Architect Stanford White, born November 9, 1853, leaves a lasting legacy in Washington Square Park. White’s design for the triumphal Washington Square Arch, built to commemorate the Centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as our country’s first president, lends a distinctly modern clarity and simplicity to a classical form.
White never received formal training, but was apprenticed for six years to architect Henry Hobson Richardson, a leading architect of his day. He joined with Charles Follen McKim and William Rutherford Mead to form McKim, Mead, and White in 1879, which quickly became a leading architectural firm for both institutional and residential buildings in New York City and beyond.
In addition to the Arch, White designed Judson Memorial Church, just south of Washington Square Park, the Cable building at 611 Broadway, Gould Memorial Library in the Bronx, and the second Madison Square Garden (demolished). His Long Island estate Box Hill, where he lived with his wife Bessie and son Lawrence, served as a showplace for potential clients.
In 1906, White was murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw while dining at Madison Square Garden. The ensuing “Trial of the Century,” held at Jefferson Market Courthouse, ruined White’s reputation. Indeed, it was a crime of passion: White’s “seduction” of model Evelyn Nesbit (who later married Thaw) was the motive.