MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY BRITISH ARCHITECT
Renee Elizabeth Tribert
The Graduate Program in Historic Preservation
Presented to the faculties
of the University of Pennsylvania
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of
MASTER OF SCIENCE
— >-^y f /Lo^tl .
George/ Thomas , Historic Preser vation, Advisor
avid G. D e ~tr6n g , G r acfu a"t e"~G r o up Chairman and Reader
FINE ARTS /A)fl
Chapter I. British Background, Education, Inf luences . . . . 1
Chapter II. Context in America 18
Chapter III. Personal Affairs 30
Chapter IV. Early Practice (1846-1850) 37
Chapter V. Popular Success (1851-1860) 81
The Willows, a wooden carpenter Gothic structure built
in 1854, sits near the summit of a gentle slope, nestled
among trees, and looking out on fields and a nearby ridge
in Morristown, New Jersey (fig. 11). The setting is pic-
turesque; the house, with its deeply pitched crossing gable
roof, echoes the setting. Built by a local master
carpenter, Ashbel Bruen, it clearly follows the lines of
the Olmstead House, designed by Gervase Wheeler in 1849,
and published in his pattern book Rural Homes of 1851 (fig.
9). Although is has not as yet been possible to document,
either Bruen or his client, General Joseph Warren Revere,
undoubtedly owned a copy of the book. 0-n the basis of the
similarity of design to the Olmstead residence, the house
can be said to be derived from Wheeler's work.
The name, Gervase Wheeler, is seldom found in
architectural history texts, and only the most cursory
information is available on this architect's career. The
reason became apparent during research: he did not have
the historical stature of A.J. Downing or A.J. Davis, and
he left only a faint trail of his activities in this
country. In part this is because he worked in an era when
the profession of the architect was not yet firmly
established in America, and the singularity of the
architect's skill and innovation in design was not fully
Still the disparity between the lack of written
evidence and the apparent literary success of an architect
who published two books in America, the first, Rural Homes ,
going through eleven editions, the other, Homes for the
People , six, and which influenced the construction of homes
like the Willows, warranted attention.
Born in England, probably around 1815, Wheeler came to
America in the mid-1840's and stayed some twenty years.
The gathering of information inevitably focused on his
years of practice in America, due to the difficulty of
trans-atlantic research. Most particularly, an extensive
collection of correspondence and documents at Bowdoin
College, the Chapel Papers, provided to me by John Ward,
made it possible to develop some understanding of the early
years of Wheeler's career in America.
Background readings in architectural history,
monographs of Wheeler's contemporaries and period
publications provided an understanding of the overall
context of the period. In order to uncover the breadth of
Wheeler's practice, select period journals were searched
for articles, notices and reviews; citations found appear
in Appendixes D and E. In addition, a number of historical
societies, archives, and architectural historians in areas
of known Wheeler residence or practice, some of these
suggested to me by John Ward's earlier research, were
consulted for any holdings or leads. A list of research
facilities suggested for further study appears in Appendix
The following people are but a few of those who have
made the completion of this thesis possible: John Ward,
whose own extensive research on Gervase Wheeler provided
the foundation, Dr. Jill Allibone, who assisted me with
sources in England, the staff of the Library Company of
Philadelphia, Dr. George Thomas and Dr. David DeLong.
The aim of this thesis has been to develop a
biographical sketch of Gervase Wheeler, and to explore his
place in the architecture of mid-nineteenth century
America, keeping in mind his British roots. It is hoped
that the thesis will provide a resource for future
recognition, preservation and interpretation of designs by,
or inspired by, Gervase Wheeler.
I . British Background, Education and Influences
Documentation from Britain made available to me by Dr.
Jill Allibone suggests that Gervase Wheeler was originally
from Margate, Kent, in England. Members of his family were
interred at the Parish Church in Margate, and when Wheeler
returned to England after his years in America, he took up
residence there. His father, also named Gervase Wheeler,
was a manufacturer of gold, silver and gilt jewelry,
working from 1832 to 1844 at a shop located at 28
Bartlett's Buildings in Holborn, outside London, according
to period London directories .[ 1 ]
The elder Wheeler had at least one noteworthy social
connection, in the person of Sir Charles Wesley, Chaplain
of St. James, and Priest in Ordinary to H.R. the Queen in
the Anglican Church. While the origins and nature of the
relationship are unclear, it in due course extended to the
entire Wheeler family. It may also suggest, as a result of
the association, that Wheeler's religious affiliation was,
if not specifically Anglican, then Protestant, hence his
interest in obtaining episcopal commission work in the
In 1848, young Gervase Wheeler, recently arrived in
America, received a cordial letter from Sir Wesley. In it,
the Chaplain expressed genuinely warm feelings: "I am very
glad to find . . . that you have not forgotten an old friend
who often thinks of you." Wesley continued with his
assurance of support: "the personal knowledge I have had
of yourself for several years joined with the high opinion
I have always entertained of your professional talents
would make it a pleasure to me to add my testimony to that
of your other friends here in your behalf. "
Unfortunately, Wesley indicated his inability at the time
to assist Wheeler with introductions, and it is doubtful
whether the relationship served him in any way in America.
A tantalizing piece of information regarding the elder
Wheeler's status appeared in Homes for the People , where
the author mentioned the cottage built for his father by an
architect, "now one of England's honored names."  A
lack of corroborating evidence to identify the architect
and confirm the assertion diminishes its significance.
Still, it would, if substantiated, signal the family's
financial and social position, and provide a clearer
picture of Wheeler's personal background.
Wheeler studied architecture during a period of
transition. Practicing architects had begun to recognize
the need for standards of professional integrity and work
ethics to safeguard the viability of their services in the
eyes of the public. While the tradition of apprenticeship
persisted, the concern for professionalism led in the
1830's to a surge of schools and organizations. These
included the Royal Institute of British Architects, which
was established in 1834, and was oriented toward
architectural training. In these years before mid-century,
the position of architect began to reach a level whereby it
was essential not only to show artistic ability, but also
"to establish in the public eye [a] professional
Very little is known of Wheeler's education and
training in England, and records for his attendance at a
school or college have not been located. His own writings
indicate that he recognized the significance of
professional ethics, but often disregarded them in
practice. Whatever the level of personal and professional
integrity, Wheeler evidently understood the need to
establish credentials. In a manner not unheard of at the
beginning of a career, then or now, he exaggerated his
actual background experience in order to impress his
prospective American clientele.
In a letter of introduction from William J. Hoppin,
one of Wheeler's first contacts in America, in March 1847,
it was said, presumably based on Wheeler's own testimony,
that he "has been in the studio of Mr. Carpenter... and
also with Mr. Pugin..." Wheeler's apprenticeship under
Richard Cromwell Carpenter is tentatively confirmed in an
entry in the Architects' Engineers' and Building Trades'
Directory for 1868, published in London.  It should be
noted though that if the statement were false, it would
probably not have been refuted, for Carpenter had died in
1855. Wheeler's work under Augustus W. N. Pugin is clearly
suspect; Pugin claimed only his own son as pupil, and his
biographer mentions neither apprentices nor Wheeler.  It
is entirely possible however that the two had met, for
Pugin was a friend of Carpenter, and, in early years, an
enthusiastic supporter of the Cambridge Camden Society.
Following his conversion to Catholicism in 1834,
A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852) had espoused the cause of a true
Catholic architecture, namely the "second pointed Gothic."
He proclaimed his convictions through the publication of
several books, including Contrasts (1836) and The True
Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841). A
phrase from Wheeler's writing echoes the sentiment. As he
sought to obtain his first known commission in America, at
Bowdoin College, he enthusiastically expressed his desire
to carry out "Catholic and correct principle of
architectural decorating ."[ 8 ] Though the statement clearly
indicated familiarity with Pugin's principles, the use of
terms may be insincere from a religious point of view.
Wheeler, it has been posited, was most likely Protestant,
and apprenticed in a Protestant Society.
R.C. Carpenter (1812-1855) was "the chosen designer"
of the Cambridge Camden Society.  The association, later
called the Ecclesiological Society, shared with Pugin a
belief in the Gothic revival as the true mode of
architectural expression principally for ecclesiastical
building. The difference in the two arms of the movement
lay in their religious associations: Pugin on the one hand
was staunchly Catholic, while the Society was Anglican.
This divergence in faith led in the mid-1840's to a break
between Pugin and the Ecclesiologists .
Carpenter's exalted position in the Society was not
fully entrenched until he received the commission for the
church of St. Mary Magdalen in 1849, nearly three years
after Wheeler had left for America. Still, Carpenter
worked toward fulfillment of the Society's precepts during
Wheeler's apprenticeship, and the latter undoubtedly
learned the essence of these ideals. Combined with his
exposure to the principles of Pugin, Wheeler's training
provided a firm ground for the development of his own
skills and practice. The first important professional
contact for Wheeler in New York must have found his work
convincing: "his designs for church needlework ... show
considerable power over form and colour in ecclesiastical
decoration. "[ 10]
A great part of Wheeler's viewpoint can be traced to
considerations of propriety of architectural expression,
the essence of truth and fittingness as prescribed by
Ruskin. John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a nineteenth century
critic of art and architecture. His early preoccupation
had been painting, and in 1843 he published the first
volume of Modern Painters , a critique on the methods and
techniques of artists. He later broadened his concerns to
include architecture, and wrote the pioneering Seven Lamps
of Architecture in 1849, followed by The Stones of Venice
in 1851. Ruskin essentially took the ideals promulgated by
the Ecclesiologists and Pugin and redefined them into the
premises of truth and fitness, applying them not just to
church architecture, but to all manifestations of
While Ruskin had not yet formalized his philosophies
as they related specifically to architecture in a single
treatise during the years of Wheeler's apprenticeship in
England, they would become widespread and be discussed in
academic and professional circles. Wheeler was not only
familiar with these ideas, but later in his career
professed to be influenced by them. The introduction to
his first publication, Rural Homes , ends with the following
"In conclusion, I would say that, in the hope of
infusing something of its spirit therein, I have
mentally headed every page with a sentence suggested
as a matin and even song to every architect and
amateur — Mr. Ruskin's great maxim, 'Until common
sense finds its way to architecture, there can be but
little hope for it. '"
A review of the work in Harper's Monthly Magazine
considered that Wheeler had indeed "caught something of his
aesthetic spirit. " And as will be shown in a later
chapter, his writings reveal his ongoing concern with
Wheeler was also familiar with the picturesque. The
movement originated in the 18th century, and its intent
with regard to domestic architecture was most succinctly
defined by Humphrey Repton and Richard Payne Knight:
"characteristicness" [sic] of the building to its
purpose.  A concurrent and newly espoused concern with
regard to building design was put forth by Uvedale Price
who suggested planning a building with full consideration
of the views and vistas from within. Thus the theory as it
evolved encouraged "building and design conceived in
relation to landscape" and saw the triumph of irregularity
and dramatic massing over ordered classicism .[ 15 ] Modes,
whether Italian or Gothic, were simply mediums for
expressing the picturesque.
These ideas, distilled and clarified over time, would
provide the impetus to men like John Claudius Loudon in
Britain and Andrew Jackson Downing in America as they
formulated the romantic eclecticism of the mid-nineteenth
century. The work of Wheeler was no exception and derived
in great part from this aesthetic.
The architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock,
in Architecture Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries , pointed
to the precedence of the picturesque in the domestic
architectural work of Downing, Davis, Wheeler and others,
ascribing their plans to picturesque models in Great
Britain in the 1830's. In another book, Early
Victorian Architecture in Britain , Hitchcock specifically
mentioned John White's Rural Architecture , published in
Glasgow in 1845, as a source for Wheeler, among other
architects "as many of the designs in their books of the
50 ' s made evident ."[ 1 7 ] Christopher Hussey, author of The
Picturesque , referred to Francis Goodwin's Rural
Architecture of 1835, for its influence on Wheeler and his
contemporaries. [ 18]
Throughout the text of Wheeler's own first American
publication in 1851, Rural Homes , references can be found
to the roadside architecture in Britain, France and
Germany, suggesting that Wheeler had traveled in Europe
before arriving in America. In Homes for the People ,
published in 1855, Wheeler described his visits to the art
galleries of Europe, again indicating his first hand
knowledge of them.  His comments do not illuminate the
point and method of his travels; nevertheless whatever
experience he may have had presumably provided him with a
broader view of the range and possibilities of design.
Among the architectural reference materials and texts
which Wheeler referred to was An Encyclopaedia of
Architecture , written by Joseph Gwilt, and published in
London in 1842.  The tome, as its name implies,
provided comprehensive information, ranging from history
and theory to specifics of practice, necessary to the
complete understanding of the architectural profession.
The introduction admonished the student to thoroughly
digest such a work before assuming the title of architect
in good conscience. Wheeler called Gwilt "one of the most
useful writers in architectural matters ."[ 21 ] His writings
reflect this sentiment with technical information parallel
in nature to that found in the Encyclopaedia . The pages of
Rural Homes , for instance, carry an outline of job
specifications, which follow, in less detailed form, the
order and overall content set out by Gwilt. 
Other authors and theorists mentioned in the pages of
Wheeler's writings included Pugin and Ruskin, already
discussed, and Owen Jones. Jones was best known for his
work on polychromy and decorating, and in 1851 received
acclaim for his "parti-coloring" of the Crystal Palace. He
later wrote The Grammar of Ornament (1856). An article in
the May 1851 issue of the Bulletin of the American Art
Union examined Jones' work at the Crystal Palace. 
Wheeler cited the article and described Jones' two-tone
wall treatments as an introduction to his own discussion of
the decoration of domestic rooms in Rural Homes .  The
question of interior decorating and polychromy was
evidently of interest to Wheeler from the outset of his
career; the first examples of his work in America were in
Wheeler's sources were not limited to his
contemporaries; he also seemed to be well versed on
historical architectural treatises. In Homes for the
People , he related the story of Phidias and Alcames from
the pages of J.F. Blondel's Cours d ' Architecture of
1777.  Blondel, an eighteenth century theorist and
teacher of architecture, appreciated the truthful
representation of the classical style.  He found in the
tale of Phidias, a Greek sculptor of the fifth century
B.C., and his protege Alcames, an example of the
fundamental skills and understanding required to effect
truthful representation — the master knew to exaggerate
features in a sculpture which would stand atop a building,
for instance, so that when in place it would look
realistic; the student did not grasp the need to allow for
the different visual impression.
Wheeler saw in Blondel's recitation a parallel to his
own understanding of reality and truth in art, and rather
immodestly compared himself to Phidias. Regardless of his
smugness, his concern was consistent with Ruskin's
philosophy of truth and fitness, which he claimed to adhere
Finally, the diverse examples of references to current
affairs suggest Wheeler's ongoing attention to contemporary
literature and period thought. In several instances in
Rural Homes , Wheeler made use of the findings of Dr. Bell,
of the McLean Asylum for the Insane, who wrote a treatise
in 1848 on the importance of proper ventilation and
practical applications .[ 27 ] He applied the information for
his own description of the proper, healthy ventilation of
A passage from Rural Hours , the work of "a lady," in
fact identified as Susan Fennimore Cooper, published less
than a year earlier, gave Wheeler an opportunity in Rural
Homes for oblique commentary on the merits of American
architecture. [ 28] Wheeler concurred with Cooper's
assessment of the American tendency to mimic architecture
which resulted in many homes of the exact same pattern. By
pulling this selection into Rural Homes , Wheeler added
impetus to his argument for picturesque domestic designs.
The rather popular reminiscences of America by Frederika
Bremer, The Homes of the New World , was also mentioned by
Wheeler in Homes for the People .  He neither quoted nor
discussed specific material, but simply noted the interest
of the work's contents.
As could be expected in works of mid-century, A.J.
Downing's contributions in both landscape and domestic
architecture were cited.  Wheeler's remarks
complimented the advances toward picturesque expression in
domestic design made possible as a result of Downing's ef-
forts. He could easily praise Downing at this time, for
the latter was already dead and therefore not a
competitor. But Wheeler seemed to place himself in a
different category than Downing and his peers. He referred
architects to Downing's "excellent" works to avoid
"prettiness, whimsicality and the false picturesque" in the
cottage design, implying that his own apprehension of the
subject was total and intuitive. In his discussion of
gardens for the residence, Wheeler deferred to the
expertise of Patrick Barry, a leading horticulturist and
pomologist of the mid-nineteenth century, quoting
selections from Barry's Treatise on the Fruit Garden . 
The literature which Wheeler read also included many
of the periodicals of the day. Judging from the references
throughout his books, he was interested in an extensive
range of topics. It can be inferred from his citations of
articles, that while in America, he maintained familiarity
with British trends in art and architecture through the
weekly London Art Journal and Mechanics Magazine .
Sartain's Union Magazine , The New York Tribune , and the New
York issue of Literary World provided sources for more
general current information and critical analysis from the
American perspective .[ 32 ] Wheeler probably also
occasionally read journals such as the London Literary
World , The Builder and The Home Journal published in New
York, since they carried reviews of his work or in some
cases written contributions, as shall be discussed.
In the instances noted above, Wheeler actually
specified the author or source referred to in his remarks.
Comparison of the various works and passages indicates
that, while he readily used the information as the basis
for his own arguments, he neither misrepresented nor
plagiarized to fit his own requirements. But a review of
Homes for the People , discussed in chapter V, printed in
The Builder in 1855, contended that Wheeler had blatantly
plagiarized another work.
It has not been possible within the scope of this
thesis to assess the degree of plagiarism on Wheeler's part
in his several literary efforts. In his defense, it should
be noted that contrary to the impression conveyed by the
disdain of the British reviewer, such lifting of material
remained a common practice throughout the nineteenth
[l]Jill Allibone to John Ward, Bowdoin College Student,
September 21 1982. All correspondence to John Ward was
graciously loaned to rae for the purpose of my research by
Sir Charles Wesley to Gervase Wheeler, August 28
1848, Chapel Papers, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick,
Gervase Wheeler, Homes for the People (New York:
Charles Scribner, 1855), 94.
[ 4 ] Barrington Kaye, The Development of the
Architectural Profession in Britain (London: George Allen &
Unwin Ltd., 1960), 83. This book provides an overview of
the role and position of the British architect over time.
William J. Hoppin to Reverend Leonard Woods, March 8
1847, Chapel Papers.
[ 6 ] Architects ' , Engineers' and Building-Trades'
Directory (London: Wyman, 1868), 143. The entry states
"Pupil of Richard C. Carpenter, esq."
Phoebe Stanton, Pugin (London: Thames & Hudson,
Wheeler to Woods, August 14 1847, Chapel Papers.
Stanton, Pugin , 179.
Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
[ll]Justin Wintle, ed., Makers of Nineteenth Century
Culture, 1800-1914 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982),
Wheeler, Rural Homes (New York: Charles Scribner,
1851), preface, no page number.
 Harper's New Monthly Magazine 4 (New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1851), 137.
[ 14]Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque: Studies in a
Point yjf View (London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1967
Hussey, The Picturesque , 187.
[ 16 ]Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Architecture, Nineteenth
and Twentieth Centuries (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971
edition) , 258 .
Henry Russell Hitchcock, Early Victorian
Architecture in Britain (New York: DaCapo Press, 1972),
427. White's Rural Architecture was not available for
Hussey, The Picturesque , 212. Goodwin's Rural
Architecture was not readily available for comparison.
Wheeler, Homes , 93.
Joseph Gwilt, An Encyclopaedia of Architecture
(London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1842).
Wheeler, Homes , 92.
Wheeler, Rural , 245-55. Gwilt, Encyclopaedia ,
 Bulletin of the American Art Union (New York:
American Art Union , 1851 ) , 28-9 .
Wheeler, Rural , 196.
Wheeler, Homes , 211-2; Jacques Francois Blondel,
Cours d ' Architecture (1777) was not seen for comparison of
Peter Collins, Changing Ideals in Modern
Architecture, 1750-1950 (Montreal: McGill Queens University
Press, 1965), 81.
Wheeler, Rural , 49 and 177; Luther Bell, The
Practical Methods of Ventilating Buildings (Boston:
Dickenson Printing Est., 1848), 19.
Wheeler, Rural , 145; [Susan Fennimore Cooper],
Rural Hours (New York: George P. Putnam, 1850), 380-5.
Wheeler, Homes , 264; Frederika Bremer, The Homes of
the New World (London: Arthur Hall Virtue & Co., 1853).
Wheeler, Rural , 147, and Homes , 264.
Wheeler, Rural , 232; Patrick Barry, Treatise on the
Fruit Garden (Rochester: by the author, 1851) was not seen
for comparison of material.
