The Buildings of Peter Harrison

Cataloguing the Work of the First Global Architect, 1716–1775


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About the Book

Perhaps the most important architect ever to have worked in America, Peter Harrison’s renown suffers from the destruction of most of his papers when he died in 1775. He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1716 and trained to be an architect as a teenager. He also became a ship captain, and soon sailed to ports in America, where he began designing some of the most iconic buildings of the continent. In a clandestine operation, he procured the plans for the French Canadian fortress of Louisbourg, enabling Massachusetts Governor William Shirley to capture it in 1745. This setback forced the French to halt their operation to capture all of British America and to give up British territory they had captured in India. As a result, he was rewarded with commissions to design important buildings in Britain and in nearly all British colonies around the world, and he became the first person ever to have designed buildings on six continents. He designed mostly in a neo–Palladian style, and invented a way of building wooden structures so as to look like carved stone—“wooden rustication.” He also designed some of America’s most valuable furniture, including inventing the coveted “block-front,” and introducing the bombe motif. In America, he lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and in New Haven, Connecticut, where he died at the beginning of the War of Independence.

About the Author(s)

Material-culture historian John Fitzhugh Millar has several books to his credit on architectural history, colonial ships, and historic dance, and he runs the historic Bed & Breakfast “Newport House” in Williamsburg, Virginia. More illustrations are on the author’s website

Bibliographic Details

John Fitzhugh Millar
Format: softcover (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 244
Bibliographic Info: 135 photos and illustrations, appendices, glossary, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7962-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1574-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

I. Carl Bridenbaugh’s Account of Harrison 5

II. A New Narrative of the Life of Peter Harrison 10

III. The British Isles and Europe 32

IV. Canada 57

V. New England 70

VI. The ­Mid-Atlantic 112

VII. The American South and Atlantic Islands 144

VIII. The Caribbean 174

IX. Other Continents—South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia 190

X. Furniture 202


A—Buildings Attributed to Harrison 209

B—Student to Teacher 214

C—Architectural Pattern Books in Harrison’s Library 215

Illustrated Glossary of Architectural Terms 217

Bibliography 227

Index 229