It’s not an especially round number, but this year will be the 180th anniversary of H. H. Richardson’s birth. When September 29th rolls around, will you join me for a beer?
There were actually two Romanesque Revivals during the 19th century: there was the Rundbogenstil, which (as you might gather from the name) was Germanic and included elements of both the Renaissance and the Byzantine. Then there was a late flowering of Romanesqueness courtesy of the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and the style that bears his name—if not his personal imprint. The irony of the Richardsonian Romanesque is that it had less and less to do with the direction of Richardson’s own developing style. Which is to say that, ultimately, the Richardsonian Romanesque wasn’t particularly Richardsonian. If he’d lived beyond his forty-eight years, who knows how discrepant they might have become.
Paul Clifford Larson has explored what HHR’s work had come to mean in the Midwest: his influence can be felt from the Superior shore of the U.P. to the courthouse squares of Iowa and Kansas. Locally, it appears in Fargo at “Old Main” on the NDSU campus. But would HHR have approved or even recognized himself in it? I wonder.
One of Richardson’s more exotic disciples was William Halsey Wood, who I chose as the architect for Agincourt’s Fennimore County courthouse of 1888-1889. Once again, my planning is better than the three-dimensionality and detailing of it. But I will admit more than subliminal influence from the Cerro Gordo courthouse at Mason City. Ultimately, I hope my design shows more of Wood than Richardson, but a defense of that claim will have to wait.
Come to think of it, don’t wait until September 29th to suggest that beer.