Henry Bacon

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Henry Bacon
Lincoln Memorial 1.JPG
The Lincoln Memorial in 2006
Born(1866-11-28)November 28, 1866
DiedFebruary 16, 1924(1924-02-16) (aged 57)
AwardsAIA Gold Medal
ProjectsLincoln Memorial

Henry Bacon (November 28, 1866 – February 16,[1] 1924) was an American Beaux-Arts architect who is best remembered for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (built 1915–1922), which was his final project.

Education and early career[edit]

Henry Bacon was born in Watseka, Illinois. He studied briefly at the University of Illinois, Urbana (1884), but left to begin his architectural career as a draftsman. He worked in the office of McKim, Mead & White in New York City, one of the best-known architectural firms. Bacon's works of that period were in the late Greek Revival and Beaux-Arts architectures associated with the firm, which included the 1889 Paris World Expo, the Boston Public Library, the New York Herald Building, the Harvard Club of New York, Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus, the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and New York's Pennsylvania Station, among others.

Union Square Savings Bank, Manhattan, New York, a New York City landmark now used as the Daryl Roth Theatre

While at McKim, Mead & White, Bacon won, in 1889, the Rotch Traveling Scholarship for architectural students. This gave him two years of study and travel in Europe, which he spent learning and drawing details of Roman and Greek architecture. In Turkey, he met his future wife, Laura Florence Calvert, daughter of a British consul. He traveled with another fellowship student, Albert Kahn of Detroit, Michigan, who would become a leading industrial architect.

Full career[edit]

After returning to the U.S., Bacon worked for a few more years with his mentor, Charles McKim, including on such projects as the Rhode Island State House in Providence, Rhode Island. He served as McKim's personal representative in Paris during the Paris World's Exposition (1889)] and in Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, for which McKim, Mead & White was designing several buildings.

In 1897, Bacon left with James Brite, a younger architect from the firm, to found the partnership of Brite and Bacon Architects. Brite was in charge of financial, administrative and contracting aspects of the partnership, while Bacon was in charge of the architectural design and construction. The partnership immediately won the competition for the Jersey City Public Library and the Hall of History for American University in Washington, D.C. They built a good number of public buildings and a small number of private residences-most notably the La Fetra Mansion in Summit, New Jersey.

The partnership was selected in 1897 to build three private residences: La Fetra Mansion; Laurel Hill, a three-story Georgian mansion in Columbia, North Carolina; and Donald McRae House in Wilmington, North Carolina. The La Fetra Mansion was designed and built by Bacon, and his design was published in the September 1901 issue of Architecture, the pre-eminent architectural professional journal of its time. The LeFetra Mansion fully exhibits Bacon's preference for Beaux-Arts Neo-Greek and Roman architectural styles. His simple and elegant lines, and his skill in dimensions and proportions, were described as expressing a stately elegance, peaceful tranquility, and sense of divine protection.

In 1897, Bacon was also approached by a group, which had organized to raise public and private funds to build a monument in Washington, D.C. to memorialize President Abraham Lincoln. Bacon began his conceptual, artistic, and architectural design for the Lincoln Memorial that year. He continued in the effort, although the funding to build the project was not secured until years later. The Brite and Bacon Partnership dissolved in 1902, partly resulting from Brite's disagreement over Bacon's passion and the unpaid time he spent on the memorial design.

After that, Bacon practiced under his own name with significant success, building a large number of public buildings and monuments which became renowned, until his death in 1924. His later works included the Danforth Memorial Library in Paterson, New Jersey (1908), the Ridgewood, New Jersey 1924 War Memorial in Van Neste Park; the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut; Waterbury Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut; Court of the Four Seasons at Panama-Pacific Expo in San Francisco, 1915; World War I Memorial at Yale University, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Confederate Memorial in Wilmington, North Carolina; and many other distinguished public buildings and monuments.

In 1913, Bacon was elected into the National Academy of Design as an associate member, and he became a full member in 1917.

