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Summary Article: Bulfinch, Charles from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1763–1844, American architect, b. Boston. A member of the Boston board of selectmen in 1791, he was chosen chairman in 1799—an office equivalent to mayor and held by Bulfinch for 19 years. Of the numerous structures that he designed in Boston, most have long been demolished, including the Federal Street Theater (1794), the first theater in New England. His chief monumental works remain—the statehouse in Boston (1799), University Hall at Harvard (1815), and the Massachusetts General Hospital (1820). From 1818 to 1830 Bulfinch carried to completion the Capitol at Washington; of his own contributions there remains the west portico, with the terraces and steps forming the approach to it. In this work and in the Massachusetts statehouse he evolved an architectural composition that has been used for state capitols throughout the country. He designed a memorial column on Beacon Hill (1789), Massachusetts State Prison (1803), a number of Massachusetts courthouses, and Franklin Crescent in Boston (1793). The last was a long curved row of 16 residences, inspired by the continuous block of houses that had been erected by Robert Adam and others in England. The First Church of Christ in Lancaster, Mass. (1816–17), one of the few remaining churches of the many that he designed, is one of his finest works. Bulfinch's works bear a distinctive stamp of his own. Their elegance, repose, and refinement of detail rank them among the best products of the nation's early years.

  • See Kirker, H., The Architecture of Charles Bulfinch (1969).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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