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Born: 1/22/1802, Died: 8/17/1878

English-born Richard Upjohn became one of the most influential architects in the United States, especially in the area of church design. He had trained as a cabinetmaker in England and while still in his 20s established a furniture and carpentry business. In 1829 he emigrated to the United States, first settling in New Bedford, MA, but then moving to Boston in 1834 and working in the office of Alexander Parris. While working for Parris, he began a small architectural enterprise of his own and produced a few residential designs in Maine. By the early 1830s he had produced Saint John's Church in Bangor, ME; and his career in ecclesiastical design was launched. Perhaps the highlight of his career in this area was Trinity Church, New York (1841-1846) in which he actively pursued the ideas of A. W. N. Pugin which were so popular in England at the time. (Phoebe Stanton, in her Macmillan biography, cites Pugin's The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture of 1841 as a source.)

With this construction Upjohn forced American architects and builders to recognize the need for accurate detail in Gothic Revival designs. Later commissions would test Upjohn's allegiance to the Gothic, but his desire to be faithful to both accurate and appropriate use would override any slavish devotion to the Gothic. For the Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn, NY, and for Bowdoin College Chapel, Brunswick, ME he produced Romanesque-influenced designs appropriate for Protestant churches not associated with the Protestant Episcopal. For St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, MD, he worked in a Lombard style. Locally Upjohn provided interior designs for St. Clement Church in Philadelphia.

Although Upjohn's church designs appear to dominate his practice, residential work was also undertaken by his office. According to Phoebe Stanton, he designed at least 75 dwellings. Here again he often turned to English sources, specifically Louden's Encyclopedia.

Upjohn was a founding member of the American Institute of Architects (1857) and actively and vigorously sought to raise the level of the profession.

Written by Sandra L. Tatman.

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  • American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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