Minnesota Historical Society

Cass Gilbert: The Early Years

$ 24.95

The story of noted architect Cass Gilbert and his early career in Minnesota, culminating in his commission to design the state capitol building in St. Paul.


Architect Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) is famous for his soaring vision and classical designs, demonstrated in such landmarks as the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., and the Woolworth Building in New York City. Gilbert first honed his craft in Minnesota from 1882 to 1895, achieving national recognition when he earned the commission to design the state's capitol building.

In this biography, Geoffrey Blodgett grounds Gilbert's personal and professional life in national and regional history, offering detailed political context for the opening decades of his career. In 1882, after training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and apprenticing with the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, Gilbert was ready to set out on his own. He chose the familiar territory of St. Paul, his hometown, as the starting point for his career. Teaming for several years with close friend James Knox Taylor, Gilbert designed numerous residences, churches, and urban structures in and around the Twin Cities. Suffering through the Panic of 1893, with a wife and four children to support, Gilbert fought hard to win the plum commission of Minnesota's capitol building. His success with this project gave his fame a national dimension, and he soon moved his practice to New York.

In focusing on the architect's Minnesota years, Blodgett encourages readers to measure Gilbert's achievements against his times and offers valuable insight on the famous architect he would soon become.


  • By: Geoffrey Blodgett
  • Format: Cloth, 165 pp., 9 color and 64 b&w illustrations, notes, index
  • Publisher: MNHS Press
  • Product ##: 9780873514101


    GEOFFREY BLODGETT was the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History Emeritus at Oberlin College and specialized in the fields of political and architectural history. His books include The Gentle Reformers: Massachusetts Democrats in the Cleveland Era and Oberlin Architecture, College and Town: A Guide to Its Social History.



    Praise for Cass Gilbert: The Early Years:


    "Cass Gilbert, the man, takes center stage in this readable and detailed narrative of his early life and career" -- Thomas O'Sullivan, author of North Star Statehouse: An Armchair Guide to the Minnesota State Capitol


    "Blodgett brings to his assignment scholarly discipline leavened by wit and animated by interpretive insights. His text is a major contribution not only to architectural history in general but to the literature dealing with a singularly gifted American architect." -- Franz Schulze, author of Mies Van Der Rohe: A Critical Biography


    "A 'grand tour' of Gilbert's Minnesota years, this book is written in a colorful, engaging--even picturesque--style that is suggestive of Gilbert's architecture." -- Tom Blanck, architect


    "With engaging writing, Blodgett illuminates the rich underpinnings of Gilbert's illustrious career and paints a lush contextual landscape to highlight this foundational figure in Minnesota architecture." -- Dale M. Mulfinger, Sala Architects, Inc., author of The Architecture of Edwin Lundie and The Cabin: Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway.

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