Architecture for Kids

Peter Harrison


Peter Harrison was America's "first architect." He worked in both the Boston area and Newport, Rhodes Island, which at the time was the fifth largest city in the colonies.  He was a self-taught architect who was inspired by the architects in England who were building grand Baroque buildings. He got his ideas from their written works, the pattern books, especially those of James Gibbs. He was a Tory and returned to England after the Revolution.
 
 
Kings Chapel, Boston, 1740 - The steeple was never built. This is the first stone building in the colonies. The pillars are, however, of wood.
 
The Brick Market, at 127 Thames Street in Newport, Rhodes Island was the city's major market. It was designed by Peter Harrison and completed in 1772. It was financed by the Proprietors of Long Wharf which was, at the time, adjacent to the site. The use of brick was a departure from the normal use of wood in the city. It is to his credit that he could adapt the new material to a building of distinction. The first floor, now enclosed, was open to the elements.
 
Touro Synagogue, at 72 Touro Street in Newport, Rhodes Island was Harrison's third public building in Newport and the first synagogue in the American colonies It was dedicated in 1763. The austere exterior cloaks one of the finest interiors in the country. It is set on its site to conform with Jewish ritual.
 
Redwood Library, on Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhodes Island, was designed by Peter Harrison based on Palladian ideas. It is constructed of wood, but it is rusticated and sanded to resemble stone. It resembled a simple Roman temple. It had a profound influence on the science of building in America.
 
While Peter Harrison was designing public buildings in Newport and Boston, people were building houses. You will want to visit Newport, Rhodes Island  to further explore what we now call the Georgian style.

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