "Olympia Capitol — A History of the Building". HistoryLink. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  12. ^ Bacon, Mardges (1986). Ernest Flagg: beaux-arts architect and urban reformer (1st ed.). MIT Press. pp. 134–137. ISBN 978-0262022224. 
  13. ^ "Philadelphia Architects and Buildings". The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  14. ^ White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot; Leadon, Fran, AIA Guide to New York City, Oxford University Press, 2010. Cf. p.358.
  15. ^ "STREETSCAPES: A Skating Rink/Boxing Ring, And a Wild and Crazy Facade", The New York Times, February 6, 2005
  16. ^ "Bulging Buildings: Cantilevers Make a Comeback". New York Sun. July 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-25. In 1908, Ernest Flagg designed one of Lower Manhattan's most distinctive skyscrapers for the Singer Manufacturing Company, at Broadway and Liberty Street ... 
  17. ^ Vinegar Hill Historic District (105-055-77001-77061) Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine.. City of Bloomington: Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission, n.d. Accessed 2011-01-27.
  18. ^ Plunz, Richard. A History of Housing in New York City. Columbia University Press, New York: 1990. P. 213-214.

Further reading[edit]

  • Flagg, Ernest - Genealogical Notes of the Founding of New England: My Ancestors Part in that Undertaking Lockwood & Brainard Co. (1926) ISBN 0-8063-0533-9
  • Mardges Bacon, Ernest Flagg: Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer, MIT Press (1986)
  • Paul Malo, "Boldt Castle", Laurentian Press (2001)
  • Paul Malo, "Fools' Paradise", Laurentian Press (2003)

External links[edit]