(b New York, July 24, 1803; d Orange, NJ, Jan 14, 1892).
American architect. From the 1830s to the 1850s he was one of the most influential architects in the USA. His work ranges from major government and institutional buildings to ornamental garden structures; his main contribution to American architecture was his introduction of the European Picturesque in his designs for Italianate and Gothic Revival country houses and cottages. With his partner, Ithiel Town, he also refined and popularized the American Greek Revival. He revolutionized American architectural drawing through rendering buildings in romantic landscapes rather than in the analytical, Neo-classical style that preceded him. In 1836 he helped form the American Institution of Architects and advanced professionalism in American architecture through his scrupulous office practices, being, for example, the first American architect to use printed, standardized specifications.
At the age of 16, Davis left school in New York to work as a type compositor in Alexandria, VA. During this time, probably influenced by reading contemporary Gothic novels, he made drawings of prison and castle interiors akin to Piranesi’s engravings of imaginary prisons. In ...