The Local Architecture of Frederick Clarke Withers
We have so many lovely buildings in our city, and if you have been reading this blog long enough, you know that we have also lost a lot of buildings over the years. We have also mentioned how fortunate we are to have the works of some of the great architectural minds of the last century and a half (or more).There are at least two buildings still standing that are the work of Frederick Clarke Withers, while one building of his is gone with a modern creation in its place.
Frederick Clarke Withers was born in Somerset, England, February 4, 1828. Withers worked as an apprentice under another British architect named Edward Monday before eventually accepting a chance to come to America and work with one of the leading architects of the Gothic revival Andrew Jackson Downing. In 1852, Withers made his way to Newburgh just long enough to meet Downing before his untimely death on the explosion of the Henry Clay steamboat in July of that year. The time he had with Downing was enough to inspire him to continue exploring Gothic styles in local architecture. After Downing’s death, Withers worked alongside Calvert Vaux, another England native, and had joined up with Downing’s circle of like-minded designers. These men created beautiful homes and churches throughout the Hudson Valley.
Some of Withers’ early work appears in the revised version of Calvert Vaux’s book Villas and Cottages, first published in 1857 and again in 1869. In the book we see designs for bookcases, window casings, and even a grand house that he had designed here in Dutchess County at Clinton Point (see Design No. 28 on right). Vaux and Withers worked on a few projects together before each took on solo projects by the late 1850s. The bulk of Withers’ works that still stand, are located in Newburgh on Grand Avenue and Carpenter Avenue, including the Daniel B. St. John House (seen here); and Walter S. Vail House (seen here). We’ve previously discussed one of his houses in Beacon–known as Tioronda–in an earlier blog post, which he designed in 1859.
In Poughkeepsie, he first designed the Hudson River State Hospital (the administration building); in 1868. Withers based his design on the Kirkbride Plan, created by psychiatrist Thomas S. Kirkbride: the doctor theorized that patients would benefit from buildings that felt more natural, with lots of light and good air circulation. Withers took Kirkbride’s idea and incorporated the architectural style of High Victorian Gothic, which made HRSH the first institution in the country designed in this style.Following that, Withers designed the original Vassar Brothers Hospital building in 1884. This structure is no longer visible today; one can only imagine what Withers would think of the recent modern additions. The last work Withers’ did for the city of Poughkeepsie was the Frank Hasbrouck House, which he designed in 1885. Located on Market Street, the house was built for Frank Hasbrouck, who at the time was a lawyer and the city treasurer. He lived there with his wife Esther and their four children until he died in 1926. During his time here, Hasbrouck wrote the book The History of Dutchess County, published in 1909. This building still stands and is now the home of the United Way of Orange-Dutchess.
If you’d like to see another one of Withers’ designs, head into Hyde Park, where on the Roosevelt estate, you will find a lovely stable that he designed in 1886. James Roosevelt was inspired by some of the additions that Withers made to the Hudson River State Hospital at the time; and hired him to design the stables for his cherished horses. Withers died on January 7, 1901, in his home in Yonkers and buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan.
Poughkeepsie Eagle News – 7 May 1884 New York Times – 27 May 1884
Vaux, Calvert. “Villas and Cottages” 1869, LH 720.973 V
Kowsky, Francis. “The Architecture of Frederick C. Withers,” Journal of The Society of Architectural Historians, May 1976, LH 720.974 K
American Architect and Architecture, Volume 22, 1876, https://archive.org/details/americanarchitec22newyuoft/page/n23/mode/2up Hasbrouck, Frank. “The History of Dutchess County,” 1909.
National Register of Historic Places – Inventory – Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt NHS.
Withersdesign-1869 – Image from the book “Villas and Cottages” showing Wither’s design #28 599b-1PC4 – Postcard of the Hudson River State Hospital, LH Collections