[Central Fountain in Garden of the Villa Castello]
The Central Fountain
(Sketch by Birch Burdette Long, 1899)
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Born in Columbia City, Indiana, Birch Burdette Long was working in a Chicago architect's office by the time he was 16 years old. Although he trained in the usual draftsman and designer activities, he became interested particularly in drawing perspectives and in rendering. It is during his time in Chicago that he became acquainted with Frank Lloyd Wright, and Long is sometimes credited with introducing a Japanese-style architectural rendering into that office.
During his time in Chicago Long joined the Chicago Architectural Club and taught classes in both watercolor and pen and ink drawing. Long was the recipient of a scholarship prize from the Chicago Architectural Club, enabling him to travel abroad to Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and England; and when he returned, he moved to New York, where he worked for Albert Fellheimer and on the designs for the Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Having gained a commission from Century Magazine, Birch again went abroad to make a series of sketches in London (including images of the South Kensington Museum and the War Offices). After this assignment Birch came back to New York City, where he specialized again in architectural rendering and drawing. During this period he produced drawings of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (Henry Bacon, Arch't.) and the Fulton Memorial designed by H. Van Buren Magonigle.
Long also worked with mural painting, designing and executing murals for the New York Building at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and for the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, PA.
Long was a member of the Architectural League of New York. Following his death in 1927, while working on one of their exhibitions, the League established the "Birch Burdette Long Memorial Prize" in his honor. In the years immediately following 1927, tributes appeared in many of the architectural periodicals to whom he had contributed illustrations. In the October 1929 Pencil Points Harry C. Starr's memorial article included letters from many of the architects with whom he had worked in New York and Pittsburgh, including Aymar Embury II, Benno Janssen, H. Van Buren Magonigle, McKim, Mead & White, J. H. Phillips, Harvey Wiley Corbett, Alfred Busselle, George C. Miller, and Chester B. Price. In the transcriptions of letters, the Chester B. Price letter came last, and his is perhaps worth quoting: "At his best, he has never been surpassed for delicate strength and beauty of color or in feeling for architectural form. He founded a tradition."
Sandra L. Tatman.
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