New Book | The Buildings of Peter Harrison

Posted in books by Editor on December 17, 2014

From McFarland:

John Fitzhugh Millar, The Buildings of Peter Harrison: Cataloguing the Work of the First Global Architect, 1716–1775 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014), 244 pages, ISBN: 978-0786479627, $75.

9780786479627_p0_v1_s260x420Perhaps the most important architect ever to have worked in America, Peter Harrison’s renown suffers from the destruction of most of his papers when he died in 1775. He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1716 and trained to be an architect as a teenager. He also became a ship captain, and soon sailed to ports in America, where he began designing some of the most iconic buildings of the continent.

In a clandestine operation, he procured the plans for the French Canadian fortress of Louisbourg, enabling Massachusetts Governor William Shirley to capture it in 1745. This setback forced the French to halt their operation to capture all of British America and to give up British territory they had captured in India. As a result, he was rewarded with commissions to design important buildings in Britain and in nearly all British colonies around the world, and he became the first person ever to have designed buildings on six continents.

He designed mostly in a neo–Palladian style, and invented a way of building wooden structures so as to look like carved stone—“wooden rustication.” He also designed some of America’s most valuable furniture, including inventing the coveted “block-front,” and introducing the bombe motif. In America, he lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and in New Haven, Connecticut, where he died at the beginning of the War of Independence.

Material-culture historian John Fitzhugh Millar has several books to his credit on architectural history, colonial ships, and historic dance; he also runs the historic Bed & Breakfast Newport House in Williamsburg, Virginia.


1. Carl Bridenbaugh’s Account of Harrison
2. A New Narrative of the Life of Peter Harrison
3. The British Isles and Europe
4. Canada
5. New England
6. The ­Mid-Atlantic
7. The American South and Atlantic Islands
8. The Caribbean
9. Other Continents–South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia
10. Furniture

A. Buildings Attributed to Harrison
B. Student to Teacher
C. Architectural Pattern Books in Harrison’s Library

Illustrated Glossary of Architectural Terms

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