Stanford White: Letters to His Family

Stanford White, Author, Claire N. White, Editor Rizzoli International Publications $29.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8478-2022-1
One can't help but see this as a response to Suzannah Lessard's The Architect of Desire. Lessard wrote of her great-grandfather's presence as being ""something dark right there in the light."" But after reading this collection of letters, it is easy to understand the affection he inspired in his only surviving son, the editor's father-in-law. Lawrence Grant White had mounted each letter in leather books and at their close wrote of the tawdry murder that has sadly overshadowed his father's accomplishment: ""On the night of June 25th, 1906... Stanford White was shot from behind by a crazed profligate [Henry Thaw] whose great wealth was used to besmirch his victim's memory."" These letters, written primarily to his mother, father, bride-to-be and great friend the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, say much more about Stanford White as a man than as an architect--although there are some rather tedious details about White's collaboration with Saint-Gaudens and the odd aside, as when America's premier neoclassicist exclaims to his father, ""Shades of Phidias protect us, there is a steam tramway running around the base of the Akropolis."" What emerges is a rather funny, boisterous, charming man, deeply concerned with the people he loved. For example, in one letter to his mother shortly after his marriage, he writes, ""I do not wish you to think that you are in the least bit less to me now than before I was married. If you have any troubles, you must always tell them to me...."" Nearly every letter included architectural sketches or delightful, hirsute caricatures that are both sweet and self-deprecating, a far cry from Lessard's dark spirit. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997
Release date: 06/01/1997
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