Wheeler, Homes , p. 314 reference to London Art
Journal article; p . 194 reference to Mechanics Magazine
article ; p. 408 reference to New York Tribune article; p. 133
reference to New York Literary World article. Wheeler,
Rural, p. 215 reference to Sartain ' s~Union Magazine article.
II. Context in America
Mid-nineteenth century America experienced a period of
growth and change: geographically with the move westward,
economically with rapidly developing commerce and industry,
and politically with a government attempting to face and
resolve the concomitant problems associated with this
Most Americans viewed the innovations and progress of
the country with an optimism for the future and the
achievements made possible. At. the same time, some, like
the essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, reacted
against the materialism associated with the new technical
and financial possibilities, and turned toward a more
spiritualistic view of life, of man in nature. All derived
their points of view from an underlying shared belief in
the ideal of individual freedom and the democratic ideal.
The perceptions and orientation evident in American
society also became manifest in the expression of
architectural theories. At the forefront of a new
interpretation was Andrew Jackson Downing. Building upon
the precepts of the picturesque, the British writer John
Claudius Loudon, and themes of the individual as expounded
by American contemporaries like Emerson, he believed that
domestic architecture should represent and transmit the
political republican values of American society and the
aspirations of the individual owner. The theory asserted
that the essence of the American experience was rural and
suburban, and catered to those who could afford country
homes near the great American cities.
As the evolving theory was applied to design, it drew
heavily from British precedents. Downing translated the
revised view of architecture into statements of form
associated with the British picturesque: the house was to
relate to its setting, the plan was functional, the
elevation adapted to the needs of the plan, and the whole
was defined by the character of the owner. In implementing
these ideas, American architects such as John Notman,
British born Richard Upjohn and Alexander Jackson Davis
could no longer be restricted to the vocabulary of the
Greek revival, and sought alternative stylistic
expressions. The result was a flourishing of other revival
modes - Gothic, Moorish, Roman or Tuscan Italian - applied
in an eclectic manner as befitted the situation and owner.
Gervase Wheeler arrived in America at a time when
these notions were finding voice. He came with the benefit
of a background in an environment which had already
accepted and refined the picturesque. His initial
contributions to The Horticulturist imply an acquaintance
with Downing by 1849, but his role in developing the
latter's theories was negligible if at all — Downing had
been exploring the picturesque since 1841, and died in
Wheeler's contribution to American domestic
architecture was primarily in his writing which propagated
the picturesque point of view. He shared with Downing an
approach to the explanation and application of the
picturesque, based in each case on British antecedents.
While the vast majority of American architecture texts of
the period clung to the format of the traditional pattern
book, Downing and Wheeler presented their ideas in essay
form. The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) represents
a philosophy of architecture, accompanied by renderings by
contemporary architects particularly A.J. Davis, and in two
instances, Wheeler. 
Wheeler published Rural Homes one year later; in it
designs and text were integrated into a formulation of the
theory made possible by the author's comfortable knowledge
of the picturesque vocabulary. By presenting the material
in readable chapters, Wheeler conveyed the essence of the
picturesque in the choice and construction of a residence.
The designs were his own, and were intended as models. De-
spite occasional technical explanations, in which he
displayed ease, Wheeler stated that an architect should be
retained for the actual execution of a design. In this
way, he promoted not only himself, but the architectural
The ten subsequent editions of Rural Homes , Homes for
the People published in 1855 with five additional editions
to 1868, and reprints of Wheeler's writing, spread to the
general public information regarding the new domestic
architecture. Reviews and advertisements for Wheeler's
works appeared not only locally in New York, but throughout
the Northeast, in Philadelphia, Rochester, Albany,
Hartford, and even in St. Louis in the Midwest. 
Further, some publications in which excerpts from Wheeler's
work appeared, were distributed in areas of the country
beyond that of publication. The editor of The Genessee
Farmer , a popular magazine for the gentleman farmer
published out of Rochester, New York, responded to a
correspondent in Fairfield, Illinois with a recommendation
for the use of Rural Homes . f 3 1
By far the most widespread method of obtaining
architectural commissions in the mid-nineteenth century was
through personal contact and influential acquaintances.
Having erected buildings, the architect's designs, when
well known and publicized, could speak for his talents. In
addition, possibilities for self-promotion included
contributions of designs or articles to publications, and
advertisements in these same journals or volumes, and meant
reaching a broader audience. Entries in design
competitions and exhibitions provided another forum for
display of the architect's work. As shall be seen in the
course of his career, Wheeler tried all of these approaches
as he sought to establish a reputation.
Having found work, the domain and limits of
responsibility of the architect were by no means clearly
accepted in the 1840's and 1850's. The American client was
still loathe to recognize the differentiation which the
architect drew between himself and master builder, while
t-he master builder resisted the encroachment on his trade.
The frustrations felt by the architect as a result of this
were magnified for the English trained architect, like
Wheeler. An anonymous one, quoted by Constance Greiff in
her biography of John Notraan, stated that "the US offered
the potential for economic improvement, but little
comprehension of the role of the prof essional . " [ 4] From
the outset of his career in America, Wheeler had considered
himself a professional. The first documented
correspondence from him, in 1847, is signed "Gervase
Wheeler, Architect ."[ 5 ] This self-conscious
differentiation of the title and qualifications it implied
may have accounted for some of the tensions evident during
Wheeler's stay in America.
It was not until 1857, ten years after Wheeler's
arrival in America, that a group of men gathered in New
York to attempt for the second time to create a body of
professional architects, the American Institute of
Architects. Thirteen practicing architects, led by Richard
Upjohn, agreed to the aims of the society, and invited
"other reputable members of the profession" to a meeting to
adopt a constitution .[ 6 ]
Attendees at that later meeting included Calvert Vaux,
Fred C. Withers, John Notraan, Thomas U. Walter, Alexander
J. Davis, and seven others. Interestingly, Wheeler, though
known by Upjohn and at least heard of by many of the
others, was among neither group, nor did his name appear at
a later date.
Wheeler's absence from the rolls was significant. A
man who claimed a high level of proficiency and
professionalism, as he often did in his printed work and
undoubtedly in person, would hardly have declined an
opportunity to sit on such an association. The conclusion
then is that his peers either did not consider him or did
not accept him. Membership in the A. I. A. was contingent on
the "honorable practice" of the profession. Candidates for
membership had to be proposed by two existing members and
voted on by the remaining body; three negative votes were
sufficient to blackball an architect .[ 7 ] Possible reasons
for such action against Wheeler will be shown in later
The newly established American Institute of Architects
sought to encourage education both of the profession in
artistic and technical matters, and of the general public
in the significance of architecture and the role of the
architect. The extent of an architect's control over
design and construction, and the matter of fees were often
points of contention, and were among the first issues for
which the A. I. A. attempted to find a resolution.
Members of the A. I. A. could not in the beginning agree
upon a schedule of fixed rates for architectural services.
Some of the more prominent architects had attempted on
their own to standardize the rate of compensation. By the
late 1840's, John Notman, in an effort to define
professional procedures, sought a 5% commission on
buildings which he supervised. He was not always
successful, and sometimes met with resistance .[ 8 ]
Similarly, Richard Upjohn established an average fee of 5%,
but not infrequently had to dispute the rate with
clients.  Upjohn was among those, together with Richard
Morris Hunt, who took their cases to court for settlement
in the 1850's. Typically for the period, Wheeler also
The first indication that Wheeler had codified his
fees can be found on the letterhead used in 1857: for city
building, "as agreed," and for country building, 5% plus
traveling expenses .[ 1 1 ] This postdates some of the
litigation on the issue, and may reflect Wheeler's confi-
dence in the possibilities of obtaining such compensation.
Prior to this however, Wheeler seems to have contented
himself with flat rates. In 1848, he was voted $100 by the
Governing Board of Bowdoin College to design a new
President's House, though apparently never executed .[ 1 2 ]
With the design of a new corporate office for the Insurance
Company of America, in Philadelphia, Wheeler asked for the
"regular charge of 3% on the cost," but was paid $75, which
represented less than 2% of the final cost.  The
documentation on the Patrick Barry House commission in
Rochester, New York, and the erection of Goodrich Hall at
Williams College in Williarastown , Massachusetts, indicate
that again Wheeler received a flat fee for delivery of the
design plans. The Barry House cost a total of
approximately $27,500 to erect, but the Ellwanger and Barry
nursery journals record a $95 payment to the architect —
less than one half a percent of the construction cost. 
At Williams College, the information is unclear, but
Wheeler apparently received a one-time payment of $250. 
Wheeler offered another option in his professional
services. In 1852, he advertised in The Genessee Farmer ,
published in Rochester, for commission work, and offered to
supply "such information as can be given by letter" for
$2.  The type of information to be provided is unclear,
but Wheeler may have considered this approach a means of
reaching potential clients.
The Institute discussed not only questions of
client-architect relationship but the ethics of the
profession itself. A code of ethics was not in fact
promulgated until the early twentieth century, but the
issues probably had their genesis in the years leading up
to the association. Areas of concern included competition
on the basis of fees, and slighting other architects'
reputation or work. Wheeler from the outset seemed to
typify the very deportment which the society castigated.
During his engagement at Bowdoin in 1847-1848, he not only
criticized the work of Upjohn, the contracted architect,
but proffered his own services for areas of alleged
deficiency on Upjohn's part.  Correspondence indicated
Upjohn's indignation against Wheeler, and such behavior may
have kept him out of the A. I. A. years later.
Exclusion from the American Institute of Architects
may have had an adverse impact on Wheeler's career. The
lack of documentation uncovered for the period makes any
realistic assessment of his success tenuous. However,
Wheeler's last known commissions occurred in 1857 (the year
of the A.I.A.'s formation), with the Patrick Barry House,
in Rochester, New York, and Goodrich Hall at Williams
College, in Williamstown , Massachusetts; in 1858 his
landscape design entry for Bushnell Park, in Hartford,
Connecticut, won first place, but was never executed .[ 18 ]
The last indication of Wheeler's presence in New York City
was 1860, and his whereabouts during the Civil War are
[l]See chapter IV for a discussion of Wheeler's
contributions to Downing's works.
See the charts of ads, reviews and editions in
Appendixes D, E, F.
f3l The Genessee Farmer 13 (Rochester: Daniel Lee,
Constance M. Greiff, John Notman Architect,
1810-1865 (Philadelphia: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,
1979) , 40. The quote was taken from an anonymous British
architect with 15 years experience who had come to America
in the 1830's to practice.
Wheeler to Bowdoin College, "Design for Decoration
of Side Walls of Bowdoin College Chapel," April 6 1847,
Henry H. Saylor, The A.I.A.'s First Hundred Years
(Washington: The Octagon, 1957), 4.
Saylor, The A.I . A. , 29. While Saylor discusses the
process for membership, he does not indicate whether there
is existing evidence in the A. I. A. papers for proposed and
rejected candidates. This may be an area of further
Greiff, John Notman , 41-3.
Everard Upjohn, Richard Upjohn, Architect and
Churchman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1929),
Saylor, The A. I. A. , 54.
[ll]Wheeler to Reverend Calvin Durfee, July 14 1857,
Williamsiana Collection, Williams College, Williamstown ,
John Ward, "Gervase Wheeler, a Progressive
Architect in Brunswick, Maine, 1847-1848," (Paper presented
at Fifth Annual Student Symposium, Society of Architectural
Historians, Boston, Massachusetts, 1982), 15.
[ 13]Insurance Company of North America, Directors'
Minutes, 1850, (CIGNA Corporate Archives, Philadelphia,
Natalie B.E. Stewart, "George Ellwanger and Patrick
Barry, Romantic Builders," (Masters Thesis, University of
Rochester, 1985), 60.
Bruce B. McElvein, "Williams College Architecture,
1790-1860" (Bachelors Honors Thesis, Williams College,
 The Genessee Farmer 13 (June 1852), 197.
See chapter IV for a more detailed discussion.
See chapter V for a discussion of these works.
III. Personal Affairs
The first years of Wheeler's arrival in America were
marked by poor health. He alluded to his difficulties
regularly in letters. In December 1847, "ill health which
for some time confined me to the house" detained him from
his duties with regard to the library decoration at Bowdoin
College, in Brunswick .[ 1 ] The following May, he complained
of "a return of my attacks, the liability of reoccurrence
of which will forever prevent my enjoying in any laborious
or sedentary pursuit. " That same month, "an unfortunate
severe pain in my side" again meant that he could not work
as much as hoped. 
His problems did not relent as the year passed, for in
September, having relocated to New Haven, Wheeler
complained that "the weather is bitterly cold and I being
(and have been for some time) very unwell with continual
attacks of cold on ray chest and dysentary [sic], feel it
very much. " Two months later, in November 1848, he
again lamented: "I am sorry to say I have been really ill,
and have more than once arranged a change of scene for a
while and each time been frustrated by bad health. "
Dysentery was not uncommon in the nineteenth century,
and manifested itself in attacks. The early descriptions
of Wheeler's symptoms indicate that dysentery may have been
the cause of his troubles from the outset. How he fared in
later years is not clear for lack of documentation.
Though Wheeler's poor health is clear, the severity
and frequency with which he was affected are subject to
doubt. His statements were invariably made within the
context of work, and all too often have a pitiable tone to
them -- as though convenient excuses for not having
prepared a design. The remarks hint at Wheeler's
Wheeler probably came to America a bachelor, and the
first suggestion that he would soon marry was derived from
correspondence with Reverend Woods of Bowdoin College in
Brunswick in May 1848:
"But I hope that once I am in ray new and
sacred relations to gain a friend who will
never change and a support which will never
fail and that I may be able to make myself
worthy of them and may draw peace and happi-
ness from the directing influence of the
A letter from Sir Wesley later that year further supported
the insinuation, relating how Wheeler's mother had "hinted
something which we were all especially anxious to hear more
of... " Though vague.it may not unreasonably imply
marriage. By March 1851, a wedding had taken place, for
Wheeler referred to "Mr. Hyde, my wife's father". 
After Wheeler's return to England, in 1884, he made
out his last will and testament, naming his wife, Catherine
Brewer (not Hyde) executrix. The difference in names may
imply that Wheeler had married a second time. Records
regarding his private affairs have not been located to
confirm or refute any assumptions.
Wheeler apparently had several children; only the
names of two are known, Frederick Ledsam Wheeler, and
Jarvis Wheeler. Only the first was named in the will, but
the latter was found to reside at Wheeler's address in Hove
after his death. 
Comments made during Wheeler's career by those he
encountered all paint the same initial impression of an
educated, refined man. Though for the most part concerned
with questions of professional ability, William Hoppin of
New York, Wheeler's first noteworthy contact, seemed
impressed with his knowledge and manners. Discussing
polychroray work for the Bowdoin College Chapel, he wrote
that Wheeler's "information respecting it is extensive and
accurate and accompanied furthermore with much taste and
discrimination. "[ 10] Hoppin later expressed his confidence
in Wheeler, noting "I think I should have been able to
detect any considerable disparity between his powers and
his pretensions. "
A few years later, in December 1849, when Wheeler was
in Philadelphia, he dined with a prospective client, Henry
Fisher, and his brother Sidney. Sidney described Wheeler
in his diary: "He is young, good looking, of gentlemanlike
manners and appearance and converses with ease and
elegance. His mind is evidently cultivated and he has a
taste for literature and art. " This worldly aspect of
Wheeler's character was manifest during his career, in the
social position of his acquaintances and clients, and in
his own literary work.
While Wheeler seemed able to charm people upon meeting
them, a lack of discretion in financial matters sometimes
led to strained relations. His living habits, suited to
city life, caused embarrassment in the small New England
town of Brunswick, Maine, where he undertook his first
commission. As early as September 1847, the Reverend Woods
lamented Wheeler's handling of money matters and his "want
of gentlemanly propriety" in this regard.  Some months
later, in February 1848, an uncomfortable situation
resulted in settling Wheeler's room bill. He had spent
considerably more in living expenses than the arrangement
with the trustees of the college had called for. While he
recognized the"somewhat more expensive scale that the
committee ... might have deemed necessary ,"[ 14 ] he did
little to alleviate the problem.
Wheeler was also manipulative in his dealings with
people. When the previously mentioned matter of expenses
came up, Wheeler pleaded his case by implying that he had
been "unduly influenced by the inducements held out . . . for
the future. " He was referring to the commission for
the interior design of the chapel, contingent upon approval
of his work in the library, which was never given to him.
On an occasion when Woods was in Boston on business,
Wheeler wrote him to ask that he purchase a crucifix. He
cleverly referred to his pro bono commission for the
library interior, knowing the effect it would have: "I do
not mean that I am making certain drawings for this, or
that this would be considered a return for them ... [but
such a gesture] would amply compensate for this expenditure
of time and skill on my part. .."
It has already been pointed out in chapter I that
Wheeler was known to exaggerate with regard to his
professional training. This tendency was manifest in other
areas as well, particularly as Wheeler sought to impress
contacts and prospective clients. Having met the Fisher
brothers in Philadelphia, Wheeler mentioned his
acquaintance with Currer Bell, author of Jane Eyre , and
divulged "that these works were chiefly written by his
sister Ann Bell." An undated margin note alongside the
entry noted that Wheeler was an imposter: Fisher
evidently found out that Bell was in fact the pseudonym of
a woman, Charlotte Bronte. The same entry had noted that
"he knows also Miss Bremer now in this country, a Swedish
lady," though no marginalia accompanied the statement .[ 1 7 ]
Perusal of Bremer's writings yielded no mention of Gervase
Wheeler, though she had mentioned her meetings with A.J.
The above information derives almost entirely from
correspondence in the first years of Wheeler's career in
America. It is impossible to know whether he changed over
time. But whatever his character flaws, Wheeler must have
had an engaging personality. He associated throughout his
residence in America, at least in a business capacity, with
socially prominent people, as the sketch of the years 1847
through 1860 will reveal.
[l]Wheeler to Joseph McKeen, December 12 1847, Chapel
Wheeler to Woods, May 5 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, May 12 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, September 27 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, November 23 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, May 2 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wesley to Wheeler, August 28 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Richard Upjohn, March 17 1851, Upjohn
Papers, box 4, New York Public Library, New York.
The knowledge that Wheeler had descendants may prove
valuable for future research: Wheeler is known to have
kept certain of his designs, which may yet exist, for he
specifically noted looking through plans of American
commissions in The Choice of a Dwelling , published in
England in 1871.
Hoppin to Woods, April 10 1847, Chapel Papers.
[ll]Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
Sidney Fisher Diaries, December 12 1849, Manuscript
Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia. Excerpts of the diaries were published by
Nicholas B. Wainwright as A Philadelphia Perspective
(Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1967),
but did not include these.
[ 13]Statement by Woods, no date, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, February 20 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, no date (probably spring 1848),
Wheeler to Woods, no date (probably 1848), Chapel
Fisher Diaries, December 12 1849.
IV. Early Practice (1846-1850)
A. New York, New York (1846-1847)
It is difficult to ascertain with certainty the date
of Wheeler's arrival in America, but it can safely be
assumed to have occurred in late 1846 or early 1847. The
first actual documentation of his presence can be found in
a letter dated March 8 1847, from William J. Hoppin of New
York City to the Reverend Leonard Woods in Brunswick,
Maine, a prospective client: "a young English gentleman by
the name of Gervase Wheeler was introduced to me the other
day... As he has but lately arrived [he] has to make a name
for himself ..."[ 1 ] Later correspondence between the two
however suggests that he had not directly taken up his
profession upon his departure from Britain: "for a year or
two after he left England he devoted himself to engineering
in preference to architecture ."[ 2 ]
In the 1840's, Professor Donaldson, a professor of
architecture at University College in England, had espoused
the belief that architects needed also to be engineers to
fulfill their role to its greatest potential .[ 3 ] Though it
is not clear to what degree this sentiment was shared by
the profession at large, it had its adherents, among them
apparently Wheeler. The opinion had been expressed when
Wheeler was still in England, developing his skills and
professional outlook, readying himself for the field.
The correspondence is the first documentation of
Wheeler's acquaintance with William Hoppin. Hoppin was
well educated, with degrees from Yale, Middlebury and
Harvard, and had founded the Century Club in New York. A
frequent traveler to Europe, he eventually resided in
London as Secretary of the US Legation from 1876 to
Hoppin's activities in New York indicate that his
primary interest was the art world. He authored numerous
articles on art subjects; by 1850, he was a member of the
Committee of Management of the American Art Union, and the
new editor of the organization's bulletin.  Although
there is no documentation to confirm a continued
relationship between the two, it is not unlikely that
Wheeler cultivated one. Wheeler not only began his
American career in New York, but later practiced there some
eight years, as shall be seen in chapter V.
