Findlater, Robert (ca. 1808-1856)

Birthplace:

Aberdeen, Scotland

Residences:

  • Raleigh, North Carolina

Trades:

  • Stonemason
  • Stonecutter

NC Work Locations:

Building Types:

Styles & Forms:

Greek Revival

Robert Findlater (ca. 1808-July 9, 1856), a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, emigrated directly to the United States in the early 1830s and worked on two major projects in Raleigh: the North Carolina State Capitol and Christ Episcopal Church.

By December 1834 Findlater was one of several Scots stonecutters involved in construction of the North Carolina State Capitol, earning $1.75 per day and working under the superintendence of fellow Scotsman David Paton. He applied to the Wake County Court in August 1835 for United States citizenship, which was granted two years later. Like several other artisans who came to work on the capitol, Findlater decided to remain in Raleigh.

In his only other known building project in the state, Findlater joined with fellow capitol stonecutter James Puttick in constructing the stone walls of Raleigh’s Christ Episcopal Church. These two, plus carpenter Justin Martindale contracted to “build the walls and complete the roof of” the Gothic Revival style church designed by architect Richard Upjohn. The contract specified that the walls were to be “built of good durable stone & strong lime, the work to be done in a workmanlike manner of rubble & cut stone and to conform in every particular to the plan and specifications furnished by Richard Upjohn of the city of New York. . . the whole of said work to be completed within twenty-seven months from the date of this agreement.” A separate agreement would have been given for finishing the interior of the church, including the interior framing, lathing, and plastering over the stone walls and other elements. The church was completed in 1853 and consecrated early the next year. The bell tower, which was also part of Upjohn’s original design, was constructed a short time later. The proximity of Christ Church to the State Capitol just across Wilmington Street highlights the versatility of stonecutters such as Puttick and Findlater: in contrast to the crisp, precise stonework of the Capitol, Christ Church displays the rougher “rubble” stonework intended by Upjohn to evoke English country churches.

In addition to these two major projects, Findlater engaged in other businesses. As advertised in the Raleigh Register over the years, these included the firm of Findlater and [Matthew] Boyd, apparently a restaurant-bar and catering service in the late 1840s; a restaurant, grocer, and billiard room with Robert Miller in 1840-1841; and a grocery business on his own, begun in 1841. In 1851 the Wake County Court paid Findlater $71.42 for digging a well on the “Court Square.” Meanwhile, in 1843 and 1845 he ran unsuccessfully for election as a Raleigh City Commissioner.

In the 1840s, according to Wake County tax lists, Findlater owned the lot at the northeast corner of the intersection of Fayetteville Street and Martin Street, earlier the site of artist Jacob Marling’s “North Carolina Museum.” During the last year of his life, he was involved as defendant in two law suits, the second involving financial difficulties. For a time he owned a rock quarry on Beaver Dam Creek.

On May 11, 1841 in Fayetteville Findlater married Sarah Ann Lumsden (ca. 1821-1851), daughter of Joshua E. Lumsden of Raleigh. They had one child, John H. (b. ca. 1847). After his mother and father died in 1851 and 1856, respectively, in 1847 young John went to live with his mother’s relatives in Cumberland County. In 1872 he married Annie E. Lumsden, daughter of Grace and William McKay Lumsden. John H. apparently spelled his name Finlator, as have succeeding generations. Among the descendants of stonecutter Robert Findlater was his great-grandson, the Reverend William Wallace Finlator, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh from 1956 to 1982 and a prominent advocate for social justice.

  • Robert Findlater, Wake County Estates Papers, 1857, Wake County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Memorandum of an Agreement, June 7, 1848, Christ Church Papers (microfilm), North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Elizabeth Reid Murray, correspondence with John Haywood Finlator, Jr., May 1970, Elizabeth Reid Murray Papers, Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Elizabeth Reid Murray, interview with William Wallace Finlator, June 6, 1982, Elizabeth Reid Murray Papers, Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • North Carolina Standard, various issues.
  • Raleigh Register, various issues.
  • Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Superintend the Re-building of the State Capitol (1834).
  • Wake County Court Minutes, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sort Building List by:
  • Christ Episcopal Church

    Contributors:
    Robert Findlater, stonemason (1848-1852); Justin Martindale, carpenter (1848-1852); James Puttick, stonemason (1848-1852); Hobart Upjohn, architect (1913; ca. 1925); Richard Upjohn, architect (1848-1861); John Whitelaw, stonemason (tower) (1859-1861)
    Dates:

    1848-1861; 1913 [additions]; ca. 1925 [additions]

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    N. Wilmington St. at Edenton St., Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
    Davyd Foard Hood, To the Glory of God: Christ Church, 1821-1996 (1997).
    Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).

    Note:

    Christ Episcopal Church is one of the preeminent surviving churches by Richard Upjohn in America. It has been maintained and expanded over the years, including additions by his grandson, Hobart Upjohn, in the early 20th century and a major renovation in the late 20th century.


  • North Carolina State Capitol

    Contributors:
    William W. Birth, superindendent, masonry department (1833-1834); Thomas Bragg, Sr., supervisor (1830s); John J. Briggs, carpenter (1830s); Thomas H. Briggs, Sr., carpenter (1830s); Alexander Jackson Davis, architect (1830s); William Drummond, supervisor (1830s); Robert Findlater, stonecutter (1830s); Asa King, carpenter (1830s); William Murdoch, stonecutter (1830s); William Nichols, architect (1830s); William Nichols, Jr., architect (1830s); David Paton, architect and supervisor (1830s); Henry J. Patterson, brickmaker (1830s); William Percival, architect (1858); James Puttick, stonecutter (1830s); William Strickland, consulting architect (1830s); William Stronach, stonecutter (1830s); Town and Davis, architects (1830s); Ithiel Town, architect (1830s)
    Dates:

    1833-1840

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Union Square, Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
    Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).

    Note:

    Although sometimes credited solely to Town and Davis, the design of the capitol was the result of a sequence of work by William Nichols, Sr. and Jr., Town and Davis, and David Paton, with advice from William Strickland. For a fuller explanation of the chronology and contributions of architects involved in the State Capitol, see Bishir, North Carolina Architecture and other sources cited herein.


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