22 December, 2015

Villa Turicum's Architect

Charles Adams Platt (1861-1933) was a man with many titles: artist, landscaper, and architect. He was born in New York Cit, and in his young years he briefly attended the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. In 1882 he went to Europe to etch and paint. He remained there for five years.

Charles Adams Platt

When he returned to New York in 1887, he became a member of the Society of American Artists and continued etching and painting. In 1890, he designed his first garden for the painter Henry Oliver Walker. In 1892, he traveled to Italy with his brother, William Barnes Platt, who had studied with Frederick Law Olmsted. Charles Platt wrote articles on the Italian garden for Harper's Magazine which were published in book form in 1894 under the title Italian Gardens - a book that I have no doubt that Edith read. 

He received his first architectural commission in 1893 for a house for Annie Lazarus, the sister of the poet Emma Lazarus. Commissions for gardens in the Italian manner came his way first, then some for houses. His career flourished mostly with residential work, but he also handled commissions for apartment house, schools, and plans for buildings at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois.

Residence of Annie Lazurus, High Court, in Cornish, NH (1893)

1907 was the pivotal year when Platt was given the commission by Harold and Edith McCormick to design and build Villa Turicum, a project that would continue in segments for the next ten years. 

He also designed a museum, the Freer Gallery (1913-1918) in Washington D.C.  Other prominent clients besides the McCormicks were Vincent Astor of New York, Arthur Meeker of Chicago, Eugene Meyer, Jr., of Washington, Charles F. Freer of Detroit, and Mrs. James Roosevelt of New York. 

Charles Adams Platt remained loyal to the classical tradition throughout his entire career. His earliest residences, like his gardens, leaned to the Italian style, as did several of his office and apartment buildings and the Freer Gallery. Villa Turicum was certainly the pinnacle of this oeuvre. In later years, he turned more and more to the Georgian style, which became very popular after WWI. 

Restrained by comparison with other classical work of the time, Platt's building reveal a sureness and a master of style with placed him in the forefront of the American Renaissance. 

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