Bruce Price: Inventive Architect of the St. James Building

Wednesday September 5, 2018

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Sitting near the heart of NoMad at 1133 Broadway, the historic St. James Building stands as a reminder of New York in the height of the Gilded Age—a time when this neighborhood first became a gathering spot for noted authors, financiers, statesmen and others among New York’s elite. These days, however, few people realize the deeper historic significance of this building—namely, that Bruce Price, the man who designed the St. James and kept his offices here, was also one of the most influential architects of his time.

Beginnings and Career

Born in Maryland in 1845, Price studied at Princeton before eventually settling in NYC in 1877. During his career, Price gained great renown for both his commercial and residential projects across the Northeastern U.S. and throughout Canada.  He also had a profound impact on shaping the emerging NYC skyline. A master of refinement in architecture, Price was known for his Neoclassical/Beaux-Arts and Romanesque designs as well as his innovations in Shingle Style and Modernist architecture—his buildings reflecting the elegance and abundance of the Gilded Age itself.

Along with the St. James Building, Price is credited with designing numerous Manhattan buildings. Among the most notable: the Bank of the Metropolis; the International Bank; the American Surety Building, a landmark considered one of NYC’s most important early skyscrapers; and the Richard Morris Hunt Memorial in Central Park (in collaboration with sculptor Daniel Chester French).

Price’s influence can also be seen across Canada, particularly the numerous hotels and stations he designed for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, arguably his crowning achievement, is listed as a National Historic Site of Canada and is one of the most photographed hotels in the world.  It has become so completely identified with Quebec that it has become a de facto symbol of the city.

A master of design on a small scale as well, Price also designed, patented and built the unique parlor bay-window train cars that were used by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Boston and Albany Railroad during this time.

Tuxedo Park

Another of Price’s notable achievements, perhaps the most influential of his career, was Tuxedo Park, located north of New York City. A planned community consisting of “cottages”  (more like mansions) built between the late 1800s and the turn of the century, Tuxedo Park Estates became a haven for some of the most notable people of the time. As the prime architect for the project, Price designed more than two dozen structures in the community, including the post office, the library and the since-demolished Tuxedo Club. Price’s cottages would eventually house his own family along with notables such as Mark Twain, J.P. Morgan and Dorothy Draper. Perhaps most importantly, Price’s cottages would eventually be cited as a major influence on Frank Lloyd Wright and other modern architects such as Robert Venturi.

Daughter Emily Post

Among the famous residents of Tuxedo Park’s was Price’s own daughter, Emily Post. A noted author and columnist, Post echoed her father’s legacy in her own way by establishing herself as a “social architect”—a renowned expert on all things etiquette and manners. Her book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, her first etiquette book of many, solidified her reputation as a national symbol of manners for modern society.

St. James

As for our building at 1133 Broadway—completed in 1896, the St. James is rapidly approaching its 125th birthday. At 16 stories, this building was among the first high-rise office structures in the neighborhood that would eventually become known as NoMad. Not only did Price keep his own offices here, but the St. James became a hub for other notable architects—including Henry Pelton, Daniel Burnham (who designed the Flatiron Building/Fuller Building), and John Russell Pope (who also contributed to the Tuxedo Park project). Today, as part of the landmarked Madison Square North Historic District, 1133 Broadway continues its legacy as a haven for businesses focused on creativity and design—including the many numerous architects found among our tenants.

All photographs of 1133 Broadway are © David Lubarsky, 2016 — All Rights Reserved.

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