Mature work[edit]

Program from the AIA Gold Medal presentation to Henry Bacon in 1923

Bacon was very active as a designer of monuments and settings for public sculpture. He designed the Court of the Four Seasons for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, and the World War I Memorial at Yale University. He collaborated with sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the Sen. Mark Hanna Monument in Cleveland, Ohio, and with Daniel Chester French on numerous monuments, notably the Lincoln Memorial's pensive colossal Lincoln. Olin Memorial Library, one of Bacon's buildings at Wesleyan University, houses many of Bacon's documents and blueprints of the Lincoln Memorial.

Bacon rarely found time to design private residences. There are three known residential projects that are clearly his work. The first is the La Fetra Mansion in Summit, New Jersey, designed and built by the firm of Brite & Bacon from 1897 to 1900. Bacon skillfully integrated into a residential setting many of his signature Greek Revival and Roman Renaissance elements and proportions. The resulting elegance was astoundingly masterful. The La Fetra Mansion was commissioned by industrialist Harold A. La Fetra of the Royal Baking Powder Company, which later merged with RJR Nabisco. The second is the rustic resort "Donald McRae House" in Wilmington, North Carolina, for his close friend Donald McRae.

The third Bacon-designed private residence is Chesterwood House, which he designed for his friend, the noted sculptor Daniel Chester French, as his summer home and studio at Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Its exterior bears similarity to the La Fetra Mansion.

Bacon served as a member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1921 until his death in 1924.[2][3] In May 1923, President Warren G. Harding presented Bacon with the American Institute of Architects's Gold Medal, making him the 6th recipient of that honor. Bacon died of cancer in New York City, and he is buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina.

During World War II, a US Navy Liberty Ship was named after Bacon: the SS Henry Bacon, which was commissioned on November 11, 1942.[4] In 1964 sculptor Joseph Kiselewski created the Henry Bacon Medal for Memorial Architecture, cast in bronze by the Medallic Arts Company, honoring Bacon.

Dupont Circle Fountain, Washington, D.C.
Commodore George Hamilton Perkins monument at the NH State House

Notable monuments and public buildings[edit]

Architectural settings, bases and exedra for sculpture[edit]

Bonney Memorial (1898), Lowell Cemetery



  1. ^ Turner, Jane (1996). The Dictionary of Art. Oxford University Press: Macmillan Publishers Limited. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-19-517068-7.
  2. ^ Thomas E. Luebke, ed., Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2013): Appendix B, p. 539.
  3. ^ "Members of the Commission." U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. October 3, 2012. Archived October 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Accessed October 15, 2012.
  4. ^ SS Henry Bacon successfully conducted a heroic rescue mission under heavy German Luftwaffe fire, secured all 19 Norwegian refugees including many children and women, before it was finally sunk on February 23, 1945, by the tremendously heaving bombing of Luftwaffe. Captain Carini of SS Henry Bacon was posthumously awarded the Krigskorset med Sverd or Norwegian War Cross with Sword. This is Norway's highest military award for gallantry and he is one of only two Americans, and 126 foreigners to have received this award.
  5. ^ "Henry Bacon Helps Beautify Naugatuck". February 4, 2022.
  6. ^ "Bridgeport University". Bridgeport.edu. Archived from the original on October 31, 2011. Retrieved December 18, 2011.


  • The American Institute of Architects
  • The American Academy of Arts & Letters
  • Thomas, Christopher, the Lincoln Memorial and its Architect
  • Thomas, Christopher, The Lincoln Memorial and American Life, 2002
  • The Olin Library, Wesleyan University
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, America's Monuments, unpublished manuscript
  • Richman, Michael, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor, The Preservation Press, Washington D.C., 1976
  • Richman, Michael, Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon, 1980
  • Tolles, Bryant and Carolyn, New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide, New Hampshire Historical Society, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1979
  • Wilkinson, Burke, and David Finn, photographs, Uncommon Clay: The Life and Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego 1985
  • Wilson, Richard Guy, The AIA Gold Medal, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1984

External links[edit]