Biographies: Thomas Ustick Walter (1803-87)



Figure 1.--Here we see Capitol architect Thomas Ustick Walter with his second wife, Amanda Gardiner. Thomas ans Ananda married (1848). Amanda gave Thomas two more children and helped raise six children from his first marriage. We have found a daguerreotype of Walter's second family. It is undated, but we believe was taken about 1850. The baby is presumably the first that Thomas had with Amanda. The black nursemaid pictured with the family reportedly came with Amanda from Washington, D.C. Because both Amanda and Thomas were from Pennsylvania, a free state, we belive she was a free woman.

Thomas Ustick Walter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 1804. We know nothing about his childhood. He studied masonry, mathematics, physical science, and the fine arts before finally studying architecture under William Strickland. Walter began practicing architecture (1830). He helped found American Institute of Architects abd served as its second president The United States by 1850 had added many new states and as a result the number of Senators and Congressman had substantially increased. This meant that the existing Capitol building was extremely crowded. President Millard Fillmore appointed Walter as the architect of the Capitol in 1851. He was assigned the task of expanding the building gto better accomodate the Senate and House of Representatives. He had more to do with the modern shape of the building than any other individual. He is responsible for the basic profile of the building instantly recognized around the world. Walter was responsible for the north (Senate) and south (House) wings and the cast-iron dome. He resigned his post in 1865 after most of the work had been completed. have found a daguerreotype of Walter's second family.

Parents

were the bricklayer Joseph Saunders Walter and his wife Deborah Wood Walter.

Childhood

Thomas Ustick Walter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 1804. We know nothing about his childhood.

Education

Walter studied masonry, mathematics, physical science, and the fine arts under John Haviland and the William Mason, alandscape artist. He also served an apprenticeship under his father with the intention of becoming a bricklayer/contractor. He finally studied architecture under William Strickland. At the time in America, one generally became an architect by workingvfor an architect, not studying in a university.

Career

Walter began practicing architecture in Philadelphia (1830). Hecproved to be successful in Philidelphia with many commissions. His nost important early commission was the forboding gothic-style Moyamensing Prison (1831-35). It was the Girard College for Orphans (1833-48) that erned him a national reputation. It was done in the in style of the American Greek Revivalism. America at the time was just beginning to build orphanages. This would have been the grandest un the country. Walter completed hundreds of commissions during the 1830s and 40s. He even won foreign commissions, including Venezuela and China. He then entered a competition for desisns to complete the national capitol (1850). It is the appoitment of official Capitol architect that was his most important commission. He helped found American Institute of Architects and served as its second president.

American Expansion

The United States by 1850 had added many new states and as a result the number of Senators and Congressman had substantially increased. Not only had many state joined the Union from the land originally acquired from Britain each of the Mississippi. States also began entering the Union from the Louisiana Purchases (1803). Florida was acquired from Spain. The annexation of Texas helped bring on the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and vast new territories in the Southwest. Ironically the aquisition of these new territories, especially Texas and the southwest, which caused the Government to expand the Capitol also led to the possible disolution of the Union. The South saw with Texas and the southwest the possibility of creating new slave states. The result was the Civil War. Walter would have to complete his work, the construction of the Capitol dome during the War. Some wanted tostop work on the Capitol when the War broke out. Lincoln insisted it continue as visual proof tht the Union would prevail.

The Capitol

This meant that the existing Capitol building was extremely crowded. President Millard Fillmore appointed Walter as the architect of the Capitol in 1851. He was assigned the task of expanding the building to better accomodate the Senate and House of Representatives. The plan was to build extensions for each chamber. His plan more than doubled the size of the existing building. As a result, he had more to do with the modern shape of the building than any other individual. Walter began construction immediately. The met in its new chamber in December 1857 and the Senate in January 1859. He is responsible for the basic profile of the building instantly recognized around the world. Walter was responsible for the north (Senate) and south (House) wings and the cast-iron dome. As the extensions began to tke shape, Congress authorized the new dome (1855) The dome was virtually complete when the Statue of Freedom was placed on top (1863). The Library of Congress atvthe time was still housed in the capitol in the west center building. A fire damaged this facility (1851). Walter took on the reconstruction.

Family

Walter married twice. His first wife was Mary Ann Walter (1806-47). She was was born in Philadelphia. Her parents were Robert and Marian Hancocks. She married Thomas 1824 when both were quite young. Thomas had not yet set up his architecture office. The couple had 11 childrem. Mary died after the birth of their 11th child. Thomas described his wife as "... a lady of estimable qualities of mind, and of genial and engaging manners, fulfilling her duties to society with exactness, and propriety, and to her family with tenderness and love. She managed well the affairs of her household and, and trained her children with prudence and affection. Thomas married again the year after Mary died (1848). The second marriage was with Amanda Gardiner. Amanda Gardiner Walter (1821-92) was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Ananda was the daughter of Richard and Hannah Gardiner. Amanda gave Thomas two more children and helped raise six children from the first marriage. We have found a daguerreotype of Walter's second family. The black nursemaid pictured with the family reportedly came with Amanda from Washington, D.C. Because both Amanda and Thomas were from Pennsylvania, a free state, we belive she was a free woman.

Retirement

Walter built an Italianate villa in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1861). He resigned his Capitol post in 1865 over a contract dispute. He returned with his family to Germantown, Most of the work had been completed. Financial reverses forced him to open his office again (early 1870s). He had little success. A friend, John McArthur, Jr., won the Philadelphia City Hall competition. MacArthur appointed him assist with the project.







HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main S-Z biographies page]
[Return to the Main biographies page]
[Return to the Main American 1850s family page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Girls] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: 1:28 AM 1/5/2007
Last updated: 1:29 AM 1/5/2007