Willoughby J. Edbrooke

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Old Post Office Building, Washington, DC (1892–1899)

Willoughby James Edbrooke (1843–1896) was an American architect and a bureaucrat who remained faithful to a Richardsonian Romanesque style into the era of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States, supported by commissions from conservative federal and state governments that were spurred by his stint in 1891-92 as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Life and career[edit]

Edbrooke was born in Evanston, Illinois. He first practiced in Chicago in 1868 and in 1879 formed a partnership with Franklin Pierce Burnham (died 1909). The partnership was dissolved in 1892.[1] Among their major joint commissions were the Georgia State Capitol,[2] and buildings for University of Notre Dame, and the Mecca Flats in Chicago, where Edbrooke served as superintendent of construction. The division of responsibilities and credit for constructions at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, may have finalized the dissolution of the partnership. Edbrooke resided in Washington DC, where in his position as supervising architect of the Treasury Department, he initiated the design of at least forty buildings.[3]

The monumentally classical Georgia State Capitol shows Burnham's design sensibility rather than Edbrooke's, as Edbrooke's late constructions show. At the turn of the twentieth century, fire destroyed many of the documents in storage at the Capitol, including the original plans and specifications for the building.[2] The competition for the capitol's design was judged by New York architect, George B. Post, who remarked its "beauty, strength and harmony" in justifying his selection of the Edbrooke and Burnham classicizing design, that it was more academically correct, simple and elegant, and monumental in its appearance.[4] At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, the Government Building was ascribed to Willoughby J. Edbrooke.[5] Its classicizing design fit in harmoniously with the "White City" that ushered in the American Renaissance movement and the age of Beaux-Arts architecture. At the Exposition, Franklin P. Burnham was officially credited only with the Cold-Storage Warehouse, while "Willoughby J. Edbrooke, Washington" is credited with the United States Government Building and the other official federal exhibits.[6]

Edbrooke was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

His son Harry W.J. Edbrooke (1873-1946) went into practice with Willoughby's brother, Frank E. Edbrooke, the dean of early Denver architecture.[7]

Wheeler Opera House, a landmark in the center of Aspen, Colorado

Selected works[edit]

With Franklin P. Burnham[edit]

Edbrooke's Golden Dome is a landmark of the University of Notre Dame
  • Construction for University of Notre Dame: the Main Administration Building (1879), Washington Hall (1881), LaFortune Student Center (1883) and Sorin Hall (1889).[8]
  • Georgia State Capitol (1884–1889) Co-architect Franklin P. Burnham. It was built by Miles and Horne. George Crouch worked on the ornamental sculpture.
  • Christ Episcopal Church, Waukegan, Illinois (1887–1889). Co-architect Franklin P. Burnham. Done in classic Richardsonian Romanesque style, its interior has been updated but preserves much of the original aesthetic. It also features an excellent collection of stained glass windows, including one from the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Located at 410 Grand Ave, it continues to be an active Episcopal parish.
  • 7th District Police Station, Chicago, Illinois (1888) Co-architect Franklin P. Burnham
  • Kane County Courthouse, Geneva, Illinois (c. 1890–1892). Co-architect Franklin P. Burnham.
  • World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893) Government Building. Co-architect Burnham.

As supervising architect[edit]


  1. ^ Michael H. Ebner, Creating Chicago's North Shore: A Suburban History 1988:66
  2. ^ a b "City of Atlanta on-line": Georgia State Capitol
  3. ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects quoted at "City of Atlanta on-line"
  4. ^ Edwin L. Jackson, "The Story of Georgia's Capitols and Capital Cities"
  5. ^ SAIC Digital Libraries Documentary photographs.
  6. ^ The American Indian School, Army Hospital, Government Lighthouse, Heliograph and Transit House, Life-saving Station, Naval Observatory and Weather Bureau, in addition to the Government Building. ("The Architects and Their Buildings").
  7. ^ Francis J. Pierson, Dennis J. (FRW) Gallagher, Getting to Know Denver: Five Fabulous Walking Tours 2006:16.
  8. ^ University of Notre Dame Buildings Inventory
  9. ^ Emporis.com: San Jose Museum of Art.
  10. ^ "Scott G. Schultz, "America's Watchtower: Saving the Old Post Office"" (PDF). (303 KB).
  11. ^ John D. Milner (June 22, 1973), National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Federal Aviation Administration Records Center (PDF), National Park Service
  12. ^ June Lloyd: "York's old post office architecturally significant".
  13. ^ Emporis.com: Sioux City City Hall[dead link]
  14. ^ Dr Mary Ann Sullivan: "Milwaukee Federal Building": captioned photographs.
  15. ^ Emporis.com: Landmark Center

External links[edit]

Preceded by Office of the Supervising Architect
Succeeded by