After his arrival in America, and by April 1847,
Wheeler had taken rooms at 29 Greenwich Street, New York
City.  He apparently sought to make a name for himself
by turning away from the more practical aspects of
engineering and architecture, instead promoting his
decoration skills at interior design work, particularly
polychromy. In a letter from Richard Upjohn, architect of
the Bowdoin College Chapel, to the Reverend Woods,
President of the college, Upjohn noted that Wheeler desired
"to turn his attention exclusively to decorative art. "
An undated 1847 exhibit at the National Academy of Design
in New York City included the following entry by Wheeler:
"#371. Section of a Room with Gothic Furniture ."[ 8 ] As
will be seen, his first documented commission was for the
interior decoration of the College Chapel at Bowdoin.
Wheeler's acquaintance with Hoppin, who would before
long introduce him to the Reverend Leonard Woods, has
already been mentioned. Shortly after this introduction,
during the summer of 1847, Wheeler traveled through New
England, particularly Connecticut, at which time he
established relations with Henry Austin, a practicing
architect in New Haven. According to Wheeler, the two were
to join business as of the first of September. In
correspondence with Woods at this time, he implied a
certain success in obtaining commissions, as he wrote: "I
am happy to say I have so much to do both presently and in
future I can afford to undertake a little x fancy work'. "
It should be pointed out at this juncture however that
Wheeler's optimistic account of his prospects may have been
an artifice for convincing prospective clients, perhaps
even himself, of his evolving success in America. For
having pronounced a wealth of upcoming work, and an engage-
ment with Austin, he proceeded to Brunswick, Maine, a com-
mercial, manufacturing and college town, on a speculative
gamble where he remained at least until May of the follow-
ing year, or some ten months. His work there was only
sparingly compensated for by the client, as he knew it
would be. But during that time, there is no evidence to
suggest that he pursued his relations with Austin, or that
he even conducted work for other clients. 
The *fancy work' mentioned in Wheeler's letter refers
to the interior decoration of the Bowdoin College Chapel,
and marks another strategy by which Wheeler sought to
establish himself in the field in America. In this
instance, he proffered his services at cost in order to be
given the opportunity of proving himself. He offered to
furnish coloring designs for the Chapel, and supervise
their execution, in return for payment only of his
B. Brunswick, Maine (1847-1849)
1. Banister Hall, Bowdoin College Chapel
Reverend Woods oversaw the design and construction of
the college chapel. From the outset, the chapel building
was to serve the usual religious function, and to contain
as well an art gallery, library and the president's
office. A theologian and teacher, well read and well
traveled, Woods had developed an interest in the latest
trends in art and architecture .[ 11 ] He was convinced of
the appropriateness of polychromy work for the decoration
of the interior.
The contract for the design of the building itself had
been obtained by Richard Upjohn, and construction had begun
in 1845. In response to the multiple uses of the building,
Upjohn had planned a double spire design based on German
precedent, with a large Romanesque hall, to be constructed
of granite quarried locally.  As for the interior de-
sign, contrary to Wood's own aspirations, he considered
that the interior walls should be pale, subdued and without
Woods had apparently sought Hoppin's advice on the
matter. He hoped to find support for his idea of interior
polychromy, and wondered whether it was within the limits
of propriety to consult another architect for this aspect
of the design. Hoppin, in the letter introducing Wheeler
to Woods, confirmed that the latter "will materially assist
us in our inquiries as to the proper mode of decorating the
chapel at Brunswick... He is certain that [polychromy] will
increase rather than diminish the solemnity of the effect
of your Chapel. "
By July, Woods had interviewed and clearly been
impressed by Wheeler, particularly as Wheeler espoused just
that method of decoration which Woods so longed to display
at Bowdoin. Upjohn at this time was still being
recalcitrant about adopting any coloring for the chapel,
but had agreed to draw up some designs, though Woods
considered that "nothing . . . will come up to the standard
of Mr. Wheeler. "
Upjohn was himself a British immigrant, whose earliest
background was in cabinet-making and carpentry. He had
arrived in America in 1829, and belonged to a slightly
older generation than Wheeler, having progressed from car-
penter to architect without the benefit of formal train-
ing. At the time of his commission at Bowdoin, he was
still endeavoring to establish and define his role as archi-
tect, with much difficulty as the profession was yet in its
infancy.  There can be little doubt that he resented
the interference of a newcomer like Wheeler, and perhaps
even more the very fact that Woods had challenged his
authority on the job by seeking outside advice and
Wheeler was very much interested in the possibility
presented by the President of Bowdoin, not only as a step
toward establishing a reputation, but as an opportunity to
demonstrate the type of architectural decoration prescribed
by the Ecclesiologists . As a result, he agreed "in the
most generous way" to submit renderings, "and superintend
their execution, making no other charge than for his mere
expenses. "[ 16] Wheeler's amiability in this exchange had
the desired effect; Woods thereafter chose to secure the
services of both Upjohn and Wheeler.
Aware of the potential awkwardness of such a
situation, Woods once again appealed to Hoppin for advice.
Both men were agreed that "Mr. U. is so sensitive upon this
point that if he should know it was projected, he would
throw up the whole affair. " Woods wondered whether
Wheeler's own qualifications vindicated such an
"... how far should we be justified by cus-
tom, by common opinion, and strict propri-
ety, in adopting a style of decoration not
recommended by the architect? . . . would it
be safe for us, if we approved of Mr. Wheel-
er's designs, and felt authorized to adopt
them, to entrust the execution of them to
him? His scientific attainments, and his
fine taste, cannot be doubted; but has he
experience enough to entitle him to perfect
confidence in introducing a new style which
will be open to every species of
In a conciliatory move, Woods proposed that Wheeler be
hired to decorate the library (named Banister Hall in 1850)
in an experimental way prior to any decision regarding the
Hoppin responded to Woods' query by attempting to
balance the abilities of each architect against the
requirements of the job. He declared that from an ethical
standpoint, Upjohn should have the option to submit the
first design, but, in the event that the college committee
reject it, another architect's rendering could be adopted.
The alternate architect of course would be Wheeler, for
Hoppin knew "no other person in the country as competent to
carry them out. "
Woods was sufficiently informed about the profession
to question the areas of responsibility subject to an
architect's control, and to recognize that the consultation
of another architect might be considered a transgression of
propriety. And Hoppin admitted being "unable to come to a
decision entirely satisfactory to myself. " But the
hesitation went no further.
By mid-September, Wheeler had met Woods in New York
City and together they traveled to Brunswick. The fact
that Wheeler took the commission, even on such a tentative
schedule, showed a disregard for the circumstances of his
fellow architect. With all due consideration for his own
needs, the ease with which he accepted the work, knowing of
Upjohn's commitment to the project, reflected a lack of pro-
Upon his arrival in Brunswick, Wheeler took up
residence in a boarding house run by Miss Weld at 7 Federal
Street , on the understanding that he would remain in
town some four to six weeks to accomplish his task, now
defined as the decoration of the library. In the event
that the latter were well received, and pending Upjohn's
agreement, he would have the opportunity o-f decorating the
Wheeler was not content simply putting forth his
proposals for the library decorations. He also felt
compelled, not always in the most tactful way, to express
his views on the work which had already been planned by
Upjohn. Wheeler regarded uniformity of mode to be
extremely important in the overall development of the
structure. As Upjohn had designed the hall in a Romanesque
mode, Wheeler felt that the detailing throughout should be
consistent and of "characteristic ornament". He
communicated his reservations about Upjohn's use of Gothic
motifs in the interior design to Hoppin who in turn
conveyed them to Woods: "Mr. U. has introduced many
details in the pointed style and Mr. Wheeler desires you to
understand that he should materially vary his designs if
any thing besides the Romanesque should be used. "
Later remarks by Wheeler expressed more blatantly his
disapproval of Upjohn's designs. In September, shortly
after his arrival in Brunswick, he stated that the existing
proposals for the chapel showed a lack of understanding of
the principles of honest architecture and "unity of
effect," both concepts integral to the new Ruskinian
approach. The construction included "a mass of workmanship
useless for purposes of strength", and interior details
were designed in such a way as to insufficiently "allow of
the play of light and shade". 
Another bold criticism followed closely on the last,
this time relative to the design of the library gallery.
Wheeler submitted remarks dated October 1, to the effect
that "a very important disadvantage will be found if the
work be carried out in the manner there indicated" in
Upjohn's designs.  Again, the complaints had mainly to
do with the play of light, hindered according to Wheeler by
the heaviness of the balusters and upper gallery floors.
He went so far as to offer his own services in this regard
should the committee agree with his assessment.
Such criticism by an architect toward a peer was very
unusual. In Wheeler's case, it may have been a mark of his
own self-conscious sense of education and training compared
to his American counterparts. But it also reflected a lack
of ethical behavior, and suggests the root of his future
problems in America. The unsolicited advice caused
dissention and discomfort amongst members of the committee
and, quite naturally, antagonized Upjohn.
While any correspondence from Upjohn to Wheeler in
this matter has not been uncovered, a letter written later
that month indicates Wheeler's attempt to reconcile with Up-
john. After providing him with a lengthy description of
his designs for the library decor, he applauded the overall
effect of the chapel. The letter closed with the following
I am sure that you will approve of what is
being done in the Library and I am equally
sure that you will do me the justice to say
so, and to acquit me of any intention in
this matter to act otherwise than in the
most perfect good faith toward yourself .[ 25 ]
The episode hints at a manipulative inclination in
Wheeler's character. Having interfered in Upjohn's work,
he sought to disembarrass himself by appealing to Upjohn's
How effectively relations were smoothed over is
dubious, however Wheeler himself apparently thought that
any unpleasantness had been resolved. In January 1848, he
noted "I am glad that Mr. Upjohn seems amiable and shall be
pleased to put myself in communication with him on the
subject of the Chapel when the time comes. "
It is difficult to gauge with accuracy the
implications of the situation, for while Wheeler appears to
have acted aggressively and somewhat dishonestly, general
correspondence indicates that Upjohn's dealings with the
college were marked by tension as well. Certainly part of
the trouble may be attributed to the lingering obstinacy of
the client, typical for the period, in his unwillingness to
yield full control to the architect.
By October 1847, the work on the polychromy of
Banister Hall had begun. In late October, Wheeler
submitted a description of his project to Upjohn. Ceiling,
walls, hood moulds, arches and columns were to be covered
with decoration in fresco (on the plaster) and tempera (on
the wood).  The scheme was a complex one, and the
design was not completed until December. Wheeler described
the decoration in detail in a report to the committee; each
surface area was treated somewhat differently, but all
shared a palette of deep, rich colors, dark red, warm gold,
blue, subdued golden brown, and "shades of colour from warm
and brightest white and deepest shadow" (see fig. 1).
The interior of the chapel has since been repainted, and
all traces of Wheeler's work have been obscured; though it
may still be possible through paint analysis to recapture
at least a portion of the polychroray work.
With work underway in the library, Wheeler pursued his
aspirations of designing the interior treatment of the
chapel itself. In February 1848 he submitted a proposal to
Dr. Woods and the committee. It seems to have been
accepted, as he was engaged in drawing in May.  Wheeler
did not however remain in Brunswick to see that his plans
were carried out.
Construction of the College Chapel took some eleven
years to complete. In 1851, when Wheeler had already
removed from Brunswick and assumed other commissions in
Connecticut and Pennsylvania, an article in the Bulletin of
the American Art Union reviewed the interior polychromy of
Banister Hall. The work was considered "very successful
both in form and color", and it was suggested that the
designs for the chapel, completed by Wheeler, if carried
out, "would be even more extensively admired ."[ 30] For
reasons which remain unclear, the final design was never
2. The President's House
Wheeler's time in Brunswick was not entirely consumed
by work on the College Chapel. He was also engaged to
design at least two residences, including a house for the
President of Bowdoin College.
The original President's House had burned down in
1839. In November of 1847, the Governing Board of Bowdoin
voted $100 to pay for the commission of the design of a new
house.  The decision to rebuild after so many years had
no doubt much to do with the fact that Reverend Woods was
President. In an undated statement signed by Woods, he
noted that following his initial negotiations with Wheeler
for the Chapel, he had suggested that Wheeler "might obtain
one or two jobs with which he might be able to clear his
expenses ."[ 32 ] The President's House may have been one
It would seem that Woods felt obligated to aid
Wheeler. He therefore asked that renderings for the new
residence be prepared. Wheeler submitted two alternate
designs. As there is no evidence to date that either
design was executed, details of their configurations are
minimal. All that is known is that the Board accepted the
design for a house with tower and two dining rooms en suite
for entertaining .[ 33 ]
The debate over the compensation for the designs
disclosed Wheeler's concept of the architect, presumably
rooted in his British training. He was having financial
difficulties, and tried to offset his expenses with the
income from the commission. He had submitted rough
drawings, with the intention of drafting full renderings
once the design choice had been made. The committee
frowned at paying the allotted $100 for such work. Wheeler
"Though I do not pretend to say the drawings
are worth $50 to you, because they are not
ample enough; but they are to me, there is
the same amount of thought and rearrangement
exhibited on them as if I had fully worked
each plan out, and the rest would have been
only mechanical labour for which the
remaining sum of $50 would well have paid
3. The Henry Boody House
Wheeler's other known commission in Brunswick was a
house for Professor Henry Hill Boody, a teacher of
rhetoric. The design was erected, and has been on the
National Register of Historic Places since 1975 (fig. 2).
The house has also been the subject of a Historic American
Building Survey.  It is by far the best known of
Wheeler's designs today.
Not long after it was built, illustrations of the
Boody House appeared in several publications, including the
August 1849 issue of The Horticulturist and A.J. Downing's
The Architecture of Country Houses in 1850 (fig. 3,
4).  The design was copied, with modifications to the
plan, in 1853, in the residence of Benjamin Butraan, of
Worcester Massachusetts, and published by the architect,
William Brown in The Carpenter's Assistant , revised by
Lewis Joy that same year.  More recently, in the
1970's, the house plans were reproduced by Architectural
Period Houses Inc. as one in a series of contemporary
adaptations of period designs. 
The double gables and steeply pitched roof emphasize
the verticality of the design, further enhanced by the
vertical board and batten siding. Wheeler claimed to have
formulated the scheme in response to the local constraints
of material and weather. The availability of wood meant
that the picturesque design, constructed in timber, would
be "the result, as all architectural beauty must be, of
fitness and harmony ."[ 39 ] The chimneys are on the interior
for optimal heat retention, and the drawing room and parlor
suite, opening to verandas, were designed to enable the
closing off of one or the other. The floor plan is arranged
in an H shape, with a kitchen and service wing projecting
at the rear.
The Boody House represents a union of themes of the
picturesque and Ruskinian fitness. The house when designed
blended with its surroundings, by virtue of material,
varied massing and a somewhat asymmetrical plan --
hallmarks of the picturesque. The honest expression of
timber construction conformed with ideas of truth in
4. The Richardson House
There is speculation by Earle Shettleworth of the
Maine Historic Preservation Commission that the Captain
John G. Richardson House, at 964 Washington Street, in
Bath, Maine, may have been based on a design by Wheeler
(fig. 5). The two and a half story structure, with
projecting rear ell, is roofed with steeply pitched cross
gables, and sheathed in vertical board and batten. The
configuration of the plan and the construction material and
technique are similar to the Boody House. The date of
construction has been estimated as 1850, several years
after Wheeler had left the area.
Unsigned plans for the house are in the collections of
the Bowdoin College Library; but the written notations are
in a hand different from Wheeler's. The Richardson House
may simply be a local interpretation of the Boody House.
Research for the Historic American Buildings Survey
completed in 1971 yielded no documentation of either
architect or builder. 
C. New Haven, Connecticut (1848-1849)
As has already been mentioned, Wheeler had had the
occasion of traveling in Connecticut in 1847. He had met
Henry Austin, an architect of local renown in New Haven,
and had established an agreement to work with him in 1847,
only to renege in order to complete the Bowdoin
commission. His association with Austin was apparently
successfully postponed, as Wheeler wrote in 1848 of workinj
in Austin's office. Other than the correspondence from
Wheeler himself, there has been no documentation of a
working relationship between the two architects .[ 41 ]
Austin had apprenticed under Ithiel Town in the
1820's, and started his own office in 1837. The work
produced during the fifty four years of his practice
reflected the eclectic modes of the time and included
commissions both public and residential. Austin's
reputation and later recognition were based primarily on
his handling of the Italian villa. Austin's practice
peaked in the 1850's, so that his office was very much on
the upswing when Wheeler worked with him. Among the
commissions on the agenda during 1848-1849 were the James
Dwight Dana House in New Haven, which sported oriental
motifs, and the New Haven Railroad Station, which
incorporated both Italianate and Oriental elements. 
In September 1848, Wheeler wrote of his collaboration
with Austin for a project at Trinity College: "They talk of
erecting a college chapel and Mr. Austin and myself are I
suppose certain of doing it. " The commission however
apparently never materialized, as no chapel was erected
during this period. An understanding was apparently
reached for some unspecified work "in connection with [the]
organ at Trinity College,"  and in 1850 was contracted
to Austin. It is unclear, but doubtful, whether Wheeler,
who by then was in Philadelphia, remained associated with
the job. 
Wheeler worked on another project while in Austin's
employ, a large hotel erected in New Haven. His own
comments on the building suggest that he had previously
only worked in the picturesque modes of residential
dwellings or the vocabulary of Ecclesiology . As he
prepared the drawings for exhibit, he called them "rather
an experiment on ray part the style being very chaste and
purely worked but Italian; one of the fronts being very
like Barry's Travelers Club House in London" (fig. 6). 
The commission, the New Haven House, now demolished,
on the Green at the corner of Chapel and College Streets,
is credited to the office of Henry Austin, though Wheeler's
involvement has not been documented. "It was five stories
high ... [with] short second story balcony and clean concise
proportions with string courses. " It is not clear if
Wheeler designed the structure or was only the draftsman.
If corroborated as Wheeler's design, it would represent one
of the few public buildings attributed to Wheeler, later
assertions to the contrary. In 1851, introductory comments
to an article written by Wheeler for The Home Journal , a
weekly general paper published in New York City, noted,
though he has been eminently successful in the large
public buildings he has designed and erected, yet rural
architecture is his pref erence . " [ 48 ]
It has not been possible within the scope of the
present work to assess the influence of Wheeler's own
designs on Henry Austin's work or the converse. At any
rate, Wheeler's association with the New Haven architect
was relatively short, lasting some ten months. During that
time, as was his want, Wheeler expressed dissatisfaction
with the nature and composition of several commissions
coming out of the office. It would not be implausible to
suggest that his condescending manner again led to
In addition to his association with Austin, his
previous acquaintance with the Reverend Woods may have
proved helpful to Wheeler in New Haven. In the same
correspondence in which he told of working with Henry
Austin, he asked Woods' help in introducing him to the
minister's peers in the New Haven and Hartford areas. He
specifically requested "a few lines of introduction to Dr.
Williams" as well as "amongst the professors" in New
Dr. John Williams was the recently elected president
of Trinity College. Like Woods, his background included
several advanced degrees, travel in France and England, and
teaching experience .[ 50] Wheeler, may have already been
familiar with Williams through the chapel project at
Trinity. There is no evidence however that the
introduction led to further commissions for Wheeler.
The correspondence during this phase of Wheeler's
career helps to elucidate his own aspirations and
frustrations as architect. With his background training in
England under Carpenter, it is not surprising to discover
that he had hoped to work on church architecture. Through
Reverend Woods, Wheeler sought connections in the
ecumenical and educational world. According to
correspondence between Woods and Richard Upjohn, Wheeler
was introduced to Dr. Williams mentioned above, Dr.
Croswell of the Church of the Advent in Boston, Dr. Sumner,
a professor of botany at Trinity, and the Rev. Andrew
Dunning, a Bowdoin graduate and minister of Congregational
Churches in Thompson CT. To date, there has been no
evidence to suggest that any commissions evolved from these
Also at this time, Wheeler apparently hoped to
establish contacts through an acquaintance in Britain, Sir
Charles Wesley, Chaplain of St. James. A letter from
Wesley in August of 1848 is an obvious response to a plea
from Wheeler for assistance: "I regret exceedingly that I
have no personal acquaintance with any of the Bishops of
Clergymen of the Episcopal Church in America or it would
have given me sincere gratification to have served you in
any way by such introductions... but I will make every
endeavor to procure you some amongst my clerical
friends. . ."
