Architect Index
First Posted: July 19, 2012
Jan 31, 2015

John Russell Pope/Architect

Image: Public Domain
John Russell Pope

Image: Wikipedia Commons/Taken by Raul654 on June 23, 2004
The Jefferson Memorial, built 1939-1943

John Russell Pope (April 24, 1874-August 27, 1937) was an American architect whose firm is widely known for designing of the National Archives and Records Administration building (completed in 1935), the Jefferson Memorial (completed in 1943) and the West Building of the National Gallery of Art (completed in 1941), all in Washington, DC.


Pope was born in New York in 1874, the son of a successful portrait painter. He studied architecture at Columbia University and graduated in 1894. He was the first recipient of the Rome Prize to attend the newly founded American Academy in Rome, a training ground for the designers of the "American Renaissance." He would remain involved with the Academy until his death in 1933.

Pope traveled for two years through Italy and Greece, where he studied, sketched and made measured drawings of more Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance structures than he did of the remains of ancient buildings. Pope was one of the first architectural students to master the use of the large-format camera, with glass negatives. Pope attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1896, honing his Beaux-Arts style. After returning to New York in 1900, he worked for a few years in the office of Bruce Price before opening his own practice.

Image: Public Domain
The West Building of the National Gallery of Art

Image: Wikipedia Commons/Original uploader was AgnosticPreachersKid
Architectural style: American Neoclassicism
City: Washington, D.C.
Country: United States of America
Construction started: October 18, 1911, Completed October 18, 1915
Design and construction/ Client: Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Architect: John Russell Pope

Throughout his career, Pope designed private houses (including for the Vanderbilt family...), and other public buildings besides the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery, such as the massive Masonic House of the Temple (1911-1915), also in Washington, and the triumphal-arch Theodore Roosevelt Memorial (1936) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

In 1919 he developed a master plan for the future growth of Yale University. It was significantly revised by James Gamble Rogers in 1921 with more sympathy for the requirements of the city of New Haven, Connecticut, but Rogers kept the Collegiate Gothic unifying theme offered by Pope. Pope's original plan is a prime document in the City Beautiful movement in city planning.

Image: By Einar Einarsson Kvaran
National Archives, Washington D.C., James Earle Fraser, sculptor; opened 1935

His firm's designs alternated between revivals of Gothic, Georgian, eighteenth-century French, and classical styles. Pope designed the Henry E. Huntington mausoleum on the grounds of The Huntington Library and later used the design as a prototype for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art were both neoclassical, modeled by Pope on the Roman Pantheon.

Lesser known projects by Pope's firm include Union Station, Richmond, Virginia (1917), with a central rotunda capped with a low saucer dome, now housing the Science Museum of Virginia; Branch House (1917-1919), a Tudor-style mansion in Richmond, now housing the Virginia Center for Architecture; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and in Washington, D.C., the National City Christian Church, Constitution Hall, American Pharmacists Association Building, Ward Homestead, and the National Archives Building. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he designed a severe neo-Georgian clubhouse for the University Club (1926) and in Oneonta, New York, he designed the first building for Hartwick College: Bresee Hall was constructed in 1928.

He designed additions to the Tate Gallery and British Museum in London, an unusual honor for an American architect, and the War Memorial at Montfaušon, France. Pope was also responsible for extensive alterations to Belcourt, the Newport residence of Oliver and Alva Belmont. The Georgian Revival residence he built in 1919 for Thomas H. Frothingham in Far Hills, New Jersey has been adapted as the United States Golf Association Museum.

...A 1991 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, John Russell Pope and the Building of the National Gallery of Art, spurred the reappraisal of his work. For some time, it had been scorned and derided by many critics influenced by International Modernism.

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