William Rodrigue was the son of Andre Jacques Rodrigue, a native of LaRochelle, France, who had come to the United States via Santo Domingo in 1793. The young Rodrigue was born in Philadelphia and baptized in Old St. Mary's Church as Jacques Aman Theodore Rodrigue. However, he was known as William. Family sources indicate that William Rodrigue studied art in Paris, returning to Philadelphia in 1823. Upon his return, he entered the office of William Strickland and was part of the work on the Second Bank of the United States. By 1830 Rodrigue had struck out on his own, aided by a young priest named John Hughes, soon to be his brother-in-law. Hughes commissioned Rodrigue to design the Church of St. John the Evangelist on 13th Street, north of Chestnut. In 1831 he prepared drawings for the Wills Hospital for the Relief of the Indigent Blind and Lame, a competition overshadowed historically by the Girard College competition of 1832 that Rodrigue also entered unsuccessfully, although his drawings for these buildings in an English Regency style do survive. In both the Wills Hospital (Logan Square, Race between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, 1831-1833; altered, 1867 and 1909; demolished) and Girard College competitions the commissions were awarded to Thomas Ustick Walter, a rising star of unusual brilliance whose success in the 1830s confounded older professionals and must have discouraged less promising younger men like Rodrigue.
St. John the Evangelist Church was dedicated on 8 April 1832, but John Hughes's influence on Rodrigue's career did not stop there. In 1838 after Hughes was named Coadjutor Bishop of New York, Rodrigue moved with him, acquiring a residence in Brooklyn.
In the early 1840s this connection with Bishop Hughes led to Rodrigue's contributions to St. Johns Hall, a seminary later known as Fordham University, and it also led him back to New York City, where a most interesting connection occurs. William Rodrigue intrigues historians for his early association with James Renwick, Jr. (1818-1895) and the design of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, New York City. A preliminary perspective of the church bears both names and the contract of March, 1859, stipulates that Renwick and Rodrigue each would receive $2,500 per year for eight years for work on the church.
When Rodrigue relocated to New York is unknown. He is credited with the design of the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (Mott Street, NYC) and the Church of Saint Francis (NYC, 1852). He appears in New York City directories in 1858 with an office at 88 Wall Street, the same address given at the time by James Renwick.
Roger W. Moss, and
Sandra L. Tatman.
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