The section on Brunswick, Maine, portrayed Wheeler's
attempts to convince the Bowdoin College committee and
Upjohn of the appropriateness of a more current mode of
design for the chapel. Wheeler must have had great hopes
of disseminating his firsthand knowledge of the recent
innovations in church architecture and decor associated
with the Cambridge Camden Society. His letters mention his
regret at not being responsible for any church designs
while in Austin's office.
Not only did Wheeler lament the lack of church
commissions, but he also denounced the one church design
which Austin's firm was completing at the time, as being
"of a character that I am glad to have escaped any
connection with." It can be inferred from this that
Wheeler's views regarding the proper design of church
architecture were firmly ingrained. The letter continues:
"It will be a long while before I dare at-
tempt to introduce anything of the kind here
and as it is, on the whole I am rather glad
perhaps that there are no churches going on
as I know I should be cruelly mortified in
having to shape my ideas of propriety and
beauty and correctness in accordance with
those of the 'critics' about me. "
Wheeler clearly considered that neither the American
public nor even the architectural profession were
sophisticated enough to appreciate the more advanced
thoughts of an architect with his British training. Yet
contrary to what might have been expected, his attitude
seemed to betoken a lack of conviction and determination;
he renounced his pursuit of Ecclesiological architecture
only two years after his arrival in the United States.
D. Hartford, Connecticut (1849)
Having spent approximately a year with Austin, Wheeler
must have felt confident enough of his design reputation or
perhaps sufficiently frustrated with the interpretation and
execution of modes in that office to establish his own
practice. He had moved to Hartford by April. With rooms
at the American House, he opened an office in the Janes'
Building on Main Street.  Ironically, though very
sparse documentation as to his stay in Hartford exists, the
legacy of his executed designs indicates that this was
among the most prolific periods of his career.
In June of 1849, Wheeler wrote to Upjohn for his
assistance in procuring a draftsman Upjohn had earlier
referred him to a Mr. Jordan, who spent several months in
Wheeler's Hartford office on the terms of a temporary
engagement. With business "steadily increasing", Wheeler
found himself in need of permanent help. Two young men in
his employ, apparently qualified only as copyists, could
not meet the exigencies of the position of design
assistant. Wheeler required someone he could rely upon to
develop drawings from his designs; he was sufficiently busy
and "called away so much that I can hardly settle down to
anything myself in the way of drawing ."[ 55 ]
While there may be doubts about the accuracy of
earlier statements of his activities, the case can readily
be made that Wheeler produced an extensive amount of work
in Hartford. Output at this time ranged from the
publication of designs to actual commissions.
The first known example of Wheeler's written work
appeared in a book for students of art, published out of
Hartford early in 1849. Entitled The Columbian Drawing
Book , this little volume by C. Kuchel comprises a series of
plates of sketches with accompanying written directions for
their reproduction. The eloquent directions were Wheeler's
contribution to the endeavor. The closing sentence evokes
the pleasure and fulfillment to be derived from the art of
"... let his eye, his heart, and his hand
work together, and he will be repaid by the
increased keenness of the one, the emotions
of the other, and the skill of the third,
for the time and thought he has
The work was well received, with reviews in several
period journals, including The Horticulturist and The
Literary World . T571 In each case it was recommended as a
useful tool for the amateur desirous of learning the
essentials of drawing.
Wheeler's participation in the endeavor may indicate a
need for work and an initial lack of design commissions.
The contribution may also have been a recognition of the
benefits of self-promotion, even in a field peripheral to
architecture. Wheeler wrote convincingly of his subject,
in articulate and expressive prose. As his career
progressed, his ability to write would serve him well.
The year 1849 also saw the publication of two
residential designs in A.J. Downing's journal The
Horticulturist ; in June, a design for a Villa in the Tudor
Style, and in August, an English Cottage (the Boody House
in Brunswick, Maine, fig. 3, 4).  The date of Wheeler's
signature on each contribution, May 16 and April 2
respectively, suggest that Downing and Wheeler had
established contact by spring of that year. The business
relationship between the two men would lead to further
publication opportunities for Wheeler.
The inclusion of Wheeler's work in a respected monthly
magazine could not help but have beneficial effects for his
career and reputation. The magazine had great appeal among
country 'gentlemen' of the period. Articles in the publica-
tion dealt mainly with plants and landscaping; but as
Downing espoused the picturesque integration of home and
grounds, the magazine also provided a forum for architectur-
al design. A.J. Davis, architect of many residences in the
romantic eclecticism of the period, had already collaborat-
ed with Downing to supply plans and elevations.
Downing's use of Wheeler in his publications suggests
that the latter appreciated his comfortable handling of the
picturesque. Greek revival design still lingered in the
hands of many architects, and the vocabulary of the
picturesque was only beginning to gain acceptance in
America. Downing may have seen in Wheeler a peer who could
understand and express the formulations of the American
Of the two designs, the Boody House has already been
described in section B.3 of this chapter. It is
interesting to note that while Downing himself evidently
considered Wheeler's designs competent, a regular
correspondent to The Horticulturist , Mr. Jeffreys of New
York, rather condescendingly critiqued the English
Cottage: "Are we never to have any American cottages? ...
Try it again Mr. Wheeler ..."[ 59 ]
The other design for "a Villa in the Tudor Style," was
intended as a gentleman's country residence. With its
irregular but harmonized massing, Wheeler considered the
design, executed in stone or brick, to be "peculiarly adapt-
ed to those localities where the scenery was rather sylvan
than wild. " The plan, reflected in the exterior pro-
file, provides for large communicating drawing and dining
rooms en suite, a small conservatory for plants, and a
library (fig. 7, 8).
1. The Olmstead House
The Henry Olmstead House, in East Hartford,
Connecticut, was one of at least two important commissions
to come into the office during the year. As its name
implies, this residence was designed for Henry Olmstead,
whose family was prominent in the East Hartford area. The
plan, essentially cruciform, dictates the exterior profile
of intersecting gables (fig. 9, 10). Constructed of wood
and sheathed in board and batten, "the major decorative
elements arise from structural necessity," as in the
extended framed front veranda and arched chamber floor
ceilings . [ 61 ]
Like the Boody House, the Olmstead House combines in
no uncertain terms the qualities of the picturesque and of
Ruskinian honesty: a varied silhouette, extension of the
house to the surrounding landscape through verandas,
rational construction. The design has been the subject of
study by Vincent Scully, who considered that it "reinforced
with a new and more incisive logic the practical and
aesthetic principles of Downing's cottage style. " The
house purportedly stands, though altered beyond
recognition, but its continued existence has not been
The design was published two years after its erection
in Rural Homes . It would also provide the model for the
Willows, a house built in Morristown, New Jersey, in 1854,
by Joseph Warren Revere (fig. 11, 12). The Willows is now
listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well
as the New Jersey State Register. The plan, elevation and
architectural details follow those of the Olmstead House
very closely. Modifications include the opening of the
front stair hall, enlargement of the dining room and
parlor, and the addition of a rear stair and kitchen ell.
Wheeler was practicing in New York at the time that Revere
began the Willows, but documentation linking the two men,
or revealing that Wheeler had an active role in the adapted
design, has not been discovered.
The Olmstead House may have inspired another
variation, the Hartwell Carver House in Pittsford, New
York, a suburb of Rochester (fig. 13).  Built in 1853,
the plan is a somewhat foreshortened cruciform, resulting
in less exaggerated gable extension and verandas. The
uneven intersection of the gable roof lines, the enclosed
gable above the veranda, and the roof slope interrupted by
dormers, all diminish the overall effect of the original
design. The origins of the Hartwell Carver House were not
investigated for this paper.
While the Olmstead House was designed to harmonize
with its surroundings, Rockwood was an imposing stone
mansion, prominently located atop a hill overlooking the
Hudson River in North Tarrytown, New York. The owner,
Edwin Bartlett, a successful merchant, had gathered several
hundred acres to form his estate and commissioned Wheeler
to design his home.
The asymmetrical scheme was in the castellated Gothic
mode, and expressed in grey gneiss (fig. 14, 15). The
front facade of the house, one hundred and forty feet long,
was dominated by a four story corner tower rising above the
living room. The tower was balanced, across an arched
carriage porch, by an advancing two and a half story octago-
nal bay. The major living spaces opened onto verandas with
fine views of the Hudson (fig. 16). The interior finishes
included walnut and oak panelling and a richly carved stair
balustrade with Gothic motifs.
Completed in 1849, the house was first pictured in a
sketch by Edwin Whitefield, an itinerant artist who
solicited patrons 'door to door' in the early 1850's. In a
rendering of a neighboring estate, the profile of
Rockwood's tower rose clearly over the trees on the
hillside (fig. 17). 
From the start, Wheeler's design received critical
acclaim from popular journals and authors. Rockwood was
featured in an 1856 issue of The Horticulturist , in a
column entitled "Visits to Country Places," and was
described as a "princely mansion ."[ 65 ] Henry Sargent,
editor of the sixth edition of Downing's Landscape
Gardening , lauded it again, calling it "the most marked
place which has been created since the first edition of
this book. " A pictorial essay of the finer residences
along the Hudson, compiled by A. A. Turner in 1860, opened
with two photolithographs of Rockwood . [ 67 ]
Also in 1860, Knickerbocker Magazine ran two articles
entitled "The Hudson." Though essentially a descriptive
history of the landscapes and legends of the area, a few
homes were highlighted — Sunnyside, residence of
Washington Irving, and "the beautiful chateau of
Rockwood. " The design withstood the vagaries of time,
as it again appeared among the beautiful "Homes of America"
by Martha Lamb in 1878: "not only a fine specimen of
mechanical skill, but a work of art and architectural
propriety... [it] challenges comparison with the best homes
of any country ."[ 69 ]
The enduring popular appeal of Rockwood for some
thirty years after its construction, was a testament to the
facility of the architect. The estate changed hands only
three times, and in the late 1880's, the new owner, William
Rockefeller, nearly doubled it in size. In 1922, three
years after his death, the once "princely mansion" was de-
stroyed. The site is now the regional headquarters of
I.B.M., and the only reminder of the elegant estate is the
gate house on the Albany Post Road. 
Wheeler himself was proud of the design; he would
display it in an exhibition in Philadelphia the year after
designing it, and would include some aspect of it in two of
his three books, Rural Homes and The Choice of a Dwelling .
He never published an elevation however, perhaps in
deference to his client's privacy.
At this point in his career, Wheeler seems to have
concentrated on domestic architecture as his predominant
occupation. The immediate recognition and relative success
of private works such as the Boody House and Rockwood no
doubt pushed him toward that path.
E. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1849-1850)
1 . Brookwood
Wheeler's contributions to The Horticulturist may have
resulted in direct contact with A.J. Downing, although
there is only circumstantial evidence to support this. At
the end of 1849, Downing sponsored Wheeler as he traveled
to Philadelphia. Because he had a seemingly healthy prac-
tice in Hartford, his trip may have been undertaken in
anticipation of a commission. Downing had been in Philadel-
phia the month before, helping Henry C. Fisher choose a
site for his house.  He may then have recommended Wheel-
er as an architect. At any rate, in December, Wheeler
presented himself to Fisher with a letter from Downing. 
Fisher had recently purchased fifty acres of land in
the countryside to the north of Philadelphia, and wanted a
comfortable and luxurious country estate. With the help of
Downing, he had chosen a site for his home and a landscap-
ing plan; all that remained was the structure itself.
Fisher and Wheeler first met at dinner on December 12
1849. By December 23, Wheeler had submitted two designs
for Fisher's approval, one Italianate, the other Elizabe-
than. Sidney Fisher, a close relative, wrote in his dia-
ry: "the latter is not only in itself the handsomer by
far, in my judgement, but accords well with the picturesque
character of the surrounding scenery ."[ 73 ] The Elizabethan
was apparently the design adopted. As the construction of
Brookwood progressed over the next two years, it was invari-
ably described as elegant, convenient, and luxurious .[ 74 ]
Much as had been the case with Rockwood, Brookwood too
was applauded for its thoroughly considered plan and
pleasant aspect. In the appendix to the sixth edition of
Landscape Gardening , after the sketch of Rockwood, a brief
entry noted that Brookwood was a "very extensive and
complete establishment" sure to become "one of the most
striking places near Philadelphia ."[ 75 ] The building was
demolished in the 1960's, and no images have as yet been
uncovered. There is reason however to speculate, as the
next section will do, that Wheeler's design for the Fisher
estate was printed in The Architecture of Country Houses .
2. Design Contributions
In 1850, A.J. Downing's The Architecture of Country
Houses was published. In it, the author featured two
designs by "Gervase Wheeler, Esq., of Philadelphia, an
architect of reputation ."[ 76 ] In introducing Wheeler,
Downing expressed his respect for the architect, and
complemented the designs their "artistic ability, combined
with an excellent knowledge of all that belongs to domestic
life in its best development ."[ 77 ] In just a year,
Downing's enthusiasm would wane somewhat (see chapter IV).
The first design, Number XXV, "A Plain Timber
Cottage-Villa," was a slightly modified version of the
Henry Boody house erected in Brunswick, Maine, already
familiar to the reader. The second design, Number XXX, "An
American Country House of the First Class," was prepared
specifically for the book, according to Downing.
The "Large Country House," as number XXX is
alternately labeled, was considered a simple design by its
author, catering to the gentleman of average means (fig.
18, 19). The mode of expression, "without being a copy of
any of one of the well-known Tudor or Elizabethan types,
has as distinct a character as they have. " In a scheme
similar though less elaborate than Rockwood, the
configuration of the plan balances the main living quarters
with the kitchen and service wing, on either side of a
carriage porch and entrance hall. The library, drawing
room and dining room open onto verandas and thus to the
grounds. Wheeler suggested that the interior decor be
simple, but continued with a prescription for stained glass
for the windows of the halls, staircase and library.
Country Houses appeared at approximately the same time
as Fisher began to build Brookwood. Though no mention of
an actual commission is made in the descriptive text
accompanying number XXX, it is possible that this was the
design proposed to Henry Fisher.
Both designs were of Elizabethan character. A
comparison of the floor plan of a Large Country House with
the footprint of the Fisher residence from period insurance
survey atlases, shows the same general configuration, with
two and a half story high main block, and a service wing
projecting off the right of the main entrance. In the
atlases, the placement of verandas is expanded, but this
may have occurred naturally over time (compare fig. 19 and
20).  The type of residence, country home for a
gentleman, was the same in each case. And it should be
remembered that the design would have been submitted for
publication some time prior to the printed date of the
volume, thereby allowing for the lack of identification as
to actual construction.
3. Philadelphia County Court Building
The meeting between Wheeler and the Fishers led to an
introduction which, had the timing been slightly different,
might have provided Wheeler with an opportunity to work on
a public commission. Sidney Fisher invited Wheeler to
dinner on December 13 1849; among the other guests was Ben
Gerhard, a member of the Common Councils of Philadelphia.
The purpose of the introduction, Fisher stated, was to
afford Wheeler "a chance of competing for the buildings
about to be erected by the County for Courts, etc., on
Independence Square ."[ 80 ]
As early as 1823, members of the Philadelphia county
government had considered the existing space for courts and
offices to be insufficient, and requested additional facili-
ties. The pleas were for the most part dismissed, until
1849, when the Common and Select Councils sought design
submissions for a new court house. On December 5 1849, the
county solicitor forwarded a letter requesting approval of
erection of a new court house; enclosed were proposals and
estimates from three architects, John Haviland, Thomas U.
Walter and Napoleon Lebrun. Fifteen days later, the
Select and Common Councils resolved that a county court
house could be erected at the corner of Sixth and Walnut
Streets on State House Square, provided architectural plans
The resolution drew continued controversy , and by June
27 1850, the building committee of Common Council had
rescinded the resolution of the previous December .[ 82 ] It
was not until April 1866 that a site was selected on Sixth
below Chestnut and Common Council approved and initiated
the erection of a new court house, completed in February
At no point during the intervening years do the
journals and ledgers mention Wheeler. With the submission
on December 5 of the various proposals, Fisher's
introduction to Gerhard may have been too late to benefit
4. Insurance Company of North America
After completion of the designs for Brookwood, Wheeler
was not without occupation. The Insurance Company of North
America had simultaneously resolved to erect new office
headquarters, and a building committee of three was appoint-
ed on January 14 1850 to find an acceptable plan.
By February 26, Wheeler had been chosen for the job.
The method for the selection process was not discussed in
company documents, and a survey of the corporate directors
did not immediately suggest a contact for Wheeler. However
plans were drawn at the request of the building committee
and the sum of $75 was paid for services rendered .[ 83 ]
Wheeler offered to superintend the construction of the
commission, but was apparently not hired for that particu-
lar aspect of the project. Abraham Masson was awarded the
contract to build the new office located at 60 Walnut
Street (now the two hundred block of Walnut).  Upon its
completion, in December 1850, the company minutes record it
as a "beautifully appropriate building ."[ 85 ] A history of
the company published in 1885 included an engraving of the
building as it appeared in 1879 (fig. 21). 
The masonry building was a three bay, three story
configuration with an eclectic use of motifs. A broad flat
set of steps, the entire width of the office, led customers
up to the entrance. Above the incised first floor
architrave, more classically detailed columns supported the
segmental arches of windows with Gothic tracery. The third
floor openings were squared off, and though repeating the
tracery, had much flatter frames and reveals. A shaped
gablet centered over the middle bay, adding still more
variety to the line of the bracketed roof cornice.
The office was subsequently demolished in August 1880,
together with the adjoining Farquar Building to the east,
in order to allow the erection of Cabot and Chandler's more
spacious accommodations for the growing company.
Another project apparently undertaken at this time,
but for which there is no information, involved the design
of a townhouse. The only known reference to this building
is in Wheeler's The Choice of a Dwelling of 1871. The
author supplied only a floor plan, showing a side hall
configuration (fig. 22). The address and date of the
commission are not listed, and further documentation of the
structure has not been possible to date.
Similarly, a design for a "Small Cottage," featured in
Rural Homes , was erected in two different locations
according to Wheeler. The board and batten structure
carried a steeply pitched roof with intersecting gables in
a T shaped plan (fig. 23). No information regarding the
client or the site was provided .[ 87 ]
In addition to his contact through Downing and Fisher,
Wheeler sought to promote his abilities by exhibiting his
work at the twenty-seventh annual exhibition of the Pennsyl-
vania Academy of Fine Arts, in 1850. He wisely chose a
design which would meet with approbation: Rockwood, near
Tarrytown, commissioned and constructed the previous
year.  The entry indicates that Wheeler's address at
this time was 70 Walnut Street, near the newly designed
I.N. A. building.
[l]Hoppin to Woods, March 8 1847, Chapel Papers.
Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
Nicholaus Pevsner, Some Architectural Writers of the
Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 83.
James Grant Wilson, ed., Appleton's Cyclopoedia of
American Biography 3 (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1888),
 The Literary World 6 (New York: Osgood & Co., 1850),
Letterhead , Wheeler to Bowdoin College, April 6
1847, Chapel Papers.
Upjohn to Woods, May 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
[ 8 ] National Academy of Design Exhibition Record,
1826-1860 2 (New York: New York Historical Society, 1943),
Wheeler to Woods, August 14 1847, Chapel Papers.
John B. Kirby to Ward, October 8 1982.
[ll]Wilson, Appleton's 6, 604.
For a history of the College Chapel and its
construction, see Ernst Christian Helmreich, Religion at
Bowdoin College: A History (Brunswick: Bowdoin College,
Hoppin to Woods, March 8 1847, Chapel Papers.
Woods to Hoppin, July 31 1847, Chapel Papers.
See chapter II for a discussion of the atmosphere
in the field of architecture and Upjohn's participation in
the development of the A. I. A. For information on Upjohn's
career, see Everard Upjohn, Richard Upjohn .
Woods to Hoppin, July 31 1847, Chapel Papers.
Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
Woods to Hoppin, July 31 1847, Chapel Papers.
Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
Hoppin to Woods, August 4 1847, Chapel Papers.
Ward, "Gervase Wheeler," 12.
Hoppin to Woods, April 10 1847, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to the Building Committee, September 29
1847, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to the Building Committee, October 1 1847,
Wheeler to Upjohn, October 26 1847, Upjohn Papers,
Wheeler to Woods, January 23 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Upjohn, October 26 1847, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler, "Description of Decoration of the
Library," December 15 1847, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, May 12 1848, Chapel Papers.
 Bulletin of the American Art Union (1851), 62.
This article was brought to my attention by Earle
Shettleworth of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission,
and Arlene Palmer Schwind, of Yarmouth, Maine.
Ward, "Gervase Wheeler," 15.
