William Rutherford Mead was born on August 20, 1846, in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of Larkin Goldsmith Mead and his wife, Mary Jane Noyes.
He married on November 13, 1884, in Budapest to Olga Kilyeni (b. 1850 in Hungary; d. 18Apr1936 in New York City).
William Mead died on June 20, 1928, in Paris.
William Mead graduated from Amherst College in 1867, after which he first entered the engineer’s office of the State of Vermont and then joined the office of Russell Sturgis in New York. In 1871 he went to Florence, Italy, for a year and a half, living with his brother, Larkin Mead, the sculptor.
In 1878, he entered into a partnership with Charles F. McKim and William B. Bigelow. In 1880, Stanford White replaced Bigelow and the firm — McKim, Mead, and White — grew into one of New York’s leading firms. Mead’s role is described in his biographical sketch in the Dictionary of American Biography: Mead managed the office, often conceived the basic scheme of the plan (as in the Capitol at Providence), and acted efficiently as critic of the designed of both his creative partners, who were bent primarily on producing works of art.”
The firm’s Boston work — led by McKim until his death in 1909 — included the Algonquin Club (1887), Boston Public Library (commissioned in 1887 and completed in 1895), Johnston Gate at Harvard (1889), the Shaw Memorial opposite the State House (1897), Harvard Union (1900), Symphony Hall (1900), and the New England Trust Company Building (1905), Harvard Stadium (1903-1910), Phillips Brooks Memorial in Copley Square (1910), and Harvard Business School (1924) in Brighton. The firm also undertook a number of residential commissions in Boston, including several houses in the Back Bay and bachelor flats at 66 Beacon Street, at the corner of Charles and Beacon.
The firm’s work in New York — much of it designed by White — included the Villard Houses on Madison (between 50th and 51st), Pennsylvania Station, Madison Square Garden (where White maintained an apartment and was murdered by Harry Thaw), Madison Square Presbyterian Church, and the Library and other buildings at Columbia University. They also designed a number of private clubs in New York, including the University Club, the Century Club, the Players Club, and the Metropolitan Club. The firm also designed the Newport Casino and Rhode Island State Capitol in Providence, and oversaw restoration of the White House in 1902-1903. And the firm designed a number of homes in New York, Newport, and the Berkshires.
For further information, see:
A Monograph of the Works of McKim, Mead & White: 1879-1915 (The Architectural Book Publishing Company, Paul Wenzel & Maurice Krakow, New York, 1915-20). Originally published in four volumes. Reprinted and supplemented with introductory material by the Arno Press, New York; 1977. Reprinted and supplemented with introductory material by Dover Publications, Inc., New York; 1990.
McKim, Mead & White, Architects, by Leland M. Roth (Harper & Rowe, New York; 1983).
The Houses of McKim, Mead & White. by Samuel G. White, photographs by Jonathan Wallen (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York; 1998).
Back Bay Work