Bottomley, William Lawrence (1883-1951)
New York City, New York, USA
- New York City, New York
Styles & Forms:
Georgian Revival; Gothic Revival; Mediterranean
William Lawrence Bottomley (February 24, 1883-February 1, 1951) was a Beaux-Arts trained master of the period revival styles popular in the early to mid-20thcentury. With offices in New York, he took many commissions in that city and its environs, but his skill in the Georgian Revival and other Beaux-Arts influenced modes also won him a strong clientele in the American South as well, especially in Virginia. His best known work in North Carolina is his Palladian inspired Raleigh residence, Tatton Hall.
This overview of Bottomley’s career is drawn primarily from Susan Hume Frazier, The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley__, and Davyd Foard Hood, “William Lawrence Bottomley” in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
William Lawrence Bottomley was born in New York City to John and Susan Amelia Steers Bottomley. Educated at the Horace Mann School, he received the B. A. degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1906 before heading for Europe for further travel and study: in 1907 he studied at the American Academy in Rome, having received the McKim Fellowship in Architecture; in 1908 he traveled extensively in Europe; and on October 1, 1908 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In 1909 Bottomley returned to the United States to begin his practice as an architect. In that year he wed sculptor and writer Harriet Townsend. They had three daughters, Harriet, Susan, and Virginia. Possibly through his wife’s interest in gardening, Bottomley formed a long association with landscape architect Charles Gillette. With his pedigree and personality as well as his architectural skills appealing to elite clients, he soon established himself as a “society architect.” He worked easily in a variety of revivalist styles including Mediterranean, Gothic Revival, and especially English and colonial American styles. As architectural historian Calder Loth notes the foreword to Frazier’s study, Bottomley’s works are “distinctively his own. Much of their effectiveness derives from his ability to synthesize features of historic buildings into fresh new designs.” Known as a perfectionist, he insisted on first quality materials and workmanship for every detail. During the Great Depression, especially, his clients could choose from among the best craftsmen and manufacturers.
Like other architects of his era, Bottomley gained knowledge of authentic period architecture by studying and recording historic buildings; as a member of the Depression-era Architects’ Emergency Committee, headquartered in New York, he contributed to and served as editor for Great Georgian Houses of America (1933). He was also involved in the restoration of early Virginia houses. In 1944 he was honored as a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA).
Bottomley is best known for single-family homes and apartment buildings in the New York area, the mid-Atlantic region, and in Virginia. In Manhattan a premier project was the River House apartment building (1930-1931), a luxurious skyscraper at 535 E. 52nd Street. Many of his single-family residences were located on extensive, landscaped grounds as country seats or suburban estates. His work in Virginia comprised about 40 percent of his oeuvre and included both country houses and residences in Richmond, especially on Monument Avenue. The collection of his drawings at the Avery Library at Columbia includes thirty-nine commissions from 1913 to 1946 for buildings in New York, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. No North Carolina buildings are listed in that collection.
Bottomley’s four known North Carolina projects well represent his work in style and type. One of his first projects in North Carolina was for Emmanuel Episcopal Church II, located in Warrenton, a small town near the Virginia border. The congregation asked Bottomley in 1926 to design a new brick church, but soon realized that their limited budget could support only a “restoration” of the existing 19th century frame church. He transformed the old church with brick veneer in Flemish bond and buttresses. About the same time, Bottomley planned the Reynolds-Gourmajenko House in Charlotte, in a Tuscan Revival style for Blanche (Alice B.) Morgan Reynolds and her husband, William A. Reynolds, a cotton oil manufacturer. Blanche, who had grown up in Richmond, was known for her interest in the arts and as a “world traveler and independent spirit.”
Bottomley’s other known works in North Carolina, both built during the Great Depression, illustrate his facility with the Georgian Revival style. Not far from Warrenton, in the small town of Weldon near the Virginia border, he designed the luxurious Georgian Revival style DeLeon F. and Dora Green House (1934) for retired tobacco executive Green and his wife, Dora. When Norman and Mishew Rogers Edgerton decided to build their residence, Tatton Hall, on the northwestern side of Raleigh during the Depression, they considered and rejected other house designs before learning of Bottomley from their landscape architect, Charles Gillette. As Norman Edgerton commented in an interview on July 21, 1981, “We just got him [Bottomley] in the Depression, that’s how we got him to give us so much time.” Edgerton remembered that Bottomley wore a monocle and had a formal manner. It was Mrs. Edgerton, said her husband, who mainly handled the project with Bottomley, and she “just naturally knew her ideas.” The expansive brick house takes a five-part Palladian form with a pedimented central section and rich classical detail; the garden fa&231;ade is curved to accommodate a terrace. Tatton Hall is Bottomley’s last known work in North Carolina and is regarded as one of the finest Georgian Revival residences in the state.