Woods, undated statement, possibly end 1847, Chapel
Wheeler to Woods, May 10 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, May 10 1848, Chapel Papers.
Denys Peter Myers, Maine Catalog (Portland: Maine
State Museum, 1974), 118-9.
r36l The Horticulturist 4 (Albany: Luther Tucker, 1849),
frontispiece and 77-79; A.J. Downing, The Architecture of
Country Houses (New York: Dover Publications, 1969 reprint
of 1850), design XXV.
William Brown, The Carpenter's Assistant (Boston:
Edward Liverraore, 1853), 42, design 11. Pointed out by
Earle Shettleworth, Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
[38l Architectural Period Houses Inc . (Princeton,
Massachusetts: 1978). Courtesy of Earle Shettleworth.
r39l The Horticulturist 4 (August 1849), 77.
Earle Shettleworth , Director, Maine Historic
Preservation Commission, to Ward, September 15 1982;
confirmed in letter to author, January 4 1988. See also
Myers, Maine Catalog , 202.
Kirby to Ward, October 8 1982; confirmed in letter
to author, November 16 1987.
Kirby, MacMillan Dictionary 1: 117-8.
Wheeler to Woods, September 27 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, September 27, Chapel Papers.
Kirby to Ward, September 29 1982.
Wheeler to Woods, September 27 1848, Chapel Papers.
Kirby to Ward, September 29 1982.
r48] The Home Journal (New York: Morris & Willis, 1851),
Wheeler to Woods, September 27 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wilson, Appleton's 6: 526-7.
Woods to Upjohn, July 17 1851, Upjohn Papers.
Wesley to Wheeler, August 28 1848, Chapel Papers.
Wheeler to Woods, September 27 1848, Chapel Papers.
r54l Wells' City Directory for Hartford (Hartford: J.
Gaylord Wells, 1849), 138. The entry was accompanied by an
ad which stated, "more than two years in America," and
further substantiates an estimated arrival date of 1846.
Wheeler to Upjohn, June 18 1849, Upjohn Papers.
C. Kuchel, The Columbian Drawing Book (Hartford:
Belknap & Hamersley, 1849), 10.
r57] The Horticulturist 3 (June 1849), 573; The Literary
World 4 (April 1849), 337.
r58l The Horticulturist 3 (June 1849), 560-1 and 4
(August 1849), 77-9.
f59l The Horticulturist 4 (September 1849), 144.
r60l The Horticulturist 3 (June 1849), 560.
Robert P. Guter, "The Willows at Fosterf ields"
(Historic Structures Report, Morristown, New Jersey, 1983),
Vincent J. Scully Jr., The Shingle Style and The
Stick Style (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), lii.
Scully used the Olmstead House as an example in developing
his theory of the "Stick Style"; for a discussion of the
term and its significance, see also Robert Jensen, "Board
and Batten Siding and the Balloon Frame," JSAH 30
(1971) :40-50, and Sarah Landau, "Richard Morris Hunt, the
Continental Picturesque, and the Stick Style," JSAH 42
Jean R. France, Professor of Fine Arts, University
of Rochester, to Ward, November 29 1982; image courtesy of
John Zukowsky, Hudson River Houses: Edwin
Whitefield's "The Hudson River and Railroad Illustrated"
(Croton on Hudson: North River Press Inc., 1981 facsimile
of c.1850), 50.
 The Horticulturist n.s.6 (November 1856), 497.
A.J. Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice
of Landscape Gardening (New York: A.O. Moore & Co., 1859,
6th edition), 552.
A.A. Turner Villas on the Hudson (New York: DaCapo
Press, 1977 reprint of 1860).
[ 68] Knickerbocker New York Monthly Magazine (New
York: Samuel Hueston, 1860), 137 (image) and 142.
Martha J. Lamb, The Homes of America (New York: D.
Appleton & Co., 1879), 162 and 224.
John Zukowsky, Hudson River Villas (New York:
Rizzoli International Publications Inc., 1985), 107.
Fisher Diaries, November 5 1849.
Fisher Diaries, December 12 1849.
Fisher Diaries, December 23 1849.
Fisher Diaries, August 16 1850, June 16 1851,
December 31 1851.
Downing, Landscape Gardening , 555.
Downing, Country Houses , 330.
Downing, Country Houses , 330.
Downing, Country Houses , 338.
 Smedley 's Atlas of the City of Philadelphia , 22nd
ward (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1862); Atlas of
the City of Philadelphia , 22nd ward (Philadelphia: G.M.
Hopkins C.E., 1885); Insurance Map of the City of
Philadelphia , 33, 22nd ward (Philadelphia: Ernest Hexamer &
Fisher Diaries, December 12 1849.
r81~l Journal of the Select Council (Philadelphia: Cressy
& Markley, 1850), 45.
 Journal of the Common Council (Philadelphia: King &
Baird, 1850), 170.
I.N.A., "Directors' Minutes" (February 26 1850),
I.N.A. "Directors' Minutes," (March 12 1850), 191.
I.N.A. "Directors' Minutes" (December 24 1850),
Thomas H. Montgomery, A History of the Insurance
Company of North America (Philadelphia: Press of Review
Publishing & Printing Co., 1885), opposite 90.
Wheeler, Rural , 161.
Anna Wells Rutledge ed., Cumulative Record of
Exhibition Catalogues; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine
Arts 1807-1870 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical
Society, 1955), 251.
V. Popular Success. New York and Norwichtown (1851-1860)
By February 1851, Wheeler had moved away from
Philadelphia and returned to New York.[l] Awaiting more
permanent offices, he rented rooms at 304 West Fourteenth
Street; by May he was listed in the city directory as
Architect, University, Washington Square.  Wheeler, as
was clear in Hartford, recognized the advertising
possibilities of listing in the directory. In a letter
written in March, Wheeler appealed to Richard Upjohn, whom
he had met in the context of the College Chapel commission
at Bowdoin, for potential odd jobs, only until May, the
date of issuance of the directory.
As the above suggests, Wheeler began immediately to
seek contacts for commissions. He apparently met early on
the editors of The Home Journal , Nathanial Parker Willis
and George Morris, for on March 1 1851, the first in a
series of sixteen articles authored by Wheeler appeared in
this popular weekly magazine (to be discussed in a later
part of this chapter).
Wheeler's letter to Upjohn in March announced his new
location, and was written with the aim of enlisting
Upjohn's help. The relationship between the two men is
somewhat ambiguous. During the project at Bowdoin, Wheeler
had antagonized Upjohn and a great deal of tension had
resulted. Still, the contact was established, and in
apparent recognition of Upjohn's influence in the field of
architecture, Wheeler turned to him. He offered his
services and expertise for any commissions which Upjohn
might find himself unable to fulfill: "if at any time you
. . . have work you cannot from press of business undertake I
shall be very happy to have it placed in my hands and will
do my best. . ."
Wheeler claimed that his practice had thrived in the
intervening years since the Bowdoin Chapel commission:
"Since I last saw you, I have done a great deal in various
parts of the country and very successfully." By this time,
he was referring to his designs for the Olmstead House,
Rockwood, Brookwood, and the I.N. A. Building.
The accuracy of Wheeler's assurance of activity may
have been slanted by a tendency to exaggeration evidenced
previously. A half dozen designs in approximately two
years could not have been considered prolific. Further, a
successful and busy practice, as related to Upjohn in the
above excerpt, would hardly require him to actively seek
work from his peers. An architect would be inclined to
pass over only commissions in inconvenient locations, with
difficult clients, or which presented no particular design
On the other hand, the simple question of geography-
should be recognized in understanding Wheeler's new need
for contacts in New York. Having worked first in Maine,
then Connecticut, and later Philadelphia, whatever
clientele and reputation were established would have
remained in those areas. Letters of introduction,
recommendation or regular correspondence would then have
formed the basis for the development of a new clientele;
the existence of any such documents is unknown. Under the
circumstances, the most natural response for Wheeler was to
turn to previously made associations, like Upjohn and in
all likelihood Hoppin, for assistance and references.
After only some six months in New York, something
occurred to propel Wheeler to Norwichtown, Connecticut.
Richard Upjohn was working on a church design in Norwich in
the summer of 1851, and it may be that, despite previous
difficulties, as a gesture of good will he proposed Wheeler
to have a look at it. However, by July of that year,
Wheeler had once again tactlessly insinuated himself into
Upjohn's affairs. Upjohn wrote Reverend Woods in Brunswick
of Wheeler's presence in Norwich, beseeching his help in
keeping him at bay.  If previous experience is an
indication, Wheeler undoubtedly did not restrain his own
criticism of the evolving project. Upjohn considered
Wheeler's interference "mischievous... pranks and
favours . " [ 5 ]
Woods promptly replied that while he himself would not
volunteer information on Wheeler's past track record, he
could suggest a long list of names to whom the people of
Norwich might address their inquiries as to Wheeler's
reputation: Dr. Croswell of the Church of the Advent in
Boston, Dr. Sumner in Hartford, George F. Dunning of the
Mint of Philadelphia, his brother Reverend Andrew Dunning
in Thompson, Connecticut, whom Woods had introduced to
Wheeler over the course of their acquaintance in Brunswick,
and William Hoppin of New York and Professor Smyth and Mr.
McKeen of Brunswick. These men, if asked, would "put them
on their guard about Mr. Wheeler. "
The exchange between Upjohn and Woods was an
unequivocal disapproval of Wheeler's character, and a
reflection of the difficult relations at Bowdoin. Despite
this, Wheeler not only remained in the area, but
established an office in Norwichtown. It seems probably
that Wheeler became busy with his own work, and no longer
disturbed Upjohn. By the end of May, Wheeler had decided
to expand the articles he had been writing for The Home
Journal into a book, published in the summer, which he
signed from Norwichtown, Connecticut.
In June 1852, an advertisement in the Genessee Farmer
solicited "professional engagements from those desirous of
building," for Gervase Wheeler, Norwichtown, Connecticut.
The services offered included "designs for residences,
churches, schoolhouses , arrangement of grounds and
out-buildings and for internal decoration ."[ 7 ]
Documentation regarding the execution of projects during
this period is sparse, and as shall be seen in section 5 of
this chapter, is limited to Wheeler's own word on the
Wheeler continued to travel during these years as he
had done since his arrival. Most notable among his trips
was a return to Europe, tentatively placed at the end of
1852. Little is known of this trip, though Wheeler
specifically mentioned having been in London.  By July
1853, he was back in the United States. A notice in The
Horticulturist announced: "The friends of Gervase Wheeler,
the accomplished architect and author of Rural Homes will
be glad to learn that he has returned from Europe and
resumed the practice of his prof ession . " [ 9 ] The notice was
supplemented by ads placed by Wheeler himself, in the
August and November issues of the magazine .[ 10]
Wheeler chose at this time to settle in New York,
where he would remain until 1860. His office was initially
established at 55 Trinity Building, and he worked out of
these premises from July 1853 through 1854.  During his
time in New York, Wheeler relocated offices on the average
every other year. The city directories listed his practice
at 16 Nassau Building in 1855, 430 Broome Street in
1856-1857, 18 William Street in 1858-1859, and the Post
Office Building in Brooklyn in 1860. Such continual
changes in location appear not to have been particularly
unusual or significant for a professional at this time.
Other architects, Robert Mills and Minard Lafever, for
instance, had done the same; Lafever's biographer, Jacob
Landy, affirmed "there is no basis for assuming ... poor
business judgement ... to explain the many changes of
office location. "
While frequent moves marked the professional side of
Wheeler's life, his private residence was unchanged from
1854 to 1860. The city directories consistently listed 1
Elm Place in Brooklyn, at the northwest corner of
Livingston Street, a few blocks from the Brooklyn Borough
Hall, in a middle class residential neighborhood .[ 13 ]
No primary source information regarding the staffing
of Wheeler's office during these years has come to light,
however one architect is alleged to have apprenticed under
him. A group photo of the members of the American
Institute of Architects taken in 1883, and illustrated in
the pages of the February 1884 issue of The American
Architect and Building News , included New York based Henry
Hudson Holly. The brief biography associated with the
picture stated that Holly had begun his study of
architecture under Wheeler in 1854, leaving the latter's
office in 1856 to train in Britain.  In the
introduction to the 1977 reprint of Holly's books, Country
Seats (1863) and Modern Dwellings (1878), Michael Tomlan
logically, although without documentation, attributes
Holly's decision to travel to England to his employer's
urging. [ 15]
Holly worked with Wheeler at the time when the latter
was writing his second book, H omes for the People (1855).
It is safe to assume that, if Holly did not in fact
collaborate on the volume, he was familiar with the ideas
and designs which Wheeler elaborated. Holly himself wrote
and published a pattern book in 1863, Country Seats . In
the preface, the author noted that "the work was fully
prepared for the press some two years since," but its
publication was hindered by the outbreak of the Civil
War.  In other words, Holly had drafted his book in
late I860, early 1861, immediately following Wheeler's
departure for England.
' The contents and organization of Homes for the People
will be discussed in the later on, but some of the
similarities between the two architects' work bear
mention. Both books addressed and appealed to the general
public as opposed to a specifically professional audience.
Country Seats began as had Homes for the People with a
brief history of architecture, and devoted several pages to
a differentiation of the types of homes sought by differing
classes of people. Several of Holly's designs, though
modified in plan, presented combinations of motifs or
proportions reminiscent of Wheeler's work in Homes for the
People , f 1 7 1
As the book's audience represented prospective
clients, Holly, like Wheeler, championed hiring an
architect for the planning of a country house. He also
followed Wheeler's example and noted that the designs were
"not intended for model houses, to be copied for all
localities, but simply to show how important it is to have
an original design adapted to the peculiarities of
In addition to the parallels between the architects'
books, the manner in which each defined his professional
course was similar. Holly, like Wheeler, had designed
actual commissions, but both relied rather more heavily
upon the publication of writings and popularization of
domestic designs. Repeating a pattern set by Wheeler in
1851, Holly began contributing a series of articles
entitled "Modern Dwellings, Their Construction, Decoration
and Furniture" to Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1876.
The series would become the foundation for his book, Modern
Dwellings , published in 1878. 
The most conspicuous difference between the careers of
the two men lay in organizational associations. Unlike
Wheeler, Holly was from the outset involved in the A. I. A.,
and was elected to Fellowship in 1858, even before
Of particular importance in Wheeler's practice at this
time were his published writings. He contributed essays to
period journals, foremost among them The Home Journal , and
compiled his own books for publication.
The Home Journal was described by its editors, George
Pope Morris and Nathanial P. Willis, as a chronicle of
fashion, society, theatre and the arts, leaving "the
details of politics and heavier matters to the daily
newspapers ."[ 20] Like most journals of the period,
contributors were seldom paid for their pieces, and
articles were often printed anonymously .[ 21 ] But The Home
Journal was considered somewhat more sophisticated than its
competitors, with writing which often approached the level
The recitation of events with regard to Wheeler's
association with The Home Journal is purely conjectural.
Willis, who sought out new contributors to maintain a fresh
magazine, may have met Wheeler in person. Willis may have
encouraged Wheeler to submit a series of articles making
use of his knowledge of architecture. As can best be
ascertained, with the exception of the introduction to the
Columbian Drawing Book and the submissions to The
Horticulturist in 1849, this was the beginning of Wheeler's
writing career. While the articles were not signed, the
initials "G.W." may have been enough to identify Wheeler
from other architects practicing in New York. This subtle
means of recognition may have meant a possible source of
The articles for the most part belonged to a segment
entitled "On Perfecting a Home".  The editors
introduced the series with enthusiasm and confidence,
promoting its author as "an eminent and practical
architect" and "emphatically commend[ing] our correspondent
and his views to the reader's attention" (March 1). Though
a pitch for Wheeler, the compliment also was a promotion
for the paper itself. The editors of The Home Journal ,
years later in 1855, when reviewing Wheeler's second book,
would "claim an interest" in the success of the architect
as a result of having provided their periodical as a
"On Perfecting a Home" addressed the definition of
fitness and realization of comfort in the American home.
The first article in the series appeared on March 1 1851.
Entitled "Home, How to Build One Cheaply and Well," it
began with the distinction between a house and a home. The
latter, Wheeler asserted, was different for its being
suited to the client, and depended greatly on the skills
and abilities of a professional architect. As usual, there
was a self-promotional tone in the work. Wheeler, having
defined the need for "practical statements, easily
understood directions, evident reasons, common sense
determinations," proceeded to provide them.
The basic considerations in building any house
included "convenient arrangement, facility of construction
and of repair, perfect protection from heat and cold,
adequate means of warming and ventilating, congruity with
the scenery around" (March 1). Having stated these points
at the outset, they provided the impetus for the series.
The discussion in the first article was the choice of
site (March 1), derived from principles of shelter, shade,
access to water and views, not distant, but of "the
familiar objects near the eye that are varying ever..."
The arrangement of a house concentrated specifically on the
compass orientation of rooms for maximal comfort and
convenience. The kitchen, for instance, belonged at the
north side, "leaving more desirable points of the compass
for the main building"; if the main meal of the household
was midday, the dining room was to be oriented east, or if
evening supper was preferred, west, for best natural
lighting. North was to be avoided for the entrance because
of the threat of penetration of cold and winds; the
southern exposure was reserved for the most often used
room, the parlor or salon. As a factor of fitness, Wheeler
considered that the rural or suburban house required no
formal parlor, "too party-ish and pretentious for the
country" (March 1).
Each article or grouping, when the subject
necessitated, tackled a particular topic, such as building
to suit the landscape, materials and their treatment in
construction, ventilation and heating, outbuildings,
furniture, and examples of home types. Wheeler described
several designs, the "Modern Italian Bracketted Style,"
"Summer Lodge," "Suburban Villa" and "Southern Home."
Concerns which paralleled the picturesque point of
view and the theories of Downing were evident in the
articles. Full consideration of the house within the
landscape meant that "the building and the grounds, the
natural objects and the result of art, are in perfect
congruity" achieving "home beauty" (April 19). And "a home
in the sunny south is a very different thing to arrange to
one suited to a northern clime" (July 5).
In addition to the series "On Perfecting a Home,"
Wheeler submitted an article which, though not directly
related to architecture, was again a subtle form of
self-promotion. "The Hudson and the Rhine" (June 14)
really had nothing to do with the Rhine, other than raise a
romantic parallel. Wheeler described the beauty of the
Hudson River Valley and the numerous ideal locations for
country dwellings. Signed simply "G.W.," by this time
regular readers were probably familiar with the
A similar article, "Upstream," by G.W., appeared years
later, on June 2 1855. It coincided with the publication
of Wheeler's second book, and shared the pages of The Home
Journal with a review of this latest volume. Once again,
the subject matter was the Hudson River Valley, and
provided the opportunity for planting the germ of
association between constructing a country home and hiring
an architect like Wheeler.
The continuing editorial comments which accompanied
Wheeler's articles seem to indicate that the pieces were
favorably received. With the second article in the March 8
issue, the editors noted that "we find that we responded to
a want of the Public Mind, by introducing our writer." A
month later, the April 12 article opened with the following
tribute: "his ideas have been so suited to the Public
Want, that most of them, as they have appeared, have taken
shape in the plans of projected houses in the country."
The basis for these statements is never clear, nevertheless
the continuation of the series does suggest its popular
The success of the articles in The Home Journal
emboldened Wheeler to publish a compiled version of his
thoughts. At the end of his article describing an Entrance
Lodge, Wheeler said, "urged by many friends, I have
enlarged upon the topics that have now connected me with
the readers of The Home Journal more than three months, and
shall shortly publish a volume upon 'Rural Homes'..." (May
24). He had already chosen the title, and the resulting
work was published later that year by Charles Scribner, New
Comparison of the two groups of material shows that
the book was essentially an elaboration of the articles.
In fact, many of the articles were transcribed verbatim or
with a minor transposition of paragraphs, and correspond to
chapters or parts thereof. Others were refined, edited or
expounded for the consolidated version. For example,
chapter II, "General Arrangement of a House Upon the
Ground," corresponded to the second article in the series,
but included a disclaimer to the effect that Wheeler's
designs were "not for actual embodiment and execution,"
rather to serve as models which an architect might
translate for the client. In another instance, the
depiction of "A Suburban Villa," the tense was changed from
article to book, implying that the house was erected in the
interim between publication of the two.
Rural Homes was naturally fuller than The Home Journal
series, and several chapters and sections were added.
These included descriptions of "The Homestead," "The
Parsonage," "Cottages," "Artificial Warming," "Practical
Directions to Amateurs Before Proceeding to Build," "Rural
Architecture as Fine Art," and addenda to three other
In introducing the book, Wheeler indicated his
intention of presenting, in organized fashion,
considerations in the choice and construction of a country
home which his audience might find useful. He stated, "I
claim no title to originality," recognizing perhaps his
debt to the British picturesque and the precedent of
Downing's influential books.
