Sturgis, Russell, 1836-1909

Alternative names
Birth 1836-10-16
Death 1909-02-11
English, French, German

Biographical notes:

American architect Russell Sturgis (1836-1909) was a leading figure in the development of architectural criticism at the turn of the 20th century. During his formative years in New York, Sturgis gained an appreciation for architectural history and modern design. An advocate of the American Pre-Raphaelites, Sturgis sought much inspiration in the written works of English architect and critic John Ruskin. Upon his return to New York after extensive travel abroad, Sturgis opened his own architectural practice in 1863. In addition to his success as an architect, Sturgis authored countless articles and books on various architectural subjects. After 1858, Sturgis earnestly began to collect choice photographs and drawings of various architectural gems. Sturgis' collection of photographs is particularly rich in both its collective thoroughness and diversity of images represented.

From the description of Collection, 1853-1903. (Washington University in St. Louis). WorldCat record id: 173220526

Epithet: of Baring Brothers, merchants, of London

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000571.0x0002f6

Architect, art historian.

Sturgis began his career as an architect in New York in 1863. By 1885 he gave up architecture for art history and art criticism.

From the description of Russell Sturgis architectural drawings and papers, 1847-1932. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 505720009

Russell Sturgis (1836-1909), architect, art historian and writer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from the Free Academy (later the College of the City of New York) in 1856, he studied with architect Leopold Eidlitz and received further architectural education in Munich, Germany. He returned to New York City in 1863 to begin his career as an architect and resided there until his death.

Sturgis' architectural style has been described as “New-Grec” and “Victorian Gothic.” Among his best-known buildings are the Farnam, Durfee, and Lawrence dormitories and the Battell Chapel at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; the Flower Hospital in New York City; and the Mechanics' and Farmers' Bank in Albany, New York.

His legacy remains, however, more closely tied to his role as an art and architectural historian, writer, and lecturer. In fact, Sturgis virtually abandoned the practice of architecture for these other activities after the early 1880s. He served as president of the Architectural League of New York from 1889 to 1893 and of the Fine Arts Federation from 1895 to 1897. His writings were extensive and, in addition to writing for various magazines and journals, Sturgis was the author of European architecture: a historical study (1896); Annotated Bibliography of fine art: painting, sculpture, architecture, arts of decoration and illustration (1897) for the American Library Association; the multi-volume Dictionary of Architecture and Building (1901-1902); How to judge architecture; a popular guide to the appreciation of buildings (1903); and was co-translator of Wilhelm Luebke's Outlines of the History of Art (1904). His manuscript for The History of Architecture (1906-1915) was only partially complete at this time of Sturgis' death in 1909. Sturgis lectured widely for various audiences, including Columbia College, Barnard College, the Metropolitan Museum, the Peabody Institute, the American Institute of Architects, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the College of the City of New York, among many others.

Finally, Sturgis played a significant role in the founding and development of the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Avery Library was founded on June 23, 1890, by Samuel Putnam and Mary Ogden Avery in memory of their son, Henry Ogden Avery, who had studied earlier with Sturgis. In forming the library, the Averys stipulated that there were to be three people responsible for the development of the collection-the librarian of Columbia College, the professor of the Architectural Department, and Russell Sturgis. It appears that the other two members of this committee usually deferred to Sturgis and he was later remembered as “the second most important factor in the formation of the [Avery] library.”

From the guide to the Russell Sturgis architectural drawings and papers, 1847-1932, (Columbia University. Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. Department of Drawings & Archives, )


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Ark ID:


  • Architecture
  • Commercial buildings--New York (State)--Albany
  • Banks and banking--New York (State)--Albany
  • Commercial buildings
  • Bank buildings
  • Architecture--Pictorial works
  • Photoprints
  • Art--Study and teaching
  • Bank buildings--New York (State)--Albany
  • Architecture--Designs and plans
  • Architects
  • Art historians
  • Architecture--Europe--Pictorial works
  • Art--History
  • Architecture--United States--Designs and plans
  • Banks and banking
  • Architectural Drawings


  • Architect
  • Art historians
  • Teachers


  • New York (State)--Albany (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Europe (as recorded)