William Adams Delano (January 21, 1874 – January 12, 1960), an American architect, was a partner with Chester Holmes Aldrich in the firm of Delano & Aldrich. The firm worked in the Beaux-Arts tradition for elite clients in New York City, Long Island and elsewhere, building townhouses, country houses, clubs, banks and buildings for colleges and private schools. Moving on from the classical and baroque Beaux-Arts repertory, they often designed in the neo-Georgian and neo-Federal styles, and many of their buildings were clad in brick with limestone or white marble trim, a combination which came to be their trademark.
Early life and education
William Delano was born in New York City, a member of the prominent Delano family of Massachusetts. He was the cousin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the nephew of John Crosby Brown, who headed the Brown Brothers & Company banking/trading group, and his father Eugene Delano (1843 – 1920), an 1866 graduate of Williams College, was a partner in the firm. His mother, Sarah Magoun Adams, was the daughter of William Adams, a noted clergyman and academic and a founder as well as a president of Union Theological Seminary, and Martha Bradshaw Magoun, the daughter of Thatcher Magoun (associated with the Thatcher Magoun clipper and 60 State Street) and Mary Bradshaw.
William Delano was educated at the Lawrenceville School and Yale University, where he served on the editorial board of campus humor magazine The Yale Record and was a member of Scroll and Key, and Columbia University's school of architecture. He also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, receiving a diploma in 1903.
He met his longstanding partner Chester Holmes Aldrich when they worked together at the office of Carrère and Hastings in the years before the turn of the 20th century. They formed their partnership after Delano's return from Europe in 1903 and almost immediately won commissions from the Rockefeller family, among others. Delano & Aldrich tended to adapt conservative Georgian and Federal architectural styles for their townhouses, churches, schools, and a spate of social clubs for the Astors, Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys. Separately (Delano was the more prolific) and in tandem they designed a number of buildings at Yale. Delano taught at Columbia University from 1903 to 1910.
Delano alone won the commission for the second-largest residence in the United States, Oheka, overlooking Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, New York for financier Otto Kahn. Built from 1914 to 1919 in French chateau style, with gardens by Olmsted Brothers, Oheka ranges over 109,000 square feet (10,000 m²) and was staffed with 125 people.
In 1922, Delano designed the interiors of the Grand Central Art Galleries, an artists' cooperative established that year by John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, Walter Leighton Clark, and others. Eight years later Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich were asked by the organization to design the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The purchase of the land, design, and construction was paid for by the Galleries and personally supervised by Clark. As he wrote in the 1934 catalog:
"Pursuing our purpose of putting American art prominently before the world, the directors a few years ago appropriated the sum of $25,000 for the erection of an exhibition building in Venice on the grounds of the International Biennial. Messrs. Delano and Aldrich generously donated the plans for this building which is constructed of Istrian marble and pink brick and more than holds its own with the twenty-five other buildings in the Park owned by the various European governments."
The pavilion, owned and operated by the Galleries, opened on May 4, 1930. It was sold to the Museum of Modern Art in 1954 and later to the Guggenheim Museum.
Delano's irreverent sense of humor was subtly expressed in some his architectural details and friezes, such as the low-relief frieze of tortoises and hares in the apartment block at 1040 Park Avenue, and backgammon club rooms ornamented like backgammon boards. At the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, built for Pan American Airways' transatlantic seaplane service in 1939 and the oldest such passenger air facility still in use, his Art Deco terra cotta friezes feature flying fish. "There is as much that is new to be said in architecture today by a man of imagination who employs traditional motifs as there is in literature by an author, who, to express his thought, still employs the English language," Delano wrote in 1928.
In 1948, Delano was commissioned to design the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial (1948 – 1956), one of fourteen World War II monuments constructed abroad by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Delano also designed terminals at La Guardia and Miami airports. In Washington, D.C., he designed the Post Office building in the Federal Triangle complex. He was the architect for the 1927 renovation to the White House, one of the key contributors to its near-collapse in 1948-9, and consulted on the controversial Truman Balcony. In addition to his design work, Delano served on the board of design for the 1939 New York World's Fair, and, in Washington, on the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1924 to 1928, including as vice chairman in 1928. Delano's many awards and honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1940. He was also named an officer by the French Legion of Honor and was an academician of the National Academy of Design. In 1953, the American Institute of Architects awarded William Adams Delano its Gold Medal.
Delano continued to practice almost until his death in 1960, aged 85, in New York City. Aldrich had left the partnership in 1935 to become the resident director of the American Academy at Rome, where he died in 1940.
