John Hubbard Sturgis was born on August 5, 1834, in Macao, China, the son of Russell Sturgis and his wife, Mary Greene Hubbard (daughter of John Hubbard).
He married in 1858 to Frances Anne Codman (b. 1837-1838 in Boston; d. 17May1910 in Boston), daughter of Charles Russell Codman and his wife, Sarah Ogden.
John Sturgis died on February 14, 1888, in England
After attending Boston Latin School, he travelled extensively in Europe after his father became a partner in Barings Bank in London. In England, he studied drawing under artist James E. Colling, and became an early proponent in America of using measured drawings of old buildings to develop and transpose architectural features for re-use.
In the fall of 1861, he returned to Boston where he opened his own office, doing a number of commissions in association with Gridley J. F. Bryant.
In the 1860s, he remodelled The Grange, the Codman family home in Lincoln, and in 1864 he designed Land’s End for Samuel G. Ward (located at the southernmost part of Aquidneck Island in Newport, R.I., it was purchased by Theodore and Edith Wharton in 1892-93; she considered it “incurably ugly” and had it remodelled by Sturgis’s wife’s nephew, Ogden Codman, who later was to be Edith Wharton’s collaborator on The Decoration of Houses).
In 1866, Sturgis and Charles Brigham, a draftsman in Gridley J. F. Bryant’s office, formed the firm of Sturgis and Brigham. From September of 1866 to September of 1870, Sturgis lived in England and Brigham oversaw most of the firm’s work.
Sturgis and Brigham remained in partnership until 1886. John Sturgis’s nephew, R. Clipston Sturgis, took charge his practice, and Charles Brigham formed a new partnership with John Calvin Spofford. John Sturgis retired in May of 1887 and died in February of 1888.
In addition to a number of residential and commercial buildings, Sturgis and Brigham’s works included notable public buildings, including the Church of the Advent (1875-1876) at the foot of Beacon Hill (which Douglass Shand-Tucci’s Built in Boston calls one of the two “significant bridges” to the Gothic Revival style); the first Boston Museum of Fine Arts, on Copley Square (1876-1879), designed in Medieval-style with extensive use of terra-cotta; and the Y.M.C.A. building at the southwest corner of Boylston and Berkeley (1882, destroyed by fire in 1910).
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