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Silliman & Farnsworth

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morse.jpg (41391 bytes) Temple Court Building - Photo credit Carl Forster      
013 Morse Building 017 Temple Court      

The firm of Silliman & Farnsworth, architects of the Temple Court Building, practiced from 1876 to 1882. James Mace Farnsworth (dates undetermined) apparently began his career around 1872 and worked as a draftsman with Calvert Vaux by 1873. Benjamin Silliman, Jr. (1848-1901) was the third generation in his direct family line with the same name; his grandfather, considered "the most prominent and influential scientific man in America during the first half of the nineteenth century, " had been a professor of chemistry and natural history at Yale (1802-53), while his father was also a noted professor of chemistry at Yale.

Silliman, Jr., graduated from Yale University in 1870, studied architecture for three years in Charlottenburg [Berlin], Germany, and upon his return to the U.S. worked for the firm of Vaux, Withers & Co., where he met Farnsworth. Silliman & Farnsworth obtained a number of prominent office and institutional building commissions, for which they produced designs influenced by the Rundbogenstil and the neo-Grec and Queen Anne styles, most executed in red brick and terra cotta.

Their widely-praised Morse Building (1878-80), 140 Nassau Street, was an early tall "fireproof" office building (and the location of their office). The firm also designed the Vassar Brothers Laboratory (1879-80, demolished), Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with a central tower capped by a pyramidal roof; the Orange Music Hall (1880, demolished), Orange, N.J.; a hospital (1880, demolished) at Lexington Avenue and East 52nd Street; two commercial buildings at Nos. 19 and 21 East 17th Street (1881-82);8 and Temple Court (1881-83).

Farnsworth practiced independently from 1883 to 1897, producing numerous designs for commercial and office buildings and warehouses for prominent builder-developer John Pettit, including additions to the cast-iron Bennett Building9 in 1890-94. He was responsible for the Singer Building (1886), Pittsburgh, Pa. Farnsworth also designed the Temple Court Annex, built in 1889-90, and maintained his office in Temple Court in 1890-92. Associated with a number of other architects over the years, he worked with Charles E. Miller from 1897 to 1900, then with [J.A. Henry] Flemer & [V. Hugo] Koehler in 1900-01, and as part of Koehler & Farnsworth in 1907-10; he practiced alone until around 1923.

Little is known of Silliman's subsequent practice, though he remained listed in New York City directories until around 1900. He moved to Yonkers around 1883, and former colleague George

Martin Huss reminisced after Silliman's death that "I believe [he] built largely in Yonkers."