Categories: Architecture, Historic Preservation, Invention and Technology, Ithiel Town, New Haven, Thompson

American Architect Ithiel Town Born – Today in History: October 3

Residence and Library of Ithiel Town, New Haven
Residence and Library of Ithiel Town, New Haven – Connecticut Historical Society and Connecticut History Illustrated

On October 3, 1784, prominent American architect and engineer Ithiel Town was born in Thompson. One of the first professional architects in the United States, Town initially trained with Asher Benjamin in Boston and, in 1810, began his professional career when he designed the Asa Gray House in Cambridge. From 1829 to 1835, Town partnered with Andrew Jackson Davis to form one of the first architectural firms in the United States, and together they designed noteworthy Greek, Gothic, and Egyptian revival buildings, including the State Capitol in New Haven and City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.

Trinity Church, New Haven

Trinity Church, New Haven – Connecticut Historical Society and Connecticut History Illustrated

In addition to building design, Town also studied engineering and in 1820 received the patent for a wooden truss bridge known as Town’s Lattice Truss.  The design fastened diagonally set planks with pegs into a crisscrossing truss system secured at the top and bottom. This innovative design eliminated the need for large, expensive timbers and could be quickly built by readily available materials. Widely used throughout the United States in the 19th century, the design can still be seen in two of Connecticut’s remaining covered bridges: Bull’s Bridge in Kent and West Cornwall Bridge in Cornwall and Sharon.

Town designed his own home on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven where he held one of the largest and most influential architectural libraries of the time. He left much of its contents to Yale University when he died in 1844. Town is interred in New Haven’s Grove Street Cemetery.

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Documents

“Town, Ithiel: MSS 105 - Alphabetical Index of Manuscript Collections.” New Haven Museum, 2017. Link.
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