Bulfinch, Charles, 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 H. Kirker, The Architecture of Charles Bulfinch (1969).
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Bulfinch, Charles(1763–1844) architect; born in Boston, Mass. America's first native-born architect, he graduated from Harvard and was inspired by new neoclassical buildings while on a European tour (1785–87). As a member of the board of selectmen (1791–1817) and superintendent of police, he sought to make Boston an American model of classical elegance through town planning and the development of the Federal style, designing numerous row houses, mansions, and commercial and public buildings, including the Massachusetts State House (1795–97), India Wharf (1803–07) and Massachusetts General Hospital (1818–23). Bulfinch became the leading New England architect, his Federal-style public buildings and Adam-like domestic interiors the standard for early republic architecture. Succeeding Latrobe as architect of the U.S. Capitol (1817–30), he completed the western portico, original dome, and landscaping before retiring to Boston. His domed capitol buildings influenced the design of state capitols across the country throughout the 19th century.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.