Bradford Gilbert

Bradford Lee Gilbert (March 24, 1853September 1, 1911 in Watertown, New York) was an American architect based in New York City.

Tower Building

Gilbert is known for designing the first steel-framed curtain wall building in New York, the Tower Building, which opened at 50 Broadway in 1889.[1][2] The Tower Building is considered New York City's first skyscraper. There is some dispute as to whether the Tower Building had eleven or thirteen floors, depending on which floors were counted and which side of the building was considered.[3][4] It had to have the steel-frame construction because on its narrow lot, masonry-supporting walls would have allowed almost no free space on the first floor. Gilbert's design used the same frame as a railroad bridge, but rotated vertically.[5]

The Tower Building was initially greeted with great skepticism, with members of the public predicting it would blow over. This prompted Gilbert to scale the building in the middle of an 1889 hurricane to demonstrate with a plumb line that the building was not vibrating.[2][3] The building was razed in 1914.

Railroad stations

Gilbert had been appointed architect of the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad by the age of 23. Among his extensive work for multiple railroads across the country,[6][7] Gilbert also designed a previous version of New York City's Grand Central Terminal in 1898.[5]

Gilbert was the original architect for Ottawa Central Railway Station in 1910, as well as nearby Château Laurier but removed due to mismanagement concerns.[8]


Most of his New York buildings have been demolished, but his landmark eleven story Flatiron Building (1898) still stands in Atlanta, Georgia, and predates the similar and more famous New York City Flatiron Building by five years.[9]

Gilbert was also the supervising architect for the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition (1895) and the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition (1901).[10]


Gilbert died at his home in Brooklyn in 1911, aged 58, survived by his wife and daughter.[11]

Selected works

(listed by year built)[12]


Gilbert was also heavily involved in the work of Jerry McAuley, noted missionary at the Water Street Rescue Mission in New York and continued to support the mission after McAuley's death in 1884. Gilbert was first married in 1871 in New York to Cora, daughter of Captain John Rathbone.

After his divorce, Gilbert wed Maria (Fahy) McAuley, widow of Jerry McAuley in 1892 in Cranford, New Jersey. On February 12, 1896, Bradford and Maria had a daughter, Blossom.

See also


  1. "The Tower Building". New York Architecture. Retrieved July 5, 2007.
  2. Edward Robb Ellis (1997). The Epic of New York. pp. 407–08.
  3. Denenberg, Barry (September 1, 2010). "Skyscrapers". Magical Hystory Tour: The Origins of the Commonplace & Curious in America. Archived from the original on June 29, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  4. Landau, Sarah Bradford and Condit Carl W. Condit (1996). Rise of the New York Skyscrapers 1865-1913. Yale University Press. pp. 161–66, 416.
  5. Gray, Christopher (July 1, 2007). "The Architect Who Turned a Railroad Bridge on Its Head". New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2007.
  6. Gilbert, Bradford Lee (1895). "Sketch Portfolio of Railroad Stations and Kindred Structures: From Original Designs".
  7. Gilbert, Sketch Portfolio of Railroad Stations (The Railroad Gazette, 1885). The book notes that his work on railroad architecture was the subject of a special exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World's Fair) in 1893, for which he received a special medal.
  8. Fletcher, Katharine (2004). Capital Walks: Walking Tours of Ottawa. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Markham, Ontario. Page 73.
  9. "FLATIRON BUILDING (The English-American Building)". City of Atlanta. Archived from the original on September 17, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  10. White, James Terry (1910). The National Cyclopaedia of American biography. XIV. p. 298.
  11. American Art Annual, Volume 9. MacMillan Company. 1911. p. 311.
  12. Coe, Daniel (2011). "Bradford Lee Gilbert's Achievements". Archived from the original on September 11, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  13. Gilbert, Bradford (1895). "Sketch Portfolio of Railroad Stations from Original Designs by Bradford L. Gilbert, Architect" (PDF). The Railroad Gazette, New York City. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 8, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  14. Potter, Janet Greenstein (1996). Great American Railroad Stations. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 162. ISBN 978-0471143895.
  15. Railroad Gazette. Railroad Gazette. 1905-01-01.
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