- Susan Hume Frazer, The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley (2007).
- Davyd Foard Hood, “William Lawrence Bottomley,” in Charles Reagan Wilson, William Ferris and Ann J. Adadie, eds., Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (1989).
- Dates:1934Location:Weldon, Halifax CountyStreet Address:401 Cedar St., Weldon, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Henry V. Taves, The Historic Architecture of Halifax County, North Carolina (2010).Note:DeLeon F. Green worked for the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company in New York until retiring in 1931 and building this residence. Typical of Bottomley's work, the large, symmetrical brick house presents a restrained, formal façade to the street, while the garden front is likewise symmetrical but livelier in form, with bay windows and a balcony over the rear entrance.
- Dates:1820s; 1850s [remodeled]; 1927 [remodeled]Location:Warrenton, Warren CountyStreet Address:143 N. Main St., Warrenton, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
Kenneth McFarland, The Architecture of Warren County, North Carolina, 1770s to 1860s (2001).Note:The church as it now stands incorporates elements from the 1820s and the 1850s, but its exterior appearance reflects the thorough remodeling by architect Bottomley in the 1920s. Although the congregation initially sought a design for a new church, in light of their limited budget, Bottomley planned a "restoration" that transformed it into a felicitous new version of the Gothic Revival, veneered in brick in Flemish bond that harmonizes with the earlier architecture of the community. The interior retains some vestiges of the 19th century building.
- Dates:1925-1928Location:Charlotte, Mecklenburg CountyStreet Address:715 Providence Rd., Charlotte, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The picturesque, asymmetrical villa features a central entrance tower, arched openings, stuccoed walls, and a tile roof. It was built for William Ayers and Blanche Morgan Reynolds. Alice (Alyce) Blanche Morgan was a native of North Carolina and the daughter of Samuel T. and Sarah Morgan. Known as a woman of "refinement, aristocratic tastes, and an independent spirit," she spent much of her youth in Richmond, and her sister Maude continued to reside there. In 1904 in Richmond Blanche married William A. Reynolds an executive with the Southern Cotton Oil Company. Some accounts state that the villa was built for Blanche and her second husband, Alexis Gourmajenko. However, on October 2, 2013, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission staff "received a call from Rosalie Reynolds, the Granddaughter of Blanche and William Reynolds, informing them that William and Blanche built the house together and construction ended in 1928. Mr. Reynolds died shortly thereafter in August of 1928." In 1934 Blanche met Alexis Gourmajenko, a Russian émigré, whom she married shortly thereafter in Manhattan. For several years "The Villa" has contained a restaurant.
- Dates:1934-1936Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:1625 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (2005).
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
Susan Hume Frazer, The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley (2007).Note:Situated among extensive formal grounds, the Palladian inspired residence has remained in the family and in excellent condition. Norman E. Edgerton recalled in 1987 that he and his wife, Mishew Rogers Edgerton, commissioned the design from Bottomley on the recommendation of their landscape architect, Charles Gillette (see Charles Barton Keen). (Susan Hume Frazer explains in The Architecture of William Lawrence Bottomley that in 1930 Gillette completed a landscape plan for the Edgertons that featured a columned residence, and in 1934 Greensboro architect William Holleyman provided blueprints for such a house, but the Edgertons rejected both house designs.) Edgerton stated that the contractor for Tatton Hall was John Danielson, a Swede from Wilmington, Delaware, who also built a chateau-like stone residence in the nearby Hayes Barton suburb. The bricks for the house, called "Chateau" bricks, came from Virginia. For years Mr. Edgerton was part of a golf foursome at the Carolina Country Club that also included Henry Kamphoefner, the modernist dean of the School of Design (Norman E. Edgerton, interview with Catherine W. Bishir at Tatton Hall, July 21, 1987).