Rural Homes was well received by the popular press.
Of nine known reviews only two voiced negative comments.
The reviews appeared in popular journals for the home, such
as Harper's New Monthly Magazine , Godey's Home Journal , in
somewhat more literary publications, such as the American
Whig Review and the Literary World , and in gardening and
country oriented magazines like the Genessee Farmer and The
Horticulturist (see Appendix D for citations). An ad for
the book in The Genessee Farmer quoted from two religious
reviews in the Philadelphia Presbyterian and Hartford
Religious Herald , and two daily journals, the NY Evening
Mirror and Albany Spectator . \ 24 1
In every case, the reviews applauded the usefulness of
the volume and the practical, comprehensive information
contained therein. An enthusiasm for the quality and
clarity of the presentation of material and the attractive,
flowing style pervaded even the negative reviews. The
American Whig Review opened their critique of Rural Homes
with the following representative commentary: "This is not
only elegantly written, but an exceedingly sensible book...
Within a short compass, Mr. Wheeler has gracefully sketched
off what may be done to recognize and realize the highest
demands of taste, comfort and elegance, even with moderate
means. " The Genessee Farmer concluded that "the
pleasure and instruction we have derived makes us feel
grateful to the author, and bespeak for his book a place in
the library of every intelligent person whoever expects to
build or improve a suburban, village, or country
house. " In August of that year, in response to a
reader's inquiry for good source references on rural
domestic architecture, landscaping and fruit gardening, the
editor of The Genessee Farmer suggested, "Three good works
for you — Downing's Landscape Gardening , Wheeler's Rural
Homes , Barry's Fruit Garden ."[ 27 ]
One of the negative reviews was found in Sartain ' s
Magazine , published in Philadelphia. Though recognizing
Rural Homes to be an "intelligent work" in
"straightforward, intelligible" language, Wheeler was
criticized for being "unfortunately deficient in fine
artistic taste," with the exception of the "unquestionable
elegance in effect" of a design for a "Southern Home. "
The uncomplimentary comments in the pages of The
Horticulturist came from A.J. Downing, who but a year
earlier had been promoting Wheeler .[ 29 ] Downing, generally
recognized as the leading authority on American picturesque
domestic architecture, took exception to Wheeler's
description of his designs as "suited to American Country
Life." Downing specifically attacked the frontispiece of
Rural Homes , a composition called "The Homestead," for "how
transparent is the fiction which covers Mr. Wheeler's
English education." Calling it a bastard style of
Elizabethan, he lamented, "Oh Mr. Wheeler! this may be
sweetly pretty and it may be built for twelve thousand, but
is is not a house suited to the American climate." The
most blatant attack on Wheeler came in a discussion of the
influence of foreign architect in America; Downing called
Wheeler a "pseudo-architect" with "too small a smattering
of professional knowledge" and an "incapacity to understand
our people or their wants."
Downing may have been reacting to the competition
presented by Wheeler's book. Works by both men were
popular, however Rural Homes was "of less bulk and cost
than Mr. Downing's book, but contains much that is valuable
on the sub ject . " [ 30 ] In other words, the book provided
much the same information for the general reader and was
In spite of his reservations, Downing found two areas
in which the book excelled. He conceded that Wheeler
evidenced culture and aesthetic discrimination, and he
concurred with the other reviews as to the quality of
Wheeler's presentation: "eminently readable, abounds with
many excellent suggestions, especially as to matters of
What made Downing's critique particularly interesting
was the prior rapport the two gentlemen had shared. As
discussed in chapter IV, Downing had earlier been a
supporter of Wheeler's work. He had from the outset
recognized the English tradition inherent in Wheeler's
designs and views, and commended them for their
distinctiveness. In this same context, it is ironic to
note that a review of Downing's The Architecture of Country
Houses (1850) in the Literary World , though lauding his
work as invaluable to those considering building, criti-
cized it for its inability to present an American style of
country architecture in lieu of modified European
In addition to the reviews for Rural Homes , editors of
what were termed eclectic journals exhibited sufficient
general interest in Wheeler's work to reprint excerpts in
their publications. Among these, the North American
Miscellany reprinted "The Suburban Villa," one of several
essays from the pages of The Home Journal , "which paper
very decidedly and very justly commends them to its
readers ."[ 32 ] Similarly, the Genessee Farmer , reproduced
Wheeler's design and description for "A Suburban
Cottage ."[ 33 ] And The Home Journal , true to its cause,
excerpted "The Present Metallic Age" from the pages of
Wheeler's "admirable little book. "
Several years later.in 1855, Wheeler was again ready
to publish another book, Homes for the People . He had in
fact been working on a volume in 1854, but the manuscript
and all related papers, including the etchings, were
destroyed in a fire prior to going to press.  The work
was taken up again, from memory, according to the author.
Wheeler noted that the impetus for publishing anew lay in
the numerous requests for assistance and professional
advice "from all parts of the country," which suggest his
popular appeal and the considerable success of his first
book. But Wheeler's desire to publish may also have meant
a lack of actual commissions in his practice.
Generally, Homes for the People differed from Rural
Homes in its more concise and strictly organized format.
When Wheeler wrote his first book, he was at the forefront
of picturesque architectural expression in this country.
The book had mirrored the romanticism of the mode in its
stylistic presentation. Four years later, Wheeler adopted
a more practical format. The variety of architectural
motifs began to decrease, and the crisp, dramatic profiles
of the earlier designs gave way to more uniformly massed
silhouettes. The homogeneous character of the models lent
itself to a more rigid treatment of the descriptive text.
Substantially larger than Rural Homes , this second effort
contained half again as many pages, plates and designs. It
reflected Wheeler's broader experience in the American
market, including twice as many executed residences as the
In Homes for the People , Wheeler devoted a separate
chapter to the historical background and development of
various architectural manifestations such as the Gothic and
Italian modes. In discussing the patterns themselves, he
stressed the importance of achieving "unity of effect"
within the design and between house and landscape, a theme
carried through from his first writings. Drawing on his
interest in interior decoration to a greater extent than in
Rural Homes , Wheeler sketched in detail his ideas for the
interior plan and decor of many of the designs.
Several of the designs illustrated had appeared
previously, such as a design for a Suburban Villa, erected
near Norwich Connecticut, illustrated in the August 1853
issue of The Horticulturist . \ 36 1 Others were reprinted in
other publications, for instance "A Villa Mansion in the
Italian Style" which appeared months later in the pages of
The Horticulturist. 
The reviews for Wheeler's second book were once again
fairly consistent, with approbation for the style and
presentation of the material and its practical contents.
The Horticulturist for instance remarked upon the
attractive, illustrations and practical arrangement of
chapters; the review continued with a compliment on
Wheeler's writing skills, and his "faculty of expressing
his ideas in refined and very agreeable language ."[ 38 ]
Another review in a popular journal considered the work a
compendium of useful suggestions on construction and
"carefully-digested plans. " The Knickerbocker praised
Wheeler's juxtaposition of designs with text, thereby
keeping the interest of the general reader.  And
showing their continued support, The Home Journal editors
included a portion of the work in their columns and
commended "the ease and graceful style of Mr. Wheeler's
writing" (March 12 1855). Willis and Morris also made
reference to the popularity of Homes for the People , by
noting that Scribner had published the book at a low price,
anticipating high sales (June 2 1855).
The only hostile review, and a serious one at that,
came from the editors of The Builder , out of London. It
scathingly accused Wheeler of plagiarism. Copyright laws
did not exist at this time, and though many authors like
Dickens lobbied for them, the practice of appropriating
source material for one's own texts was widespread. The
Builder apparently considered Wheeler's plagiarism
unusually bold: "the author has appropriated the writings
of others in the most extraordinary manner, without the
slightest acknowledgment ." [41 ] The anonymous critic
substantiated his accusation by running passages from Homes
for the People side by side with the anonymous work
entitled "History in Ruins — a Handbook of Architecture
for the Unlearned," previously published as a series in the
magazine. Indeed, in each case, Wheeler's words reproduce
in remarkably similar terms, though with vocabulary
embellishments, the running thoughts of the original work.
In addition to his two books, Wheeler occasionally
submitted designs and articles for publication in other
journals and works. Reference has already been made to
Wheeler's English Cottage and Villa in the Tudor Style
reprinted in the 1849 volume of The Horticulturist ; this
was followed in 1853 by inclusion of a Design for an
Italian Villa, and in 1855 with "A Villa Mansion ."[ 42 ]
Downing had criticized Wheeler's Rural Homes , and may have
been disappointed by the latter's professional conduct.
His sponsorship had ended in 1849, and the other
contributions did appeared only after Downing's death in
The Design for an Italian Villa was alternately called
a Suburban Villa (fig. 24, 25).  It was said to have
been recently erected in Norwich, Connecticut. The design,
constructed of brick dressed with Portland stone, featured
a tower from which could be seen a "commanding prospect,"
and wooden verandas. In describing his design, Wheeler
used the terms picturesque and bold, and thought that the
mass harmonized with the surrounding scenery — all notions
in keeping with the picturesque and with Wheeler's own
presentation of appropriate domestic architecture.
In May 1855, The Horticulturist reproduced a Villa
Mansion from the pages of Homes for the People (fig. 26,
27).  The house was supposed to have been erected by
Wheeler, on a site overlooking the Long Island Sound,
between Rye and Portchester, New York. In the Italian
style, it was designed with the very specific needs of the
client in mind: a sloping prospect which required
terracing, a plan which catered to and allowed for the
The year 1853 saw the publication of A Book of Plans
for Churches and Parsonages .[ 45 ] This volume was an
integral part of a program of purification and
consolidation begun by the Congregational Churches of
America. At a convention held in Albany, New York, in
October 1852, the Congregational Ministers, authorized the
assemblage of designs with specifications and estimates for
possible use in the construction of frontier churches. The
committee responsible for procuring and presenting these
designs solicited them from ten practicing architects,
including Henry Austin, Henry Cleaveland, James Renwick,
Richard Upjohn and Gervase Wheeler.
The entries by Wheeler included a church and two
parsonage designs. The church plan was for a frame
building which could hold one hundred and fifty people. It
provided for the needs of a village or frontier town by
allowing for timber construction, which Wheeler considered
would be the most readily available construction material.
The various community activities were gathered under a
single roof: worship space, school adjunct areas including
a schoolroom, library, lecture room, and on the opposite
side a study and vestry for the minister. The whole was
spread over two stories, behind the nave.
This plan is the only known published church design of
Wheeler's career in America,  although in 1858 he
undertook the design of the Stone Chapel at Williams, which
was similar in program to the College Chapel at Bowdoin
College (see section 2 in this chapter). The front
elevation was asymmetrical, with belfry tower rising on the
left, and paired main entrance doors. Gothic motifs
pervaded the exterior in the form of pointed arch windows,
and drip mouldings.
The parsonage houses were adaptations of designs
prepared for Homes for the People . Design No. Ill, in an
Italian mode, corresponded to A Small Villa, while No. IV
represented A Rustic Parsonage .[ 47 ] In concluding his
contribution to the book, Wheeler offered his services to
those considering erecting one of his buildings: "if any
further explanation can help its erection in the numerous
church settlements of the growing west, a letter to the
publishers of this work, addressed to G. Wheeler,
Architect, will cheerfully be replied to."
As the contributions to A Book of Plans indicated,
Wheeler did not at this time limit his activities to
domestic designs. In 1856, The Banker's Magazine and
Statistical Register , published out of New York by I. Smith
Homans, printed "The Architecture of Country Banks" by
Wheeler.  The Bankers' Magazine was the leading
financial periodical of its day.  Catering to a broad
banking community, it provided contiguous services, such as
designs for banking facilities.
The article featured two alternate designs for country
banks, which addressed the sorely neglected need of rural
banking for an architecture reflecting its environment.
Invoking the theme of fitness, Wheeler proposed that
country banks acquire their own architectural expression,
instead of applying traditionally used urban motifs. The
building design was to achieve "individual character,"
adaptation to "circumstances of locality," "convenient and
sensible building" and "harmony with its expressed
The list of known commissions during this period
derives from two separate sources. On the one hand are
those structures for which there is evidence of
participation or construction in the form of primary
documents, on the other are the miscellaneous residential
works referred to by the author in his writing. The first
group comprises but five known examples during the nine
years of Wheeler's residence in New York; all of these
clustered between 1857 and 1859. The second group, after
taking into account repetitive references, consists of no
more than eighteen designs.
1. The Patrick Barry House
Wheeler's contributions to The Horticulturist and The
Genessee Farmer suggest the means by which he obtained the
contract to design the Patrick Barry House in Rochester,
New York. Patrick Barry, an Irish teacher, turned his
attention in 1840 to horticulture, and established with
George Ellwanger a nursery in Rochester. His enthusiasm
and abilities, undoubtedly enhanced by his experience as
educator, led by 1844 to the editorship of The Genessee
Farmer , a position held until 1852. After Downing's death,
Barry resigned from The Genessee Farmer to assume the same
post at The Horticulturist from 1852 to 1854.  Wheeler
was published by Barry during his tenure as editor of both
When Barry's house burned down in October 1856, he
turned to Wheeler for the design of his new house. It is
not clear whether the two men had actually met, or if
Barry's familiarity with Wheeler's work led him to the
commission. The Ellwanger and Barry Nursery records show
that construction was begun early in 1857, and with final
payments made in January 1859. For his submission, Wheeler
was paid a lump sum of $95 "for paym. of a/c." In
other words, Wheeler's commission was limited to drawing up
the designs. The inference is further supported by
documented payment of $300 to Austin and Warner, architects
(not the Henry Austin under whom Wheeler worked in New
Haven), in 1858; they supervised the actual
The design erected is an Italianate villa in rose-red
brick with a tower resembling a campanile, verandas, and
irregularly massed profile (fig. 28, 29). The eaves are
bracketed, and windows framed by distinctive arched
limestone mouldings. Much as in previous plans, the
communicating library and parlor, which open onto verandas,
are balanced across the entry hall by the service wing.
Interior appointments include marble fireplaces, grained
woodwork, and ornamental plaster ceilings. The house has
been restored and is now the residence of the President of
the University of Rochester.
The ledger entry for payment to Wheeler included a sum
in addition to the $95 for the Patrick Barry House: $70
for George Ellwanger. Although there is no description or
documentation to clarify the reason for this payment, it
may indicate that a set of drawings was also supplied to
2. The Stone Chapel (Goodrich Hall), Williams College
Ten years after his experience with Bowdoin College,
Wheeler had the opportunity of again working for an
institutional client in 1857. Much as had been the case at
Bowdoin, the Trustees of Williams College, by mid-
nineteenth century, were in need of enlarged facilities.
In 1856, they resolved to commission an architect for the
Correspondence from Gervase Wheeler to the Reverend
Calvin Durfee in July 1857 indicates that Wheeler had been
contacted for his services. No evidence has been found to
indicate how he acquired the commission .[ 54] It may have
been through prior acquaintances with either Reverend
Woods, at Bowdoin, or Reverend Williams, at Trinity
College, despite their apparent mistrust of Wheeler
discussed earlier. Both ministers were active, well known,
and may have corresponded with their peer at Williams.
At any rate, by June 1857, Wheeler had submitted a
plan for the chapel, to be called the Stone Chapel (renamed
Goodrich Hall in 1906). In July, the plan having been
reviewed by the Trustees, it was requested that the length
of the chapel be increased by five feet. In order to
accommodate this change, Wheeler advised that the design
submitted could simply be adapted, in plan by extending the
building out the extra five feet, and in elevation by
raising the height of the gable. In this way, the chapel
would retain the appropriate pitch and proper architectural
One week later, Reverend Durfee and Professor Hopkins,
President of the college, indicated that the Trustees had
decided instead upon a rear addition, measuring 33 feet by
28 feet, and changing the building to a cruciform plan.
Wheeler at that time stated that whether one story or two,
such an addition to the existing scheme would so alter it
as to require new detailing and redrawn plans: "In view of
these additions and alterations, I must in justice to
myself insist that before any thing in the way of actual
commencement be made of the building, I be instructed to
prepare new plans -- these alterations so materially
affecting the whole spirit of the design." He continued,
"with this under my control, I see no difficulty in
reconciling such additions with architectural propriety and
The Ruskinian theme of fitness evidently continued to
guide Wheeler in his design. The quote also hints at
Wheeler's somewhat arrogant attitude as to his own
abilities as architect, particularly with regard to church
design. After many years of predominantly residential
work, Wheeler had an opportunity to express his own notions
of propriety based on the Ecclesiological concepts of his
training. Still in the final analysis, his willingness to
make changes may simply indicate his desire to be paid for
Wheeler requested that the first set of plans be
returned to him, before advancing a revised design. The
Trustees of Williams College apparently complied, and he
submitted his revisions. By October 1857, contractors were
hired for the job. Wheeler's involvement ended with the
design process; typically for his career, he did not
supervise the execution of the plan. The location of the
original plans for the chapel is not known, nor are the
specific characteristics of Wheeler's design.
Construction began in April 1858, and contrary to the
described 33 feet by 28 feet addition to the rear of the
chapel, the addition built was in fact 36 feet by 56 feet,
running the length of the building and resulting in a T
shaped plan instead of the cruciform plan noted by
Wheeler. It is not clear whether Wheeler later submitted a
final revision, or whether the changes were made during
construction without the architect's assistance.
The chapel, in a rural Gothic mode, was built of blue
gray limestone, laid in rough ashlar, with supportive
buttresses. The pitched roof was covered in slate, and a
stone tower rose off to the side of the altar, projecting
heavenward with its wooden steeple, and providing access to
the addition. Window openings and doorways were expressed
as arches (fig. 30). The interior detailing included
exposed chestnut roof trusses, chestnut woodwork, marble
floors and marbleized walls.
The building has undergone alterations over the years,
from enlargement of the windows to renovation of the stairs
and tower. In the 1920's, changes in use and substantive
changes to the structure, including the removal of the
northwest vestibule and porch, have altered the expression
of Wheeler's original design. 
The train of events at Bowdoin seemed to repeat itself
at Williams. Wheeler had apparently managed to establish
relations with members of the college community while
working on the plans for the Stone Chapel. In his letter
of July 14 1857 to Reverend Durfee, he referred to a
project for Professor Tablock at the college. The
commission was a landscaping plan for the grounds of
Professor Tablock's residence. It seems that Tablock was
not interested in Wheeler's proposal, for he had not
accepted the design. Wheeler remarked, "I am under the
impression it may have miscarried ."[ 57 ]
3. Bushnell Park
Wheeler had advertised, years earlier, in 1849 in the
Hartford City Directory ,[ 58 ] and in The Genessee Farmer in
1852, including among his skills the "arrangement of
grounds ."[ 59 ] The correspondence regarding Professor
Tablock is however the first documented example of his work
in this particular design area. It was followed a year
later by another landscaping effort, this time for the city
of Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1858, Hartford proposed the creation of a public
park, to be named after Horace Bushnell, eloquent teacher
and minister of the North Congregation Church in Hartford
from 1833 to 1859.  A design competition was
established to solicit ideas. Wheeler submitted a plan
which was awarded first prize from among twelve
participants. It may be that his familiarity with Hartford
from years before helped him to formulate a wining entry.
Despite its aesthetic merits, the city committee
considered it too expensive to implement, and recommended
that it be combined with the design of the second place
entrant, Seth Marsh, city engineer. The plan also
integrated elements from a third proposal. As construction
of the new park progressed, the commission considered that
it lacked an overall unity and beauty, and in 1861 hired a
professional landscape architect, Jacob Weidenmann . [ 61 ]
Wheeler's original plan for the park is no longer
extant. A map in the Hartford Park Papers, thought to have
been rendered in 1858, shows what may have been the revised
version by Marsh. It is unfortunately impossible to
evaluate the merits of Wheeler's ideas, however it would
have been interesting to know if his plan, unaltered, might
not have been considered a worthy addition to the city's
4. Chancel Improvements, Church of the Holy Trinity
The following year, in 1859, Wheeler obtained the
commission to enlarge and improve the chancel of the Church
of the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn, New York, designed in
1844-47 by Minard Lafever. The plan involved primarily
interior alterations to the reading desk and the addition
of pews in the front "in accordance with the original
plan". The means by which Wheeler obtained the commission
is unknown, and a search of the church's archives is
required to understand the nature of the changes designed
This work at Holy Trinity was among the last known
commissions of Wheeler's career in America, and marks a
return to his point of departure: he had begun with the
interior decoration of the Chapel at Bowdoin College, and
now ended with interior alterations to the Church of the
5. Miscellaneous Executed Designs
The commissions previously discussed have all been
documented by primary source material other than Wheeler's
writings. In addition to these, there are a number of
residential designs which Wheeler claimed in his writings,
particularly Homes for the People , to have undertaken.
