George Keller (architect)
George Keller (December 15, 1842 – July 7, 1935), was an American architect and engineer. He enjoyed a diverse and successful career, and was sought for his designs of bridges, houses, monuments, and various commercial and public buildings. Keller's most famous projects, however, are the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford, Connecticut, and the James A. Garfield Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio.
He was born on December 15, 1842 in Cork in Ireland to Thomas Keller (1804-1880) and Susan Pratt (1805-1888). Keller emigrated with his family to New York City as a child. Irish immigrants were at the time considered inferior, and during his early years Keller endured a considerable measure of hardship and discrimination. Lacking connections and unable to obtain schooling in Europe like many of his professional peers, an ambitious nature and a school of hard knocks education gave Keller an adequate base of knowledge. As a young man, he accepted employment with an Irish architect in Washington, D.C., but returned to New York to join the firm of architect Peter B. Wight. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two. Keller’s association with Wight introduced him to the aesthetic philosophy of John Ruskin and to serious architectural study, which was cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War. Though Keller planned to join the Union Army, a dry inkwell prevented him from signing the enlistment papers. Choosing to see this as an ill omen, he gladly accepted an engineering position with the Brooklyn Navy Yard instead. Moving to Hartford at the war's end, he took a job designing monuments.
In 1903 Keller became the 3rd architect to work on the Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford. He based his contribution to the design on the York Cathedral, from which Ithiel Town, the original architect, had drawn inspiration.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch
The postwar building boom brought Keller to national prominence. Though he won design competitions for Civil War monuments in several cities, his Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at the entrance to Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut, boldly broke the conventional form that had become the accepted configuration. Monuments of this type typically consisted of a cylindrical column, or shaft, surmounted by an allegorical female figure, usually Victory, with four sculpted figures surrounding the base. In contrast, Keller's Hartford monument, an eclectic Romanesque construction dedicated in 1886, was “perhaps the first permanent triumphal arch in the United States.” One of the arch’s most striking elements is a bas-relief frieze featuring life-size figures carved by Bohemian-born sculptor Caspar Buberl. The north side of the frieze was carved by English-born sculptor Samuel James Kitson.
The Memorial Arch was built as a gateway to the pre-existing Park River Bridge, which was renamed the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Bridge. The bridge has since been demolished, the river arched over and buried, and the ground level raised and turned into parkland.
Keller's involvement with the James A. Garfield Memorial in Cleveland began after he submitted an architectural design to the trustees of the Garfield National Memorial Committee. The committee, headed by ex-President Rutherford B. Hayes along with Jeptha H. Wade, president of Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery, had been formed for the purpose of securing a plan for a memorial to President James A. Garfield following his assassination in 1881. To this end during the autumn of 1883 the committee sponsored a design competition in which Keller took part. The competition promised a prize of $1,000 to the winning design, thus attracting not only American but also European entries. To judge the submissions, the committee obtained the assistance of Boston architect Henry van Brunt and English-born architect Calvert Vaux of New York City. Both van Brunt and Vaux ultimately chose Keller's design, and he was awarded the commission on June 24, 1884. Excavation for the monument at Lake View Cemetery began on October 6, 1885; it was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1890. Once again, Keller chose Caspar Buberl to execute figural friezes for his design.
|Monument||Image||Location/GPS Coordinates||Construction Begun||Cornerstone Laid||Dedicated||Sculptor||Notes|
|Civil War Monument||Granby Green,
3 East Granby Road,
|1868||Carl Conrads||New England Granite Works, contractor|
|Soldiers' National Monument||Gettysburg National Cemetery,
|Soldiers Monument||Taunton, Massachusetts||Never executed|
|Civil War Monument||Veterans Memorial Park,
Manchester, New Hampshire
|U.S. Soldier Monument
a.k.a. Private Soldier Monument
|Antietam National Cemetery,
|Carl Conrads, sculptor
James W. Pollette, carver
|Height: 44 ft 7 in. Weight: 250 tons.
Statue exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition.
|Soldiers and Sailors Monument||Lafayette Square,
Buffalo, New York
|Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch||Bushnell Park (Ford Street entrance),
|Caspar Buberl, south frieze
Samuel James Kitson, north frieze
Albert Entress (1846-1926), 6 statues
|James A. Garfield Memorial||Lake View Cemetery,
|Soldiers and Sailors Monument||Oneida Square,
Utica, New York
|Major General John Sedgwick Memorial||opposite Cornwall Hollow Cemetery,
Cornwall Hollow & Hautboy Hill Roads,
|James J. Hawley (1871-1899)||Hawley's first (and only) major commission.|
|Base of Lafayette Equestrian Statue||Lafayette Circle,
Capitol Avenue & Washington Street,
|1932||Paul Wayland Bartlett||1932 cast of Bartlett's 1908 equestrian statue
at Cours la Reine, Paris
- Grace Episcopal Church, Windsor, Connecticut (1864–65).
- Grace Episcopal Church Rectory, 301 Broad Street, Windsor, Connecticut (circa 1865-70), (attributed).
- Asylum Avenue Baptist Church, 868 Asylum Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut (1872, altered). Part of Asylum Avenue Historic District.
