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Richard Morris Hunt

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  • Name: Richard Morris Hunt
  • Born: October 31, 1827, Brattleboro, Vermont
  • Parents: Jonathan Hunt, Jane Maria Leavitt Hunt
  • Spouse: Catharine Clinton Howland, married 1861–1895
  • Children: Richard Howland Hunt, Joseph Howland Hunt
  • Notable Projects: Vanderbilt Family Mausoleum, Statue of Liberty Pedestal, Stuyvesant Apartments, The Breakers, Biltmore House
  • Death: July 31, 1895, Newport, Rhode Island
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About Richard Morris Hunt

“Your goal is to achieve the best results by following their wishes. If they want you to build a house upside down standing on its chimney, it’s up to you to do it.”

—Richard Morris Hunt

A Strong Foundation

With their mother and father both hailing from prominent Vermont families, Richard Morris Hunt and his two brothers were destined for great accomplishments. Elder brother William became a famous painter, and Leavitt, the youngest, an attorney and photographer, while Richard became one of the most accomplished architects in the world.

An Undeniable Talent

After the death of the boys’ father, Mrs. Hunt moved their family to Europe. Showing great promise even in his youth, 19-year-old Richard Morris Hunt was the first American to be admitted into the school of architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. By 1856, Hunt was practicing in New York and had founded the first architectural school in the U.S., conveniently housed in his first major project, the Tenth Street Studio Building.

America’s Architect of Choice

As his reputation grew, New York’s elite called upon Hunt to design their private residences and vacation homes. In 1878, he began a working relationship with the Vanderbilt family, designing grand homes including The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, and the family mausoleum on Staten Island. George Vanderbilt grew up knowing Hunt as their “family architect” and in 1888, Vanderbilt commissioned 62-year-old Hunt to design his vision of a palatial country retreat in the resort town of Asheville, North Carolina.

A Timeless Legacy

With Vanderbilt providing the resources and necessary support, Hunt designed Biltmore House—a 175,000 square-foot French Renaissance style-château that would become known as America’s Largest Home®. It would prove to be Hunt’s last work and though he did not live to see its completion, his son Richard Howland Hunt and his firm’s supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith finished the massive project in his stead. Today, Biltmore is a National Historic Landmark, a premiere example of the Gilded Age in America, and a lasting reminder of Hunt’s professional genius and his contributions to the field of architecture.

Richard Morris Hunt (seated, far left), George Vanderbilt (center), purchasing agent Edward Burnett (far right) and unidentified others at the Alexander House, where George Vanderbilt stayed when he visited the estate during the construction era, circa 1893
Richard Morris Hunt (seated, far left), George Vanderbilt (center), purchasing agent Edward Burnett (far right) and unidentified others at the Alexander House, where George Vanderbilt stayed when he visited the estate during the construction era, circa 1893