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William Adams Delano
Personal information
Name William Adams Delano
Nationality American
Birth date January 21, 1874(1874-01-21)
Birth place New York City
Date of death January 12, 1960 (aged 85)
Place of death New York City
Practice Delano & Aldrich
Buildings Oheka
Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, Yale Divinity School

William Adams Delano (January 21, 1874 – January 12, 1960) was a prominent American architect, a partner with Chester Holmes Aldrich in the firm of Delano & Aldrich that worked in the Beaux-Arts tradition for elite clients in New York City and Long Island, building townhouses, country houses, clubs and banks, often in the neo-Georgian and Federal styles, combining brick and limestone, which became their trademark.



William Delano was born in New York City, a member of the prominent Delano family of Massachusetts. He was the nephew of John Crosby Brown, who headed the Brown Brothers & Company banking/trading group, and his father Eugene Delano (1843 – 1920), an 1866 graduate of Williams College, was a partner in the firm. His mother, Sarah Magoun Adams, was the daughter of William Adams, [1] a noted clergyman and academic and a founder as well as a president of Union Theological Seminary, and Martha Bradshaw Magoun, the daughter of Thatcher Magoun (Magoun Square, a neighborhood of Somerville, Massachusetts, was named after him) and Mary Bradshaw.

William Delano attended Yale, where he was a member of Scroll and Key, and Columbia's architecture school. He met his longstanding partner Chester Holmes Aldrich at the office of Carrère and Hastings before the turn of the century. They formed their partnership in 1903 and almost immediately won commissions from the Rockefeller family, among others. Delano & Aldrich tended to adapt conservative Georgian and Federal architectural styles for their townhouses, churches, schools, and a spate of social clubs for the Astors, Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys. They designed a number of buildings at Yale University.[2]

Delano alone won the commission for the second-largest residence in the United States, Oheka, overlooking Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, New York for financier Otto Kahn. Built in 1914-19 in French chateau style, with gardens by Olmsted Brothers, Oheka ranges over 109,000 square feet (10,000 m²) and was staffed with 125 people.

In 1922 Delano designed the interiors of the Grand Central Art Galleries, an artists' cooperative established that year by John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, Walter Leighton Clark, and others[3]. Eight years later Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich were asked by the organization to design the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale[4]. The purchase of the land, design, and construction was paid for by the Galleries and personally supervised by Clark. As he wrote in the 1934 catalog:

"Pursuing our purpose of putting American art prominently before the world, the directors a few years ago appropriated the sum of $25,000 for the erection of an exhibition building in Venice on the grounds of the International Biennial. Messrs. Delano and Aldrich generously donated the plans for this building which is constructed of Istrian marble and pink brick and more than holds its own with the twenty-five other buildings in the Park owned by the various European governments."[5]

The pavilion, owned and operated by the Galleries, opened on May 4, 1930. [6]. It was sold to the Museum of Modern Art in 1954 and later to the Guggenheim Museum[7]

Delano's irreverent sense of humor was subtly expressed in some his architectural details and friezes, such as the low-relief frieze of tortoises and hares in the apartment block at 1040 Park Avenue, and backgammon club rooms ornamented like backgammon boards. At the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, built for Pan American Airways' transatlantic seaplane service in 1939 and the oldest such passenger air facility still in use, his Art Deco terra cotta friezes feature flying fish. "There is as much that is new to be said in architecture today by a man of imagination who employs traditional motifs as there is in literature by an author, who, to express his thought, still employs the English language," Delano wrote in 1928.

Epinal American Memorial

In 1948 Delano was commissioned to design the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial (1948 – 1956), one of fourteen World War II monuments constructed abroad by the American Battle Monuments Commission. In 1953, the American Institute of Architects awarded William Adams Delano its Gold Medal.

Delano continued to practice almost until his death in 1960, aged 85, in New York City. Aldrich had left the partnership in 1935 to become the resident director of the American Academy at Rome, where he died in 1940. The Delano and Aldrich Archive is held by the Drawings and Archives Department in the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.


Surviving buildings (all in New York City unless noted):

U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, circa 1933.


  1. ^ He was a son of John Adams (educator), Yale College 1795 (1772 – 1863) who was an American educator noted for organizing several hundred Sunday schools and Elizabeth Ripley, the daughter of Gamaliel Ripley and Judith Perkins and a Great-Great Granddaughter of Governor William Bradford (1590-1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Yale University Office of Facilities
  3. ^ a b "Painters and Sculptors' Gallery Association to Begin Work," New York Times, December 19, 1922
  4. ^ a b "American Art Show Opened at Venice," New York Times, May 5, 1930
  5. ^ a b|1934 Grand Central Art Galleries catalog
  6. ^ "American Art Show Opened at Venice," New York Times, May 5, 1930
  7. ^
  8. ^ Geng, Julie, "Straight Up: The Construction of Willard Straight Hall," Cornell Daily Sun Sept. 2, 2005 Viewed July 27, 2009
  9. ^ Frank P. Wood estate historic plaque
  10. ^ Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins, New York 1930, Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars (1987).

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