Wheeler cited nine different residences which were
executed, presumably in the years intervening between Rural
Homes and Homes for the People , or from 1851 to 1855. The
commissions were located in areas such as the Housatonic
Hills of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, the outskirts of
Norwich, Connecticut, Orange, New Jersey, along the Long
Island Sound, New York, and overlooking the Hudson River.
Due to their location geographically, and knowing of
his advertisement in The Genessee Farmer at this time,
which might have reached an audience in the Berkshires for
instance, it may be speculated that a number of these
designs were undertaken while Wheeler was practicing in
Norwich. They included a country mansion in the "Venetian
Italian style," below the hills of Berkshire County (fig. 31
and 32), a "Cottage Ornee" on the summit of a peak along
the Housatonic in the Berkshires (fig. 33 and 34), a
"Cottage Villa," one mile from Stockbridge on the Lenox
Road also in Berkshire County (fig. 35 and 36), a gatehouse
(fig. 37 and 38), and a "Suburban Villa," one mile from the
small city of Norwich, Connecticut (fig. 24 and 25).
Unfortunately, because of the ambiguity with which
Wheeler described each location, it has not been possible
to discover any of these residences. The local research
facilities did not have readily accessible material on
Wheeler, and a thorough search and photographic comparison
would be necessary to confirm these commissions.
Other designs, which were probably completed while
Wheeler was in practice in New York City, included a
townhouse in New York, mentioned in The Choice of a
Dwelling (fig. 39), a "Southern Mansion" in a "midland
state" (fig. 40 and 41), a "Rustic Villa" in Orange, New
Jersey (fig. 42 and 43), a "Villa Mansion in the Italian
Style" on Long Island Sound between Rye and Portchester
(fig. 26 and 27), a "Square Cottage," twice erected near
the Hudson River (fig. 44 and 45), and the remodelling of a
country home overlooking the Hudson River (fig. 46 and
47). Again, the difficulties of locating these vague
descriptions has prohibited any confirmation of execution,
but would suggest future research possibilities.
[l]The first in a series of articles for The Home
Journal , March 1 1851, was signed "GW, New York, February,
Letterhead, Wheeler to Upjohn, March 17 1851, Upjohn
Papers, Box 4. For city directory listings, see Dennis
Steadman Francis, Architects in Practice in New York City
1840-1900 (New York: The Committee for the Preservation of
Architectural Records Inc., 1979).
Wheeler to Upjohn, March 17, 1851, Upjohn Papers,
Upjohn to Woods, July 15 1851, Chapel Papers.
Upjohn to Woods, July 15 1851, Chapel Papers.
Woods to Upjohn, July 17 1851, Chapel Papers.
r7l The Genessee Farmer 13 (June 1852), 197.
Wheeler, Homes , 307.
f9! The Horticulturist n.s. 3 (July 1853), 325.
riOl The Horticulturist n.s. 3 (August 1853), 393 and
(November 1853), 537.
[ll]The city directory listing for May 1854 is 111
Broadway, and corresponds to the actual address of the
Jacob Landy, The Architecture of Minard Lafever
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 45.
The house at 1 Elm Place no longer exists. A
search for documentation related to the specific address
yielded no information other than confirmation of the fact
that Wheeler rented, did not own his house.
I" 14l American Architect and Building News 15 (Boston:
Ticknor & Co., 1884), 75-6.
Henry Hudson Holly, Country Seats and Modern
Dwellings (Watkins Glen: Library of Victorian Culture, 1977
reprint of 1863 and 1878), introduction, no page numbers.
Holly, Country Seats , preface, no page number.
Compare design no.l p. 33 in Country Seats with a
stone house remodeled p. 384 and a small villa on the Hudson
p. 85, 88 in Homes ; design no. 26 p. 139 with pigeon tower in
Country Seats with a summer cottage p. 202 in Choice ; design
no. 24 p. 128 and no. 10 p. 66 in Country Seats with a large
country house p. 332 in Country Houses ; design no. 16 p. 96 in
Country Seats with a villa mansion p. 195 in Homes .
Holly, Country Seats , 31.
Holly, Country Seats , introduction.
Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines
2 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 350.
Mott, American Magazines 1: 511.
f22l The Home Journal (1851) March 1, 8, 15, 22, 19,
April 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, July 5, 19.
Citations hereafter will simply refer to the date of the
article in question in parenthesis in the text. The
complete archives of the journal are available at the
American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.
r23l The Home Journal , May 12 1855.
r24l The Genessee Farmer 13 (Jan 1852), 89.
r25l The American Whig Review (New York: Wiley & Putnam,
r26l The Genessee Farmer 13 (January 1852), 16.
f27l The Genessee Farmer 13 August 1852), 260.
r28l Sartain's Magazine (Philadelphia: John Sartain &
Co., 1852), 102.
r29l The Horticulturist 6 (December 1851), 567.
r30l The Literary World 9 (November 1851), 388.
r311 The Literary World 7 (July-December 1850), 91.
f32l North American Miscellany and Dollar- Review
(Philadelphia: A. Palmer & Co., 1851), 164.
f33l The Genessee Farmer 13 (February 1852), 47-50.
r341 The Home Journal , November 8 1851.
 The Horticulturist n.s. 4 (May 1854), 230; Wheeler,
Homes , preface.
[36l The Horticulturist n.s. 3 (August 1853),
frontispiece; Wheeler, Homes , 170; Wheeler, The Choice of a
Dwelling (London: John Murray, 1871), 186.
 The Horticulturist n.s. 5 (1855), frontispiece;
Wheeler, Homes , 228.
 The Horticulturist n.s. 5 (1855), 294.
 Harper's Monthly Magazine (July 1855), 261.
 Knickerbocker New York Monthly Magazine (July
 The Builder (August 4 1855), 379.
The pages of The Horticulturist were researched
from the 1847 volume through the 1858 volume.
 The Horticulturist n.s. 3 (August 1853), 373.
 The Horticulturist n.s. 5 (1855), frontispiece.
Congregational Churches in the United States, A
Book of Plans for Churches and Parsonages (NY: Daniel
Burgess & Co., 1853). For a detailed article on the Book of
Plans, its inception and subsequent influence, see Gwen W.
Steege, "The Book of Plans and the Early Romanesque Revival
in the United States: a Study in Architectural Patronage",
JSAH 46 (September 1987), 215-227.
The plans and elevations from A Book of Plans were
reprinted some ten years later, without text, by George
Woodward, in Rural Church Architecture (New York: G.E.
Woodward, no date, c.1876).
Wheeler, Homes , 50 (A Small Villa) and 348 ( A
Rustic Parsonage) .
 The Bankers Magazine and Statistical Register (New
York, April 1856), 761-768. The citation was brought to my
attention by Arthur Downs, historian.
Wilson, Appleton's 1: 181.
[ 51 ]Ellwanger and Barry Daybook No. 167, January 29
1858; citation from Stewart, "George Ellwanger and Patrick
Barry," 60 (henceforth footnoted as Stewart).
Stewart, "George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry," 64.
Stewart, "George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry," 75.
McElvein, "Williams College Architecture," 176.
McElvein found no documentation in this regard in the
Wheeler to Durfee, July 22 1857, Williamsiana
McElvein, "Williams College Architecture," 195.
Wheeler to Durfee, July 14 1857, Williamsiana
 Well's City Directory for Hartford (1849), 138.
 The Genessee Farmer 13 (June 1852), 197.
Wilson, Appleton' s , 1:474.
John Alexopoulos, The Nineteenth Century Parks of
Hartford (Hartford: Hartford Architecture Conservancy,
1983), 16. This information was brought to the work by
David Ransom, architectural historian, in a letter to the
author, November 25 1987.
Landy, Minard Lafever , 270.
Wheeler had spent at least fourteen years in America
before deciding to return to Britain. After 1860, he no
longer resided in New York City, nor has documentation of
further career activities in America come to light. He is
completely unaccounted for during the years of the Civil
War. By 1865, he had returned to England and established
residence in the area of Margate, Kent, his family home.
Wheeler resumed his practice, billing himself
architect, surveyor and civil engineer, with offices at 16
Hawley Square, Margate, until 1869. The following excerpt
from an entry in the 1868 Architects, Engineers and
Building-Trades Directory , published in London, summarized
the range of his practice: "His works comprise railway
buildings, banks, churches, mansions, and private
residences in the United States and England; has also been
engaged in laying out lands, and in sanitary appliances."
The documented catalog of his design work in America
includes all of the above except railway stations. No
Wheeler designs have to date been located in England.
Unbidden when American architects formed the A. I. A.,
Wheeler found support for his candidacy in the Royal
Institute of British Architects. At this time in the
nineteenth century, membership in the R.I.B.A. was limited
to a small fraction of those in the profession, namely the
"gentleman architect ."[ 1 ] Wheeler met the qualifications,
for on February 11 1867, recommended by George Godwin,
editor of The Builder , William Slater, a fellow pupil of
Richard Cromwell Carpenter, and H.A. Darbyshire, he became
a member, at the full rank of Fellow.  He also at this
time moved to Kilburn in London, where he would reside
until, in 1873, being dropped from the rolls of the
R.I.B.A. for non-payment of dues.
According to Dr. Jill Allibone, architectural
historian in London, there is scant information regarding
Wheeler's career in England. He did, in February 1868,
read two papers before an Ordinary General Meeting of the
R.I.B.A.; both concerned the "Peculiarities of Domestic
Architecture in America. " A summary of part of his
address, namely the description of a "New York Up-Town
House" was subsequently published in The Builder . [ k ]
By 1871, Wheeler had once again published a book on
domestic architecture. Entitled The Choice of a Dwelling ,
the volume was far better received by the editors of The
Builder than Homes for the People had been sixteen years
earlier. The review considered that Wheeler had neatly
compounded his knowledge of British domestic architecture
with the experience of his practice in America to produce
an informative manual for general public and architect
alike. "As we close the book, and turn from its alternate
references to New and Old England, we feel it is a
Until other commissions are discovered, The Choice of
a Dwelling ranks as Wheeler's final work in the field of
architecture. By 1874, he had moved out of London and
established himself in Hove, Sussex County. With what must
have been "a touch of nostalgia", he named his home in 1881
"Brooklyn." The last directory listing for Gervase Wheeler
was 1889, and in April 1890, probate of his will was
granted to Catherine Brewer Wheeler, widow of the architect
of the Boody House, Rockwood, and the Barry House. [6.]
Gervase Wheeler may have come to America, in late 1846
or early 1847, with the aspiration of introducing and
practicing newly formulated precepts of Ecclesiological
architecture. In the face of both peer and client
resistance, however, he did not pursue this path, falling
back instead, for the most part, on his skills in domestic
Unlike the majority of his American contemporaries,
British-trained Wheeler was well versed in the philosophies
of the picturesque and Ruskinian "truth and fitness." It
was this background which enabled him to take part in the
development and interpretation of American domestic
architecture, especially as it inclined toward a
picturesque point of view. His design for the Olmstead
House is to this day considered a primary example of
romantic eclecticism in a timber Gothic mode.
Wheeler tended to design actual commissions for a
socially upscale clientele, and, based on the evidence of
documented work, such as the Boody and Sarry Houses,
Brookwood, the I.N. A. and the Stone Chapel, he typically
designed the projects, but did not supervise their
Regardless of the several important executed
commissions, it was the popular appeal and acceptance of
Wheeler's published works which set the tone of his
contribution to the domestic architecture of the
mid-nineteenth century. Through his works, many of the
ideals of the picturesque, such as the relation of house to
site and landscape, and Ruskin's fitness, reached a broad
public audience. His work appealed at once to the country
gentleman looking for a residence expressive of the new
philosophies of the age, and the middle class person
seeking a comfortable cottage residence.
[l]Spiro Kostof, The Architect: Chapters in the History
of a Profession (New York: Oxford University, 1977), 194,
R.I.B.A. Nomination Papers, 1867:36. Courtesy of the
British Architectural Library of the R.I.B.A.
Sessional Papers of the Royal Institute of British
Architects (London: R.I.B.A., 1868), 117-128 and 168-187.
Kl The Builder (April 11 1868), 262-3.
r5T The Builder (December 23 1871), 998.
[ 6 ] Information regarding Wheeler's directory listings
in England as well as the probated will was provided by Dr.
Jill Allibone, correspondence with the author, November 14
1987 and January 29 1988. "A touch of nostalgia" is Dr.
I. Unpublished Sources
Allibone, Dr. Jill. Letter to John Ward, September 21 1982:
correspondence with author, November 14 1987, January 28
and March 17 1988.
Chapel Papers. Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.
Congress Hall and Independence Square Files. Independence
National Historic Park Archives, Philadelphia,
Fisher, Sidney George. Diaries 1834 to 1871. Historical
Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
France, Jean R. Letter to John Ward, November 29 1982.
Guter, Robert P. The Willows at Fosterf ields . Historic
Structure Report, Morristown, 1983.
Insurance Company of North America. Directors' Minutes,
January 1845 to January 1860. CIGNA Corporate Archives,
Kirby, John B. Letter to John Ward, October 8 1982;
correspondence with author, November 16 1987.
McElvein, Bruce B. "Williams College Architecture,
1790-1860." Bachelor's Honors These, Williams College,
Ransom, David. Letter to author, November 25 1987.
Shettleworth, Earle. Letter to John Ward, September 15
1982; correspondence with author November 16 1987, January
Stewart, Natalie B.E. "George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry,
Romantic Builders." Masters Thesis, University of
Upjohn Papers. New York Public Library, New York, New York
Ward, John. "Gervase Wheeler., a Progressive Architect in
Brunswick, Maine, 1847-1848." Paper presented at Fifth
Annual Student Symposium, Society of Architectural
Historians, Boston, Massachusetts, September 1982.
Williamsiana Collection. Williams College, Williarastown ,
II. Primary Sources
American Agriculturist . New York: Orange Judd Co., 1883.
American Architect & Building News . Boston: Ticknor & Co.,
American Whig Review . New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1851.
Architects, Engineers and Building Trades Directory .
London: Wyman, 1868.
Art Journal . London: George Virtue, 1855.
Barry, Patrick. Treatise on the Fruit Garden . Rochester: by
the author, 1851.
Bell, Luther V., M.D. The Practical Methods of Ventilating
Buildings . Boston: Dickinson Printing Establishment, 1848.
Bremer, Frederika. The Homes of the New World . London:
Arthur Hall Virtue & Co., 1853.
Brown, William. The Carpenter's Assistant . Boston: Edward
The Builder . London: 1855, 1868, 1871.
Bulletin of the American Art Union . New York: American Art
Congregational Churches in the United States. A Book of
Plans for Churches and Parsonages . New York: Daniel Burgess
& Co. , 1853.
[Cooper, Susan August Fennimore.] Rural Hours . By a Lady.
New York: George Putnam, 1850.
Downing, Andrew Jackson. A Treatise on the Theory and
Practice of Landscape Gardening . Sixth edition, edited by
H.W. Sargent. New York: A.O. Moore & Co., 1859.
. The Architecture of Country Houses . New York: D.
Appleton & Co. , 1850.
The Genessee Farmer . Rochester: Daniel Lee, 1852.
Godey's Lady's Book . Philadelphia: Godey Co., 1852, 1855.
Gwilt, Joseph. An Encyclopaedia of Architecture . London:
Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1842 .
Harper's Monthly Magazine . New York: Harper & Brothers,
Holly, Henry Hudson. Country Seats and Modern Dwellings .
1863 and 1878. Reprint with introduction by Michael Tomlan.
Watkins Glen: Library of Victorian Culture, 1977.
The Home Journal . New York: Morris & Willis, 1851, 1855.
The Horticulturist & Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste .
Albany: Luther Tucker, 1849; Rochester: James Vick Jr.,
1851, 1853, 1854, 1855.
Insurance Map of the City of Philadelphia . Vol. 33. 22nd
Ward. Philadelphia: Ernest Hexamer & Son, 1898.
of the Common council,
, October 12
1849 to September
, Philadelphia: King &
of the Select Council,
, October 12
1849 to September
26 1850 . Philadelphia: Cressy & Markley, 1850
Knickerbocker, New York Monthly Magazine . New York: Samuel
Hueston, 1855, 1860.
Kuchel, C. The Columbian Drawing Book . Hartford: Belknap &
The Literary World . New York: Osgood & Co., 1849, 1850,
North American Miscellany & Dollar Magazine . Philadelphia:
A. Palmer & Co. , 1851 .
Sartain's Magazine . Philadelphia: John Sartain & Co., 1852.
Sessional Papers of the Royal Institute of British
Architects . London: R.I.B.A., 1868.
Tri-Weekly Republican . St. Louis: 1854.
Turner, A. A. Villas on the Hudson . 1860. Reprint. New York:
DaCapo Press, 1977.
Wells' City Directory for Hartford . Hartford: J. Gaylord
Wheeler, Gervase. "Design for a Villa in the Tuaor Style."
The Horticulturist . Volume 3. Albany: Luther Tucker, 1849.
. "Design and Description of an English Cottage."
The Horticulturist. Volume 4. Albany: Luther Tucker, 1849.
. Rural Homes , New York: Charles Scribner, 1851.
. "On Perfecting a Homes." March-July. The Home
Journal . New York: Morris & Willis, 1851.
. "Design for an Italian Villa." The Horticulturist
N.s. volume 3. Rochester: James Vick Jr., 1853.
. Homes for the People . New York: Charles Scribner,
. "The Architecture of Country Banks." The Bankers'
Magazine and Statistical Register . Volume 5. New York: The
Bankers Publishing Company, 1856.
. "Peculiarities of Domestic Architecture in
America." Sessional Papers of the Royal Institute of
British Architects, 1867-1868.
. "A New York Up-Town House." The Builder . Volume
26. London: 1868.
. The Choice of a Dwelling . London: John Murray,
Woodward, George Evertson. Rural Church Architecture . New
York: G.E. Woodward, n.d. (c.1876).
Zukowsky, John. Hudson River Houses: Edwin Whitefield's
"The Hudson River and Railroad Illustrated ." c.1850.
Facsimile reprint. Croton on Hudson: North River Press
Alexopoulos, John. The Nineteenth Century Parks of Hartford
Hartford: Hartford Architectural Conservancy, 1983.
Architectural Period Houses Inc . Princeton MA: 1978.
Collins, Peter. Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture
1750-1950 . Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 1965.
Francis, Dennis Steadman. Architects in Practice in New
York City 1840-1900 . New York: The Committee for the
Preservation of Architectural Records Inc., 1979.
Greiff, Constance M. John Notman, Architect, 1810-1865 .
Philadelphia: Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 1979.
Helmreich, Ernst Christian. Religion at Bowdoin College: A
History . Brunswick: Bowdoin College, 1981.
Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Architecture, Nineteenth and
Twentieth Centuries . Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971.
. Early Victorian Architecture in Britain . New
York: DaCapo Press, 1972
American Architectural Books. New York: DaCapo
Hussey, Christopher. The Picturesque; Studies in a Point of
View . London: Frank Cass & Co., Ltd., 1967 edition.
Kaye, Barrington. The Development of the Architectural
Profession in Britain . London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.,
Kostof, Spiro, ed. The Architect: Chapters in the History
of a Profession . New York: Oxford University, 1977.
Lamb, Martha J. The Homes of America . New York: D. Appleton
& Co. , 1879.
Landy, Jacob. The Architecture of Minard Lafever . New York:
Columbia University Press, 1970.
MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects . New York: The Free
McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American
Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.
Montgomery, Thomas H. A History of the Insurance Company of
North America . Philadelphia: Press of Review Publishing &
Printing Co. , 1885.
Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines .
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938.
Myers, Denys Peter. Maine Catalog: Historic American
Building Survey . Portland: Maine State Museum, 1974.
National Academy of Design Exhibition Record 1826-1860
York: New York Historical Society, 1943.
New England Magazine & Bay State Monthly .
Pevsner, Nicholaus. Some Architectural Writers of the
Nineteenth Century . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.
Rutledge, Anna Well. Cumulative Record of Exhibition
Catalogues; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1807-1870 . Philadelphia: The American Philosophical
Saylor, Henry H. The A.T.A.'s First Hundred Years .
Washington: The Octagon, 1957.
Scully, Vincent J. The Shingle Style and The Stick Style .
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955.
