Archimedes Russell's name comes up at least as often as Ward Wellington Ward's name does in a survey of historic buildings here in the city of Syracuse. Ward and Gustauv Stickley are probably more famous and admired. Still Russell and his contemporaries created a legacy of monumental buildings that has endured.
Russell was born in 1840 in Massachusetts and began his career apprenticing to John Stevens in Boston. Schools of architecture were few and expensive. For Russell apprenticing was the only path to learning the art and craft of designing buildings.
By 1862 Russell had moved to Syracuse, home to his wife's family, and began working as an apprentice for Horatio Nelson White, already a well known architect here. Contemporaneous with them was Joseph Lyman Silsbee.
He left White’s office in 1868 to set up his own practice. During that time, post-Civil War Syracuse's population grew and businesses prospered. Russell and his contemporaries were busy. Russell drew up 800 commissions (not all of which were built), and taught architecture at Syracuse University at a time when most architecture was still being taught on the job.
Russell employed Asa L. Merrick from 1870 to 1877, and Charles E. Colton worked for him from 1875 to 1878. They too built their own firms after working for Russell.
Russell hired Melvin L. King in 1889 and made him a partner in 1906 as Russell began to retire. That trajectory leads directly to King + King, a highly respected architectural firm in Syracuse today.
As I look for Russell’s extant buildings, of which there are still many, I’m enjoying the wide range of styles he explored during his career, in an age of architectural diversity.
Here and in past and future posts is a sampler of the built legacy of Archimedes Russell and his cohorts.