Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Martin Euclid Thompson, the Architect of the Pelham Mansion Known as Hawkswood and the Marshall Mansion

In the late 1820s, Elisha W. King hired a fellow Mason named Martin Euclid Thompson to design a new summer home for him in the Town of Pelham near the City Island Bridge.  The home and estate came to be known as Hawkswood.  Later, when the home was acquired by Levin R. Marshall, it became known as the Marshall Mansion.  Thompson was a prolific and acclaimed artist and architect whose work was then -- and remains today -- widely respected.  A few of his notable works include:  (1) the Second Branch Bank of the United States (1824), now preserved as a facade in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; (2) The Arsenal (1847-1851) in Central Park (830 Fifth Avenue, New York City); (3) the Merchants Exchange Building destroyed in the Great Fire of New York City, December 1835; (4) Naval Hospital, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York (1830-38); (5) the Admiral's House on Governor's Island (1843); and (6) the Greek Revival Colles Mansion (now The Kellogg Club) in Morristown, New Jersey (1838).

According to various genealogists, Martin Euclid Thompson was born April 10, 1787 at Connecticut Farms, a small village west of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  He was a member of the fifth generation descended from Thomas Thompson who settled in the area of today's Elizabeth, New Jersey after living for a time on Long Island in about 1664.  See McGregor, D. A Great Building, The New York Masonic Outlook, Vol. VII, No. 1, Sep. 1930, p. 22 (hereinafter, "McGregor, A Great Builder").  

Thompson's father was a schoolmaster and a talented mathematician.  Thompson never really knew his father, though.  "Martin was but five years old when his father met a tragic death by his own hand, during a period of temporary aberration, brought on by excessive application to his favorite study, Mathematics - his keen interest in the subject is seen in the fact that he gave the name Martin Euclid to his oldest son."  Id.  

As a youngster, Thompson showed a talent for woodworking and carpentry.  At the age of twelve, Martin began serving an apprenticeship to the building and carpentry trade in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Id.  Thompson moved to New York City and became an architecture student under New York City architect Joseph R. Brady.  See Russell, Daniel E., Martin Euclid Thompson 1786 - 1877 Architect and Painter, Glen Cove Heritage, available at http://glencoveheritage.com/legacy_site/martinethompson.pdf (visited Feb. 13, 2014) (prepared by the City Historian of Glen Cove, New York; hereinafter "Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson").  In New York City, "he applied himself so assiduously to the study of architecture that in 1823 his name appears in the City directory as a professional architect."  McGregor, A Great Builder, p. 22.  

Black and White Image of Oil on Canvas Portrait of Martin Euclid Thompson
by William Sidney Mount (American, Setauket, New York 1807-1868; Setauket, NY)
Original in Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On February 10, 1810, Thompson married Mary "Polly" Kitchell at Hanover Neck in Morris County, New Jersey.  Thompson was 22 years old.  Polly was 21.  Polly, a daughter of Aaron Kitchell and Phoebe Wilson Kitchell of Hanover Neck.  She was born on October 4, 1788 in Hanover Neck and died there on February 9, 1854.  Eventually the couple had at least ten children:  Elizabeth Allen (b. Jan. 12, 1811; d. May 5, 1836; m. Henry Beach); Susan Louise (b. Oct. 3, 1812; d. ?; m. George James Price); Matilda (b. Nov. 30, 1814; d. ?; m. Eliab Tompkins); Aaron (b. Sep. 8, 1817; d. Feb. 16, 1873; m. Grace Worthington); Charles Augustus (b. Oct. 11, 1819; d. Jan. 19, 1822); William Potter (b. Jan. 14, 1822; d. ?; m. Priscilla Amoreaux); Mary Emma (b. Jul. 22, 1824; d. ?; m. Jabez Munsell); Jacob Martin (b. Feb. 13, 1829; d. Dec. 23, 1829); Edwin Belknap (b. Feb. 4, 1831; d. ?; m. Helen E. Osborne); and Henrietta Elizabeth (b. Nov. 6, 1834; d. ?).  See Martin Euclid Thompson, 1787 - 1877, Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society, available at http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Thompson,%20Martin%20Euclid%20-%20Architect.pdf (visited Feb. 13, 2014).  

After studying architecture under Joseph Brady, Thompson partnered briefly with architect Ithiel Town.  At the age of 28, Thompson was commissioned to design the New York City branch of the Bank of the United States located at 15-1/2 Wall Street.  According to Daniel E. Russell:

"The building was completed in 1824. . . . After President Andrew Jackson abolished the Bank of the United States, the magnificent edifice would become the United States Assay Office for Manhattan.  [When the Assay Office was slated for demolition in 1924, Rober W. deForest undertook the preservation of the building's facade.  It was moved, stone by stone, to Central Park and reassembled to become the south facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing -- where it can still be enjoyed today.]"

Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, p. 1.

In 1826, Thompson and his partner, Ithiel Town, participated in the founding of the National Academy of Design, an honorary organization with the charge to "promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition."  Among others involved in the founding of the organization were Thomas Cole,  Rembrandt Peale, Samuel F. B. Morse, and Asher B. Durand.  The Academy was modeled after the Royal Academy in London.  

The following year (1827), work was completed on the grand New York Merchant's Exchange, described as follows:

"This truly noble and extensive building is situated in Wallstreet [sic], below William-street, and extends southward one hundred and fifty feet to Exchange-street.  It presents a front on William-street, of one hundred and fifteen feet, and three stories in height, exclusive of the basement, which is considerably elevated.  Its southwest front, in Exchange-street, is one hundred and fourteen feet long, and also three stories high, including the basement story, which is only one step above the pavement.  The Wall-street front is the principal one, and is built entirely of white marble, from the quarries of Westchester."

Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, pp. 1-2.  

During the late 1820's, Thompson was retained by New York City attorney and long-time City Alderman Elisha W. King to design a summer estate for King in the Town of Pelham, New York near City Island Bridge.   Thompson designed the residence in the Greek Revival style "near the height of the Greek Revival craze."  See Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, p. 2. King's choice to use Thompson to design his Greek Revival style residence that became known as "Hawkswood" (a 50 foot by 62 foot mansion), should come as no surprise.  By the late 1820's, architectural designs in the Greek Revival style had become the "hallmark" of Thompson's architectural firm.   

Martin Euclid Thompson and Ithiel Town practiced together as partners for only a brief time.  For some of that time they were joined by Alexander Jackson Davis who joined the firm as an "architectural composer" and designed public buildings and residences in the firm's hallmark Greek Revival style.  By at least the early to mid-1830's, Thompson left the partnership followed soon by Alexander Jackson Davis who likewise parted ways with Town.  

Throughout this time and thereafter, Thompson designed many significant public buildings and private residences.  He designed the New York Institute for the Blind, a building that was completed in 1841.  He designed a mansion for Robert Ray at 17 Broadway that "was considered to be among his finest works; it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1845."  Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, p. 2.  He designed the facades of residences on Murray Street on land owned by Columbia University.  Id.  He designed the United States Naval Hospital at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, built between 1831 and 1838.  Id.  

Thompson also designed the "Admiral's House" on Governor's Island (built in 1843).  Id., p. 3.  Not long after the Admiral's House was completed, work also was completed (in 1845) on the New York City Post Office designed by Thompson.  Id.  One of Thompson's last works was the Tradesmen's Bank in New York City in 1861, locate on the northwest corner of Broadway and Reade Street.  Id.  

Thompson was a fellow Mason with Elisha W. King for whom he designed Hawkswood.  "In view of his chosen profession, and the zeal with which he promoted the study of the liberal arts and sciences, it is not surprising to learn that he early became a member of the Masonic Fraternity.  He joined St. Andrew's Lodge No. 7, the third oldest Lodge in the City, and one [that] figured large in the organization of New York State.  Originally known as No. 169 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England, it was given its rightful place as No. 3 in the rearrangement of the Lodge in 1789.  Thirty years later it was changed to No. 7, and continued to hold its regular meetings at Tammany Hall, corner of Frankfort and Park Row, until 30 Dec. 1834, when it was dissolved.  The notification of this act sent to Grand Lodge was signed by W.'.Bro. Thompson, and two other members, showing that he had stuck to it to the last."  McGregor, A Great Builder, p. 22.  Thompson served as Master of St. Andrew's Lodge No. 7 in 1820.  Id.  

Thompson spent his later years in the care of one of his daughters Susan Louise Thompson Price.  According to one source:

"Thompson's daughter married George James Price, who had purchased 'Dosoris,' the sprawling estate of Rev. Benjamin Woolsey north of the village of Glen Cove, in 1850.  Price died in 1864, he abandoned New York City to live with his daughter and help manage the farm.  The urban architect adapted quickly enough to rural life that he was able to chair a roundtable [sic] discussion on commercial apple production in the same year at the American Institute's annual meeting."  

Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, p. 4.

Undated Photograph of  Martin Euclid Thompson Taken Late in His Life.

Thompson died on July 24, 1877.  Rev. John Cavarly Middleton of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Glen Cove delivered Thompson's eulogy, saying:

"On the 24th of July Mr. Martin E. Thompson passed away in hope of the resurrection.  He was ninety years of age, and until a year or two before his death a remarkably vigorous old man.  As is usual with persons of great age he lived very much in the past.  Indeed the past seemed to him more real than the present because he had been so active in it.  For he had been a marked man in his younger days.  As an architect, when architecture was in its infancy in America, he did noble work and left the impress of his art on many churches, banks, and public buildings whose fine proportions are silent witnesses today of the quality of his genius and the culture of his taste.  He was repeatedly called to fill positions of honor, among which was one of which he might well be proud.  For it was he who was appointed by the Grand Lodge of Free Masons to welcome Lafayette to our shores when at the invitation of Congress he returned as the nation's guest in 1824.  When the weight of years pressed heavily upon him and his active life was over he retired to the home of one of his daughters in our midst, where he remained till his death the recipient of the tendered filial care and Christian love."

Russell, Martin Euclid Thompson, pp. 4-5.

Recently I have devoted much effort to assembling and distilling information about Hawkswood, the Greek Revival mansion that once stood in Pelham, as well as information about the architect and early owners of Hawkswood.  For examples of prior postings I have published about the mansion, see:

Mon., Feb. 10, 2014:  Hawkswood, Also Known as the Marshall Mansion, Colonial Hotel and Colonial Inn, Once Stood in Pelham Near City Island

Thu., Feb. 13, 2014:  More Information About Elisha W. King, the Builder and Original Owner of Hawkswood.

Wed., Apr. 5, 2006: "Hawkswood", Later Known as the Marshall Mansion on Rodman's Neck in Pelham.  

Thu., Jun. 28, 2007: 19th Century Notice of Executor's Sale of "Hawkswood" After Death of Elisha W. King

Fri., May 07, 2010: Image of Hawkswood Published in 1831

Thu., June 28, 2007: 19th Century Notice of Executor's Sale of "Hawkswood" After Death of Elisha W. King

Mon., Apr. 26, 2010: Public Service Commission Couldn't Find Marshall's Corners in 1909.  

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