Stanton, Phoebe. Pugin . London: Thames & Hudson, 1971.
Steege, Gwen. "The Book of Plans and the Early Romanesque
Revival in the United States: A Study in Architectural
Patronage." Journal of the Society of Architectural
Historians 46, 1987.
Upjohn, Everard M. Richard Upjohn, Architect and Churchman
New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.
Wilson, James Grant, and Fiske, John, ed. Appleton ' s
Cyclopaedia of American Biography . New York: D. Appleton &
Wintle, Justin, ed. Makers of Nineteenth Century Culture,
1800-1914. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.
Zukowsky, John and Stimson, Robbe Pierce. Hudson River
Villas . New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc.,
Appendix A. Illustrations
1. Richard Upjohn: Banister Hall, College Chapel, Bowdoin
College, Brunswick, Maine, 1844-55. Interior polychroray
decoration in library by Gervase Wheeler, 1847-48.
Ernst Helmreich, Religion at Bowdoin College , following
2. Gervase Wheeler: Henry Boody House, Maine Street,
Brunswick, Maine, designed 1848, constructed 1849.
Photograph. Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide
to American Houses, p. 204.
3. Boody House. Elevation. The Horticulturist 4 (August
1849), frontispiece; Downing, Country Houses , 300.
4. Boody House. First floor plan. The Horticulturist 4
(August 1849), frontispiece.
5. Anonymous: John G. Richardson House, Washington Street,
Bath, Maine, constructed 1850. Possible adaptation of
Boody House. 1858 engraving. Courtesy of Earle
6. Sir Charles Barry: Travellers' Club and Reform Club,
1830-32 and 1838-40. Referred to by Wheeler in New
Haven hotel project. Henry-Russell Hitchcock,
Architecture Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries , p. 115.
7. Wheeler: Villa in the Tudor Style, project 1849.
Elevation. The Horticulturist 3 (June 1849),
8. Villa in the Tudor Style. First floor plan. The
Horticulturist 3 (June 1849), frontispiece.
9. Wheeler: Henry Olmstead House, East Hartford,
Connecticut, designed and constructed 1849. Elevation.
Rural Homes , p. 72.
10. Olmstead House. First floor plan. Rural Homes , p. 72.
11. Wheeler: The Willows, Morristown, New Jersey,
constructed 1854. Design adapted from Olmstead House by
Ashbel Bruen, master carpenter. Photograph. Morris
County Park Commission.
12. The Willows. Entry Hall. Morris County Park Commission.
13. Anonymous: Hartwell Carver House, Pittsford, New York,
constructed 1853. Possible adaptation of Olmstead
House. Photograph. Courtesy of Jean R. France.
14. Wheeler: Rockwood, Albany Post Road, North Tarrytown,
New York, designed and constructed 1849.
Photolithograph . John Zukowsky, Hudson River Villas ,
15. Rockwood. Photolithograph. A. A. Turner, Villas on the
16. Rockwood. First floor plan. A. A. Turner, Villas on the
17. Rockwood. Sketch of Pocahoe with profile of Rockwood on
hill beyond. John Zukowsky, Hudson River Houses: Edwin
Whitefield's "The Hudson River and Railroad
Illustrated ," p. 50.
18. Wheeler: Large Country House, project 1850. Elevation.
Possible design for Brookwood, constructed 1850-1851.
A.J. Downing, Country Houses , p. 333.
19. Large Country House. First floor plan. A.J. Downing,
Country Houses , p. 332.
20. Survey of Brookwood, 1898. Redrawn from Hexamer ' s
Insurance Map of the City of Philadelphia , 22nd ward.
21. Wheeler: Insurance Company of North America, Walnut
Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed and
constructed 1850. Sketch by J. Pennell, 1879. Thomas
Montgomery, A History of the Insurance Company of North
America , p. 90.
22. Wheeler: Townhouse, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
designed and constructed c.1850 according to architect.
Floor plans. Choice , p. 132.
23. Wheeler: Small Cottage, no location, designed and two
models constructed c.1850 according to architect.
Elevation and plan. Rural , p. 161.
24. Wheeler: Suburban Villa, outside Norwich, Connecticut,
designed and constructed c. 1851-52 according to
architect. Elevation. The Horticulturist (August 1853),
frontispiece; Homes , p. 170; Choice , p. 167.
25. Suburban Villa. Ground floor plan. Homes , p. 157.
26. Wheeler: Villa Mansion in the Italian Style, between
Rye and Portchester, New York, on the Long Island
Sound, designed and constructed c. 1851-1854 according
to architect. Elevation. The Horticulturist (May 1855),
frontispiece; Homes , frontispiece.
27. Villa Mansion in the Italian Style. First floor plan.
Homes , p . 197 .
28. Wheeler: Patrick Barry House, Mount Hope Avenue,
Rochester, New York, designed 1857 and constructed
1857-59. Photograph. Courtesy Jean R. France.
29. Barry House. First floor plan of house c.l970's.
Courtesy Jean R. France.
30. Wheeler: Stone Chapel (later Goodrich Hall), Williams
College, Williarastown , Massachusetts, designed 1857,
constructed 1858-59. Elevation. New England Magazine
and Bay State Monthly 4 (June 1886), p. 500.
31. Wheeler: Country Mansion in the Venetian Italian Style,
below the hills of Berkshire County, Massachusetts,
designed and constructed c. 1851-54 according to
architect. Elevation. Homes , p. 229.
32. Country Mansion in the Venetian Italian Style. Ground
floor plan. Homes , p. 225.
33. Wheeler: Cottage Ornee, summit of peak along the
Housatonic River, Berkshire County, Massachusetts,
designed and constructed c. 1851-54 according to
architect. Elevation. Homes , p. 289.
34. Cottage Ornee. First floor plan. Homes , p. 285.
35. Wheeler: Cottage Villa, Lenox Road, one mile from
Stockbridge, Massachusetts, designed and constructed
c. 1851-54 according to architect. Elevation. Homes ,
36. Cottage Villa. First floor plan. Homes , p. 177.
37. Wheeler: Gatehouse, no location, designed and
constructed c. 1851-54 according to architect.
Elevation. Homes , p. 297.
38. Gatehouse. Plan. Homes , p. 295.
39. Wheeler: Townhouse, New York, designed and constructed
c. 1851-60 according to architect. Principal floor
plan. Choice , p. 140.
40. ./heeler: Southern Mansion, in "midland state," designed
and constructed c. 1851-54 according to architect.
Elevation. Homes , p. 259.
41. Southern Mansion. First floor plan. Homes , p. 250.
42. Wheeler: Rustic Villa, Orange, New Jersey, designed and
constructed c. 1851-54 according to architect.
Elevation. Homes , p. 98.
43. Rustic Villa. Principal floor plan. Homes , p. 105.
44. Wheeler: Square Cottage, twice erected near Hudson, New
York, c. 1851-54 according to architect. Elevation.
Homes , p . 324.
45. Square Cottage. Floor plan. Homes , p. 326.
46. Wheeler: Country Home remodelled, overlooking the
Hudson River, designed and constructed c. 1853-54
according to architect. Elevation. Homes , p. 246.
47. Country Home remodelled. First floor plan. Homes ,
1. Richard Upjohn: Banister Hall, College Chapel,
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1844-55.
Interior polychromy decoration in library
by Gervase Wheeler, 1847-48.
2. Gervase Wheeler: Henry Boody House, Maine Street
Brunswick, Maine, designed 1348, constructed 1849.
4. First floor plan
la f!f 1b!
5. Anonymous: John G. Richardson House, Washington
Street, Bath, Maine, constructed 1850.
Possible adaptation of Boody House. 1858 engraving.
, Sir Charles Barry: Travellers' Club and Reform Club,
1830-32 and 1838-40.
Referred to by Wheeler in New Haven hotel project.
'ILL.* !N ["HE IUI'uR sTYLE.
Wheeler: Villa in the Tudor Style, project 1849
8. First floor plan.
HALL votibuic um»cr_'%
[Hon ■ Juiif IS4« I
Wheeler : Henry
Olmstead House, East
9 . Elevation .
10. First floor plan.
some constructive purpose of design.
Wheeler: The Willows, Morristown, New Jersey,
constructed 1854. Design adapted from Olrastead House
by Ashbel Bruen, master carpenter.
11. Main facade .
12. Entry Hall.
■ ill |( -
i J .> ' "
■ ; i 1 ] 1 1 1 1 UHJll
13. Anonymous: Hartwell Carver House, Pittsford,
New York, constructed 1853.
Possible adaptation of Olmstead House.
Wheeler: Rockwood, Albany Post Road, North Tarrytown,
New York, designed and constructed 1849.
14. Photolithograph .
16. Rockwood. First floor plan.
17. Sketch of Pocahoe with profile of Rockwood
on hill beyond.
Wheeler: Large Country House, project 1850.
Possible design for Brookwood, constructed 1850-1851
19. First floor plan.
20. Survey of Brookwood , 1898.
21. Wheeler: Insurance Company of North America,
Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
designed and constructed 1850.
Sketch by J. Pennell, 1879.
22. Wheeler: Townhouse, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
designed and constructed c.1850 according to architect
Floor plans .
ftnlter umtMOtm omfcrf -W»
Small Cottao*— Elivatios abb Plajl
23. Wheeler: Small Cottage, no location,
designed and two models constructed c.1850
according to architect. Elevation and plan,
.,ii I.— ' -WiH**w-*> —
constructed c. 1851-52
24 . Elevation .
25. Ground floor plan
one u4m io u> a cooterrmlurr, No. «5, the wmJuwi m Uio
•oath end opening npon a Teranda.
Pu urn.— plah or FsciciPAL noon.
The bay wind jw in the drawing-room looks upon a most
lorely lawn bounded by trees and shrubs, at the end of
i • ^*
Wheeler: Villa Mansion
in the Italian Style,
between Rye and
Portchester, New York,
on the Long Island
Sound, designed and
c. 1851-1854 according
to architect .
26 . Elevation .
27. First floor plan.
F\- XXXTtL— TBI nLLA-MAN3ION— PLAN OF PRKCIFAL FLOOR.
•T - reader will please remark that the scale to which
».'! ■ - rUre« in this chapter are drawn, is smaller than
• »■ V <• i has been emnloj^i hefore. in onler to accom-
- . i.v t*M rniAr^i «ire of the building* within the
» i iho i^z°. Their «rale is one-thirtieth of an
> '■> tfw» f «*. that is an inch rffr^ntt thirtr feet.
7 ■• : rcTj.-wH •irawiaj* hare !xvn to a wale <>i" ..no innK
Wheeler: Patrick Barry House, Mount Hope Avenue
Rochester, New York, designed 1857
and constructed 1857-59.
28. Front facade.
29. First floor plan of house c.1970's.
JIJr-i- [ i
J I MrV —
30. Wheeler: Stone Chapel (later Goodrich Hall),
Williams College, Williamstown , Massachusetts,
designed 1857, constructed 1858-59. 1881 engraving
8 ». --■■-•■■
Mansion in the
Style, below the hills
of Berkshire County,
constructed c. 1851-54
3 1 . Elevation .
32. Ground floor plan.
*. in 4 m *»tf <,..->, ,!„», ru*i%
, * 4
ei&M&&£s Yittttf-r -rtrHfJf- ~*fc..
. ~*,-~ .-- -
Ornee, summit of peak
along the Housatonic
constructed c. 1851-54
34. First floor plan.
Pk. I MWW —H iu h i iu n/w«
W ♦'»» •*» '• <-V» law Ml, 5«. t, mm) .n t i>.»
Villa, Lenox Road, one
mile from S tockbr idge ,
constructed c. 1851-54
35 . Elevation .
36. First floor plan
HOMES FOB THK PEOPLE.
is arranged to have a very easy rise and is of amplo
it. vxit.— rus or mxciru. nona.
T ( lin-Tin^room is a larsje and cheerful apartment
•!i i ' s»y window in ir* fn-nt an-1 a Frrnrh w:m. ! ..»
Wheeler: Gatehouse, no location,
designed and constructed c. 1851-54
according to architect.
37 . Elevation .
masonry roughly laid, and the wood-work of porch,
<fcc, of a simple and rustic character.
Pi- UV.— GATE-LODGE PLAN,
The plan of tho fi;
J-J I 2 T 1 f f
39. Wheeler: Townhouse, New York,
designed and constructed c. 1851-60
according to architect. Principal floor plan
■S^gS^iik .v»«ij«MMtt g f i i -i . ' im v > --~^ -■■v-nrfi ii n i
Wheeler: Southern Mansion, in "midland state
designed and constructed c. 1851-54
according to architect.
40 . Elevation .
41. First floor plan.
— w, " ,: -' '■-■■'-**■
Wheeler: Rustic Villa,
Orange, New Jersey,
constructed c. 1851-54
43. Principal floor
IV UlIL-WJCIM COTTAGC-DXTATIOir.
Cottage, twice erected
near Hudson, New York,
c. 1851-54 according to
44 . Elevation .
45 . Floor plan .
. . ... . ,- -. . ,^ ■ . i..-.^- .**, ~ -.. ..-«v J
• i \ r •• i (I •
•it*A-»...»- ^--^^.^>..'-<^-«i-«^> u -^^C u '.4.-^ic£i^ ^^^AJBiial
Wheeler: Country Home
overlooking the Hudson
River, designed and
constructed c. 1853-54
46 . Elevation .
47. First floor plan.
a-<!», f i>>c ;?*« C* »«*» »ull
♦ « • •
Appendix B. Wheeler's Business & Residential Addresses
The following list traces Wheeler's known business (b) and
home (h) addresses in America and upon his return to
England. The citations derive from city directories, ads
and, where a month is noted, letterheads.
1846 (no listings)
1847, Apr 29 Greenwich Street, New York, NY (b/h not
1847-1848 7 Federal Street, Brunswick, ME (h)
1848 New Haven (no listings)
1849 Janes' Building, 216-1/2 Main Street, Hartford,
CT (b); American House, Hartford, CT (h)
1850, Dec 70 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (b/h not
1851, Feb University, Washington Square, New York, NY
(b); 304 West 14 Street, New York, NY (not
specified; may be address of University)
1852, Jun Norwichtown, CT (no details)
1853 Europe, specifically London
1853-1854 55 Trinity Building, 111 Broadway, New York, NY
(b); 1 Elm Place, Brooklyn, NY (h) through 1860
1855 16 Nassau Building, 7 Beekman, New York, NY (b)
1856-1857 430 Broome Street, New York, NY (b)
1858-1859 18 William Street, New York, NY (b)
1860 Post Office Building, Brooklyn, NY (b)
1861-1864 (no listings)
1865-1869 16 Hawley Square, Margate, Kent, GB (b); 32
Cambridge Road, Kilburn NW , GB (h) through 1872
1870 RIBA Offices, 9 Conduit Street, London, GB (b);
last known business listing
1873 (no listings)
1874-1880 40 Albany Villas, Hove, Sussex, GB (h)
'Brooklyn', 54 Wilbury Road, Hove, Sussex, GB
1882-1885 41 Tisbury Road, Hove, Sussex, GB (h)
1886-1889 62 Cromwell Road, Hove, Sussex, GB (h)
Appendix C. Advertisements & Notices
The following is a list of citations of publicity for
Gervase Wheeler. Each entry includes the date, the source,
the city of publication, and the nature of the ad. See
Bibliography for publisher information.
1849, May Wells' City Directory for Hartford (Hartford),
138. Ad placed by Wheeler.
1851, Nov The Literary World (New York), 399. Notice for
Rural Homes in Charles Scribner advertisement.
1852, Jan The Genessee Farmer (Rochester), 89. Notice
for Rural Homes with excerpts from four
1852, Jun The Genessee Farmer (Rochester), 197. Ad
placed by Wheeler.
1853, Jul The Horticulturist (Rochester), 325. Notice
for Wheeler's practice.
1853, Aug The Horticulturist (Rochester), 393. Ad placed
1853, Nov The Horticulturist (Rochester), 537. Ad placed
1854, May The Horticulturist (Rochester), 230. Notice
for new edition of Homes for the People to
replace original manuscript burnt in office
1854, May Tri-Weekly Republican (St. Louis), no page
number. Notice for Rural Homes in Edwards &
Bushell, booksellers, advertisement.
1871, Dec The Literary World (London), 382. Notice for
The Choice of a Dwelling .
1883, American Agriculturist (New York), 101. Notice
for Rural Homes and Homes for the People in
Orange Judd Co. advertisement.
Appendix D. Reviews
The following is a chronological list of all reviews
regarding Gervase Wheeler's work, located to date. Each
entry includes the source, the city of publication, the
date, the work reviewed, and an assessment of the review as
positive, negative or, in some cases, neutral. See
Bibliography for publisher information.
The Literary World (New York), 337. The
Columbian Drawing Book ; positive.
The Horticulturist (Albany), 573. The Columbian
Drawing Book ; positive.
The Horticulturist (Albany), 144. "An English
Cottage printed in August issue; negative.
North American Miscellany (Philadelphia), 164.
ir A" Suburban Villa" reprinted from The Home
Journal ; positive.
BulLetin of the American Art Union (New York),
62. Interior polychromy at the Bowdoin College
The Literary World (New York), 388. Rural
Homes ; positive.
The Home Journal (New York), 4. Rural Homes ;
The American Whig Review (New York), 544. Rural
Homes ; positive.
The Horticulturist (Rochester), 567. Rural
Homes ; negative.
Harper's Monthly Magazine (New York), 137.
Rural Homes ; positive.
The Genessee Farmer (Rochester), 16. Rural
Homes ; positive.
Godey's Ladies Book (Philadelphia), 91. Rural
Jomes ; positive.
Sartain's Magazine (Philadelphia), 102. Rural
Homes ; positive.
The Horticulturist (Rochester), 10. General
review of architecture books, including Rural
Homes ; neutral.
1855, May The Home Journal (New York), 1. Homes for the
People ; positive.
1855, Jun The Horticulturist (Rochester), 294. Homes for
the People ; positive.
1855, Jul Godey's Ladies Book (Philadelphia), 85. Homes
for the People ; positive.
1855, Jul Harper's Monthly Magazine (New York), 261.
Homes for the People ; positive.
1855, Jul Knickerbocker, New York Monthly Magazine (New
York) , 79 . Homes for the People ; positive .
1855, Aug The Builder (London), 371. Homes for the
People ; negative.
1871, Dec The Builder (London), 997. The Choice of a
Dwelling ; positive.
1872, Apr Quarterly Review (London), 295. General review
of architecture books including The Choice of a
Dwelling ; neutral.
Appendix E. Editions of Wheeler's Published Work
The following list, taken from Henry Russell Hitchcock's
American Architectural Books , outlines the numerous
editions o"f Gervase Wheeler's two books printed in America
and their respective publication locations.
1851 New York: Charles Scribner
1852 New York: Charles Scribner
1853 Auburn: Alden Beardsley & Co
Rochester: Wanzer Beardsley
1854 New Orleans: Burnett &
Detroit: Kerr & Doughty
1855 Auburn: Alden & Beardsley
Rochester: Alden & Beardsley
1868 New York: Charles Scribner
New York: G.E. Woodward
18?? New York: G.E. Woodward
Homes for the People
Note: The Alden & Beardsley
companies, Burnett & Bostwick, and
Kerr & Doughty were probably
New York: Charles Scribner
New York: Charles Scribner
New York: Charles Scribner
New York: Charles Scribner
New York: G.E. Woodward (6th
New York: American News
(revised edition of 1867
Note: American News generally
handled distribution to railroad
stations and mid-west cities.
Appendix F. Institutions and Repositories
The following list suggests research facilities for further
leads on Gervase Wheeler's career in America.
American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street,
Worcester, MA 01609; for the full run of The Home Journal .
Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA
01201; for documentation on Wheeler designs erected in the
Church of the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn, NY; for documentation
of Wheeler's alterations to the chancel.
Columbia University, New York, NY; for Scribner archives.
Connecticut Historical Society, 1 Elizabeth Street,
Hartford, CT 06105; for Omstead Papers and information on
Hartford Architecture Conservancy, 51 Wethersfield Avenu,
Hartford, CT 06114; for information on Wheeler's practice
in Hartford and Bushnell Park.
Historical Society of the Tarrytowns, NY; for documentation
on designs erected along the Hudson River, especially
National Archives, New York, NY; for passenger lists
(Wheeler is not among those already indexed).
New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue, New York, NY; for
Upjohn Papers and William Hoppin Diaries.
Stockbridge Library, Stockbridge, MA 01262; for
documentation on Wheeler designs erected in the Berkshires.
Anne & Jerome Fisher
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