Gordon, James Riely, 1863-1937

Alternative names
Birth 1863-08-02
Death 1937-03-16

Biographical notes:

James Riely Gordon was born in Winchester, Virginia in 1863. At age 11 he moved with his family to San Antonio in 1874. He worked for the Civil Engineering Corps of the International and Great Northern Railway before apprenticing in the architectural office of W.K. Dobson of San Antonio. He gained invaluable experience in the design of public buildings while supervising construction of the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in San Antonio (1888-1889). By the mid-1880s he had opened his own office. For a brief period, he established a partnership with D.E. Laub (Gordon and Laub Architects) in San Antonio from 1890 to 1891. By the late 1890s Gordon established the J. Riely Gordon Company in Dallas and shortly thereafter moved to New York City where he entered into a brief practice with Alfred Zucker in 1902. He was later associated briefly with Evarts Tracy and Egerton Swartwout in the firm of Gordon Tracy and Swartwout Architects (c1905). He continued to successfully design county courthouses across the eastern seaboard.

Gordon excelled at the design of public buildings and constructed 16 county courthouses in Texas alone. His most popular structures utilized the Richardsonian Romanesque style which accommodated a natural ventilation system so essential in the hot, Texas climate. Among his designs for courthouses in Texas include Bexar County (1891-1896); Victoria County (1892); Ellis County (1895); and McLennan County (1901). In addition, he designed numerous residences and commercial buildings and was selected as the architect for the Texas Pavilion at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Perhaps influenced by his experiences at the fair in Chicago, he switched to the use of a Renaissance Revival style at the turn of the century. He was also responsible for the design of the territorial capitol for Arizona (c.1900) and the Mississippi State Capitol (1896 - not built).

Gordon continued to design public edifices in the Renaissance Revival style after his move to New York. Included among his built designs are the Garrett County Courthouse in Oakland, Maryland (c. 1907); the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, New Jersey (1908-1911); the Cambria County Courthouse in Cambria, Pennsylvania (1914-1924); and the Cortland County Courthouse in Cortland, New York (1922-1923). Perhaps his most interesting and controversial project was a proposed 1913 design for a new New York County Courthouse in the form of a high-rise, classical column or "skyscraper column." In addition, he designed residential and commercial buildings such as the Gramercy Park Apartments (1909), and at least four Elks Clubs in New York and New Jersey.

Gordon continually sought to improve the professional standards of the new profession of architecture throughout his career. He served as secretary of the Texas State Association of Architects, the first professional organization of architects in the state. After moving to New York, he served as president of the New York Society of Architects for 13 years (1916-1929) and participated in the writing of the New York building codes. He served on Mayor Hylan's Housing committee; Mayor Walker's Committee on Plans and Survey; the Tenement House Committee; the Committee on the Board of Standards and Appeals; and the Committee on the New York City Building Code. In addition, he was named honorary president of the New York Society of Architects; served as vice-president and director of the New York Association of Architects; was an honorary member of both the Long Island Society of Architects and the Brooklyn Society of Architects

From the guide to the James Riely Gordon (1863-1937) Drawings and Papers, GOR Accession number(s): 1979002, 1982003, 1991009., ca. 1890-1937, (Alexander Architectural Archive, The University of Texas at Austin.)

Gordon (1863-1937), an architect who practiced in both San Antonio and New York City, was best-known for his Richardsonian Romanesque designs of public buildings, especially courthouses.

He was active in professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects and its chapters in and around New York City, constantly seeking to improve professional standards.

From the description of James Riely Gordon papers, 1890-1937. (University of Texas Libraries). WorldCat record id: 29125222


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Ark ID:


  • Renaissance revival (Architecture)
  • World's Columbian Exposition (1893: Chicago, III.) Texas Pavilion
  • Architecture--New Jersey
  • Courthouses--Designs and plans
  • Public buildings--Designs and plans
  • Richardsonian Romanesque
  • Shop drawings
  • Architecture--Texas
  • Architecture
  • Elks (Fraternal order)--Buildings
  • Renaissance revival
  • Architecture--New York
  • Models


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  • New Jersey (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • Texas (as recorded)