(b Boston, MA, August 8, 1763; d Boston, April 15, 1844).
American architect. Bulfinch was a leading architect of the Federal period in America, but had no formal architectural training.
Born to an aristocratic Boston family, Bulfinch graduated from Harvard College in 1781. In 1785 he embarked on a two-year tour of Italy, France and England, during which he developed a special enthusiasm for the Neo-classical style of Adam family, §3. On his return, he married a wealthy cousin and, by his own account, spent the following eight years ‘pursuing no business but giving gratuitous advice in architecture’. Bulfinch designed approximately 15 buildings during this early period, including three churches, a theatre, a state house for Connecticut, seven detached houses and a group of row houses. The style derives clearly from Adam, but it is notably shallow and linear, owing perhaps to the American use of wood and brick rather than stone, and to Bulfinch’s probable reliance on sketches and engravings of the English models. It is also likely that, at this stage of his career, Bulfinch did not supervise his buildings but merely provided elevations and floor plans to builders who constructed them. Notable among his early works are two churches for Pittsfield and Taunton, MA (both begun in ...