Chiefly known as a Pittsburgh architect, Henry Hornbostel was born in Brooklyn, NY, and graduated in 1891 from Columbia University. After a stint working for the New York firm Palmer & Wood from 1890 to 1894, he was persuaded by classmate Lloyd Warren, to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, studying in the Atelier Ginain. Even in Paris he garnered praise for his rendering and drawing abilities and also worked in a French office (that of C. L. Girault and Blavette). According to Francis S. Swales, "Soon after completing the second class at the Ecole, Hornbostel began to acquire a reputation in the offices of Parisian architects as 'l'homme perspectif,' by reason of his introduction of perspective sketches in the presentation of his esquisse problems in the first class of school." Returning to New York in 1897, he capitalized on his rendering abilities, moving from office to office, and gaining experience with McKim, Mead & White (drawings for West Point Academy), Carrere & Hastings (Bridge at the Buffalo Exposition), and George B. Post. During this period he also became an instructor of design back at Columbia University, a position which he would retain until 1903.
Naturally Hornbostel was drawn to the several competitions which marked early twentieth-century American architecture. The association of Howells, Stokes & Hornbostel won second prize in the competition for a building complex for the University of California. In 1904, while working with his former employer, William Palmer, under the name Palmer & Hornbostel, Hornbostel won the Carnegie Technical Schools competition for the design of the modern day Carnegie Mellon University campus. Firmly connected with Pittsburgh and its architectural education, Hornbostel eventually established the School of Architecture at Carnegie Institute of Technology.
In Pittsburgh Hornbostel designed Temple Rodef Shalom (1904), the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall (1907), and the City-County Building (1915-1917, with Edward B. Lee), but he also retained his ties to New York, operating in several firms associated with William Palmer (Wood, Palmer & Hornbostel; Palmer, Hornbostel & Jones). With his New York connections he became a consultant for several bridges in the City, including the Queensborough Bridge, the Hell Gate Bridge over the East River, and the Williamsburg Bridge. However, Hornbostel did maintain an office in Pittsburgh and in his later years worked with Eric Fisher Wood.
Like John Harbeson in Philadelphia, Henry Hornbostel was known as a master draftsman. Again to quote Francis Swales,
As a draftsman Hornbostel's influence has been all in the direction of the free, quick expression of the imagination. His medium . . . is usually pencil. The colored crayon is used frequently to give the hues when color has a part of importance to play.
His atelier on the Carnegie campus provided Pittsburgh with a connection to Ecole-style education and rendering, but Hornbostel also played other roles in Pittsburgh. He was the first chair of Pittsburgh's Art Commission and was actively involved in planning in the State of Pennsylvania, serving on both the Pennsylvania State Planning Commission and as director of Allegheny County Parks. Hornbostel left Pittsburgh for Connecticut after retirement in 1939.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Ecole des Beaux-Arts
- Columbia University
- Carnegie Institute of Technology
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