Frederick Clarke Withers

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Frederick Clarke Withers (4 February 1828 – 7 January 1901) was a successful English architect in America, especially renowned for his Gothic Revival church designs.


Frederick Clarke Withers was born in Shepton Mallet, Somersetshire.[1] He had a brother, Robert Jewell Withers, who also became an architect.[2] He studied architecture in England for eight years. He came to the United States in 1851/52 at the invitation of the prominent American architect Andrew Jackson Downing. Withers and Downing later became family, as they married sisters: Emily Augusta and Caroline Elizabeth DeWindt, respectively. The sisters were great-grandchildren of President John Adams, and grandnieces of John Quincy Adams. Downing drowned that year, attempting to save his mother, following the explosion of the steamboat Henry Clay.[citation needed] Calvert Vaux, Downing's partner, then took Withers in as a partner, at Newburgh, New York.[3] Vaux included a design for a bookcase credited to Withers among those in his Villas and Cottages (New York, 1857), which records both designs of Downing and Vaux and Vaux and Withers.[4]

2013 Jefferson Market Library, designed by Frederick Clarke Withers as the Jefferson Market Courthouse

At the outset of the American Civil War, Withers volunteered and received a commission as a lieutenant in the 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Regiment. This experience added invaluable engineering experience to his architectural expertise. After war's end, he moved his practice to New York City where he became renowned for his church designs. As an independent architect in New York working largely in the Gothic revival mode, Withers wrote about architecture and designed in the highly colored "Ruskinian Gothic" manner. Withers' only cast-iron building stands at 448 Broome Street, Manhattan.[3]

When A. J. Bicknell published Withers' Church Architecture (1873),[5] it was a sign that Withers' reputation was secured. Among his prestigious commissions was the "William Backhouse Astor, Sr. Memorial Altar and Reredos" (1876–77) at Trinity Church. In the 1880s Withers worked in partnership with Walter Dickson (1835-1903), originally from Albany, New York.

A number of Withers' works are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and further honored as National Historic Landmarks.[6]

Jefferson Market Courthouse[edit]

Frederick Clarke Withers designed the Jefferson Market Courthouse, now the Jefferson Market Library which was built in 1874 on 10th St. in Greenwich Village, New York next to the Jefferson Market Prison. The Courthouse was made for the Third Judicial District.[7] The Courthouse was designed in the American Gothic, "Venetian" or "Ruskinian" style.[8] The building was called "Jefferson Market" because the site chosen, in 1870 was at the time the Jefferson Market, the local produce market.[9] The frieze on the outside of the building contains scenes from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.[9]



  • Nevius, Michelle, and James Nevius. 2009. Inside the Apple: a streetwise history of New York City. New York: Free Press.


  1. ^ Francis R. Kowsky, The Architecture of Frederick Clarke Withers and the Progress of the Gothic Revival in America after 1850, 1980, is the standard monograph.
  2. ^ "Basic Biographical Details: Robert Jewell Withers". Dictionary of Scottish Architects 1840-1980. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  3. ^ a b " National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination". National Park Service. 1977-05-24.
  4. ^ Bookcase, p. 80; Withers is credited (p. vii) with preparing the outlines of the architecture on wood engraving blocks; the Vaux & Withers designs are 1 "A simple Suburban Cottage", 5 "A Suburban House", 10 "A Suburban House with Attics", 13, "A Brick Villa with Tower and without attics", 19 "An Irregular Wooden Country House", 22 "An Irregular Brick Villa", 23 "A Suburban House with Curvilinear Roof", Vignette "Design for a Square House, 28 "A Picturesque Villa with Wing and Attics", 29 "A Town House", Vignette "Design for a Roomy Country house"
  5. ^ Withers, Church architecture: plans, elevations, and views of twenty-one churches and two school-houses, photo-lithographed from original drawings, with numerous illustrations shewing details of construction, church fittings... (Bicknell: New York) 1873.
  6. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Nevius, Michelle, and James Nevius. 2009. Inside the Apple: a streetwise history of New York City. New York: Free Press. p. 135.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Zabriskie Memorial Church

External links[edit]