John R. Hamilton

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John R. Hamilton was an English architect who moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In England Hamilton designed the Lincoln and Worcester Insane Asylums; the Birmingham, Plymouth, and Leicester Cemeteries; and churches in London and Oxford (according to an affidavit).[citation needed] He is believed[by whom?] to have come to the U.S. in approximately 1850 and to Cincinnati in approximately 1852. According to the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati's Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects: "relatively little is known about Hamilton's American career, but he seems to have been a fine designer, willing to explore new technology, and with a significant influence through his pupils on later 19th-century Cincinnati-area architecture."[1]

He is listed on his own in 1853-1855, with Rankin, 1856–1857, and with James W. McLaughlin in 1857-1858.[1] Prominent Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, born in England and brought to the Cincinnati area as a child, got his start in Hamilton's office in 1857.[1]

Hamilton won a silver medal at the Ohio Mechanics’ Institute for his ‘Paintings, Lithographic, Architectural, and other Drawings.’ He may have been in New York City at 36 Wall Street by 1859 (or 1858, according to Haverstock), and was "made a Fellow of the fledgling American Institute of Architects in 1860."[1] According to Haverstock, page 369, "he served during the Civil War as special artist for Harper’s Weekly, traveling as far south as Port Hudson, Louisiana," and was in Richmond, Virginia, from about 1864 to 1866. Hamilton was an early member of the Literary Club of Cincinnati (1857).[1]

In 1854 Hamilton won a design competition for the Henry Clay Monument in the Lexington, Kentucky Cemetery, a Gothic dome "constructed entirely and innovatively of cast-iron", but it was not built and a "more conventional (if provincial) column, raised on an Egyptoid mausoleum base, supported a statue of Clay."[1]

The Horticultural Review and Botanical Magazine (published in Cincinnati by H.W. Derby [a Hamilton & Rankin client] and edited by John Aston Warder and James W. Ward) published Hamilton’s Charles Anderson House (later Broadwell House) at SEC Fifth and Pike streets in downtown Cincinnati, and ran a series of signed articles on architecture by Hamilton.[1] The article about "rural architecture" are "perhaps" the earliest known architectural writings by a Cincinnati-based architect, announced by the publication's editor in the first issue of the volume, IV, 1 (1/1854), 47.[1]


  • H.W. Derby Building Hamilton & Rankin on Third Street[1]
  • (New) National Theater on Sycamore St. (1857) for John Bates "the pioneer and most successful theatrical manager of the West" [1]
  • Masonic Hall or Temple at Third and Walnut (Hamilton & McLaughlin)a "grandiose, exotic, probably Ruskinian, yet precociously Mansard-roofed" building.[1]
  • First Presbyterian Church, Aurora, Indiana, which Hamilton "is said to have designed" for the Gaff family[1] in a Greek Revival Style. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2]
  • Woodward High School building "one of the earlier buildings in America to use terracotta for exterior decoration [two cast gargoyles or gutter-spouts survive in the Woodward museum], and the first in Cincinnati to use terracotta for the exterior, according to an article in the “Editor’s Bureau” in The Horticultural Review and Botanical Magazine, IV (1854), 428-429."[1] Before Hamilton's building was constructed, Woodward High School first opened on October 24, 1831, making it the first high school west of the Allegheny Mountains and the oldest public high school still in operation in the United States.
  • First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio which "survives with its terracotta exterior elements"[1]
  • Charles Anderson House (later Broadwell House) a "handsome and ingeniously sited Italian Villa" in volume IV (1854), built at SEC Fifth and Pike streets [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o R. Hamilton Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati
  2. ^ First Presbyterian Church (added 1994 - Building - #94001116) Also known as 029-029-51171 215 Fourth St., Aurora INDIANA - Dearborn County National Register of Historic Places

Additional sources[edit]

  • Affidavit from Steve Gordon[citation needed]
  • AIA College (2000)
  • Haverstock (2000), 369
  • Langsam (1997), 3, 42, 48
  • Painter, AIC (2006), 34, 55, 67, 98, 125, 145