G, Gilbert, Cass
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall
(b. Zanesville, Ohio, 24 Nov. 1859; d. Brockenhurst, England, 19 May 1934), architect of the Supreme Court Building. Gilbert grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and studied architecture for a year at the Massachusetts Institute of (p. 392) Technology. After serving as an assistant to Stanford White in New York City, Gilbert designed municipal and business buildings, churches, residences, railway stations, bridges, and the Minnesota, West Virginia, and Arkansas state capitols. Among his most noted works during the turn-of-the-century period are the United States Custom House, the Federal Court Building, and the Woolworth Building, all in New York City. The Woolworth Building, at sixty-six stories, was the tallest building in the world at its 1913 completion and remained so for almost two decades. His other designs include the Treasury Annex and U.S. Chamber of Commerce buildings in Washington, D.C., and the Detroit and St. Louis public libraries. The Supreme Court Building was under construction at the time of his death during a visit to England in 1934. The structure was completed under the supervision of his son, Cass Gilbert, Jr.
The senior Gilbert was a traditionalist, and chose to take no part in the modern functionalist movement that became preeminent in architecture early in the twentieth century. His eclectic designs, especially for public buildings such as the Supreme Court, combine tasteful solidity, grandeur, and a scale appropriate to their importance. Although some architectural critics now find his works uninviting and unoriginal, he was much honored in his lifetime. Gilbert is generally considered one of the most capable architects the United States has produced.