The Delano and Aldrich archive is held by the Drawings and Archives Department in the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Some historical records of Delano & Aldrich's work on the Wall Street headquarters of Brown Brothers Harriman are included in the Brown Brothers Harriman Collection housed in the manuscript collections at New-York Historical Society.
Surviving buildings (all in New York City unless noted):
- Hathaway, Tannersville, New York, 1907.
- High Lawn, (Lenox, Massachusetts), a wedding gift for William B. Osgood Field and his wife, Lila Sloane Field, 1908; one of the "Berkshire Cottages", with bas-reliefs by the bride's cousin Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
- Barbey Building, 15 West 38th Street, 1909.
- Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1910. Their first major public commission.
- (Center for Inter-American Relations), 1911. Neo-Federal townhouse, part of a harmonious row continuing a theme set by McKim, Mead, and White next door, in the first flush of buildings along the covered-over New York Central tracks that made Park Avenue.
- Wright Memorial Hall (now Lanman-Wright Hall), Old Campus, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 1912. Brownstone Collegiate Gothic.
- Kykuit, the principal Classical Revival mansion in the Rockefeller family estate, Sleepy Hollow, New York, 1913.
- The Willard D. Straight House, 5th Avenue, 1914. Later the headquarters of the National Audubon Society and the International Center for Photography. An English brick block in the manner of Sir Christopher Wren at Hampton Court is Americanized with black shutters.
- Belair Mansion, major renovation, in Bowie, Maryland, 1914.
- St. Bernard's School, 98th Street, 1915.
- Knickerbocker Club, 62nd and Fifth Avenue, 1915. A discreet Federal townhouse on Fifth Avenue.
- Colony Club, 62nd and Park Avenue, 1916.
- Woodside (demolished), (Syosset, New York), for James A. Burden and his wife, Florence, 1916.the spirit of Annapolis’s Whitehall, a 1760 plantation house, into the design
- Greenwich House, 1917. A community center's two added floors stretch the Georgian townhouse manner to the limit.
- The Francis F. Palmer House (later George F. Baker, Jr. House), 75 East 93rd Street at Park Avenue, 1918 (altered with a ballroom wing added in 1928).
- The Cutting Houses, 12 to 16 East 89th Street, 1919.
- Oheka, Huntington, New York, 1919.
- The Harold Pratt House, 68th and Park, 1920, for Harold I. Pratt and now headquarters of the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Interiors of the Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1922.
- Chelsea, the Benjamin Moore Estate, Muttontown, New York, 1923.
- Sterling Chemistry Lab, Science Hill, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 1923.
- Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Park Avenue at 63rd Street, 1924.
- 1040 Park Avenue, at 86th, apartment building, 1924. In low relief along a classical frieze, tortoises alternate with hares. Condé Nast took the penthouse.
- Sage-Bowers Hall, Yale School of Forestry, New Haven, CT, 1924 (Sage), 1931 (Bowers). Two buildings in brownstone Collegiate Gothic style.
- Willard Straight Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1925. Collegiate Gothic.
- The Brook, 111 East 54th Street, 1925
- Fathers Building, The Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, NJ, dedicated September 1925.
- William L. Harkness Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 1927. Collegiate Gothic.
- Chapin School, at 84th and East End Avenue, 1928. Neo-Georgian
- McPherson House,The Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, NJ, 1929
- 63 Wall Street, 1929. Vertical bands of windows alternate with ashlar limestone cladding in setbacks to a penthouse with Art Deco gargoyles.
- Alpha Chi Rho, now part of the Yale School of Drama, New Haven, CT, 1930.
- The U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 1930. Designed with Chester Holmes Aldrich, the building was constructed of Istrian marble and pink brick.
- "Peterloon," Indian Hill, Ohio, for John J. Emery, 1931
- Japanese Embassy, Washington, DC, 1931
- American Embassy, Paris, 1931
- Frank Porter Wood home, Toronto, 1931. Now Crescent School.
- U.S. Post Office, Glen Cove, New York, 1932
- Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT, 1932. Georgian colonial group of buildings.
- Union Club, 69th and Park Avenue, 1933. A smoothly rusticated Italianate limestone palazzo in the manner of London clubs of the 19th century, "one of the last great monuments of the American Renaissance".
- Pan American Airways System Terminal Building, Dinner Key in Miami, Florida, 1933
- Boxwood Lodge, near Mocksville, North Carolina, 1933-1934
- Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport, 1940
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Geng, Julie, "Straight Up: The Construction of Willard Straight Hall," Cornell Daily Sun Sept. 2, 2005 http://cornellsun.com/node/26950 Viewed July 27, 2009
- Frank P. Wood estate historic plaque
- Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins, New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars (1987).