- Seyms Street Jail, Hartford, Connecticut (1873, demolished 1978).
- Elizabeth Chapel, Connecticut Retreat for the Insane, Hartford, Connecticut (1875). Now The Institute of Living.
- Temple Beth Israel Synagogue, 21 Charter Oak Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut (1876). Now Charter Oak Cultural Center.
- Carl H. Conrads House, 1628 Boulevard, West Hartford, Connecticut (year?).
- White Hall, Connecticut Retreat for the Insane, Hartford, Connecticut (1877). Now The Institute of Living.
- G. Fox & Company Department Store, 406-10 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut (1880, burned 1917).
- Northam Memorial Chapel and Gallup Memorial Gateway, Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut (1882).
- Hartford Public High School, 39 Hopkins Street, Hartford, Connecticut (1882, expanded 1897, demolished 1963).
- Thayer Monument, Lake View Cemetery, Skaneateles, New York, 1882–83, Carl Conrads, sculptor.
- Union Station, Hartford, Connecticut (1889), conceived by Keller, executed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge.
- Columbia Street Row Houses, Hartford, Connecticut, 12 houses on east side (1888), west side (1889). Part of George Keller Historic District.
- Park Terrace Row Houses, Hartford, Connecticut (1895). Keller received the house at 26 Park Terrace in lieu of his design fee, and lived there for the rest of his life.
- 60 Cone Street, Hartford, Connecticut (1895). Part of West End North Historic District.
- Grace Episcopal Church Parish House, Windsor, Connecticut (1898).
- Simsbury United Methodist Church, 799 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, Connecticut (1908).
- Albert Pope Drinking Fountain, Pope Park, Hartford, Connecticut (1913).
- J. P. Morgan Tomb, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1913.
Biographer David F. Ransom calls Keller's three small libraries "the crowning achievement of his career."
- Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, Connecticut (1888–89). Keller doubled the size of the library in 1911, but maintained the domestic scale of its Shingle Style exterior.
- Ansonia Public Library, Ansonia, Connecticut (1891–92).
- Granville Public Library, Granville, Massachusetts (1902).
Around 1885 he married Mary Monteith Smith (1860-1946) and they had three children: Hilda Montieth Keller (1888-1978), George Monteith Keller, Sr. (1895-1986), and Walter Smith Keller, Sr. (1898-1981).
George Keller died in Hartford, Connecticut on July 7, 1935. His ashes and those of his wife are interred within the Memorial Arch.
Temple Beth Israel Synagogue, Hartford, Connecticut (1876). Now Charter Oak Cultural Center.
Northam Memorial Chapel and Gallup Memorial Gateway, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut (1882).
Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, Connecticut (1888–89).
Union Station, Hartford, Connecticut (1889).
Ansonia Public Library, Ansonia, Connecticut (1891–92).
Granville Public Library, Granville, Massachusetts (1902).
- David F. Ransom, George Keller, Architect, intro. Barry Hannegan (Hartford, CT: Stowe-Day Foundation, 1978).
- "George Keller Dead. Noted as Architect. Dean of American Institute Designed the Gettysburg and Garfield Memorials". New York Times. July 8, 1935. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
George Keller, aged 92, dean of the American Institute of Architects and designer of the Gettysburg Memorial, at the dedication of which Lincoln made his famous address died at his home here today after a week's illness. ...
- Ransom, pp. 1, 4–6, 9.
- Hartfond Architecture Conservancy p. 24
- Ransom, 5, 117, 129, 131.
- Encyclopedia Americana (1920).
- Garfield National Memorial Association, The Man and the Mausoleum: Dedication of the Garfield Memorial Structure in Cleveland, Ohio, May 30, 1890 (1890; repr., Cleveland, OH: Garfield National Memorial Committee, 1924), 17–18.
- Ransom, 135.
- David F. Ransom, NRHP Nomination, Granby Center Historic District, 1985, p. 6
- Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch from Connecticut Historical Society.
- U.S. Soldier Monument from National Park Service.
- Sedgwick Memorial from Connecticut Historical Society.
- Grace Memorial Church from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Elizabeth Chapel from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Temple Beth Israel from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- David F. Ransom, Connecticut's Civil War Monuments, Connecticut Historical Society, 2000, n. 22.
- White Hall from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Northam Memorial Chapel from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Hartford Public High School
- Thayer Monument
- Potter, Janet Greenstein (1996). Great American Railroad Stations. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 69. ISBN 978-0471143895.
- George Keller Historic District.
- Park Terrace Row Houses from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Daniel Sterner, A Guide to Historic Hartford, Connecticut (The History Press, 2012), p. 123.
- West End North Historic District.
- Simsbury United Methodist Church from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- Pope Fountain from SIRIS.
- J. P. Morgan Tomb from Flickr.
- David F. Ransom, NRHP Nomination, Norfolk Historic District, 1978, p. 14.
- Ansonia Library from Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
- The Anna Sewell Memorial Fountain, a horse drinking fountain outside Ansonia Public Library, is attributed to Keller. Anna Sewell Memorial Fountain from SIRIS.
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