Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Archimedes Russell, Syracuse Architecture, Local Architects

Subject Categories

Architecture | Historic Preservation and Conservation | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


The geographical location of Syracuse, its industry and especially its location on the Erie Canal, were factors propitious for its growth and development as an industrial center within New York State.

After the Civil War, Syracuse experienced a building boom which offered unusual possibilities for the builder-architect. Although there was an increase of formal education for architects during the second half of the nineteenth century, many regional architects learned their trade in the office of an architect or of a builder-architect; the distinctions were not always finely drawn.

One of these architects was Archmedes Russell, who came to Syracuse from New England in 1862. Here he worked in the office of the architect Horatio Nelson White until 1868, when Russell opened up his own office.

Architectural offices were small during those days. Usually an architect worked with one or two assistants, specifications were handwritten and there were no duplicating machines to facilitate the drawing of plans and elevations. Russell became an extremely prolific architect. With about 700 commissions to his credit he played a large role in shaping the physical environment of Central New York.

During the nineteenth century American architects worked in a great variety of architectural styles, most of which had originated elsewhere. Despite its historical language, much of the architecture in the United States became uniquely American, either by being imbued with the stamp of a particular individual or expressing the indigenous culture. Whatever happened architecturally in the large cities and main centers of the United States was repeated by regional architects, who were informed through architectural journals, building guides and pattern books.

Like his former employers, John Stevens of Boston and Horatio Nelson White of Syracuse, Archimedes Russell worked with a great facility in all the fashionable styles of the day. Chapters 2 through 11 deal with almost the entire range of these styles as they are exemplified in a wide variety of his structures. The historical background of each style is briefly explained in the beginning of each chapter so as to provide a context for Russell's work. With his ready application of new technologies, his free adaptation of the ideas of leading architects and his eclecticism, Russell proves to be a good representative of the better regional architect of his time.


Open Access