Legendary Architect Harrie T. Lindeberg’s Legacy Celebrated in New Book

Architect Peter Pennoyer and historian Anne Walker reflect on the undersung talent

New Jersey’s Albemarle, the Gerard B. Lambert estate, designed by Harrie T. Lindeberg.
Photo: Jonathan Wallen
Harrie T. Lindeberg and the American Country House.  Photo: Courtesy of the Monacelli Press

A caretaker’s house built around the individual branches of a tree. A doorway of hammered bronze panels depicting the signs of the zodiac. Roof eaves that curve over the sides of a house like a blanket. These stunning design details are brilliant examples of the singular craft and imagination of architect Harrie T. Lindeberg, who practiced in New York at the beginning of the 1900s.

Although not nearly a household name, Lindeberg’s fingerprints can be seen on American country homes built over the last century. His use of modest materials and graceful proportions made him the go-to talent for captains of industry, who wanted to escape the rigors of the city for a more relaxed country life. The estates he created for them celebrated nature, opted for humility over grandeur, and were strikingly simple despite their mixing of architectural styles.

A portrait of Harrie T. Lindeberg by Gordon Stevenson, 1943. Photo: National Design Academy

In the new book Harrie T. Lindeberg and the American Country House (The Monacelli Press, $60), architect Peter Pennoyer and historian Anne Walker reflect on what makes the homes created by the under-recognized Lindeberg such marvels even today. New as well as historic photography, floor plans, and sketches of 20 of the architect’s projects compromise the new tome, which picks up where Lindeberg’s out-of-print monograph from the 1940s left off. The enthusiasm and appreciation Pennoyer and Walker have for his work leap off the pages, which are brimming with interesting facts and keen observations on the signatures of his varying style. “He’s a great creator but also a great editor,” enthuses Pennoyer. “He was overflowing with creativity—not in an abstract manner, in a very detailed way. But he still was able to pare everything back to essential language of architecture.”

Wyldwoode, Clyde M. Carr Estate, in Lake Forest, Illinois. Photo: Jonathan Wallen

The child of Swedish immigrants, Lindeberg launched his career as an apprentice at the age of 17. By 24, he was managing a team of four graduates of the Harvard School of Architecture although he had no degree himself. Five years later, Lindeberg launched his own practice, which became the firm of choice for industrial titans looking to build gracious country estates in upper-crust New York enclaves like Glen Cove, Mill Neck, and Rhinebeck—as well as St. Louis, Missouri, and Lake Forest, Illinois. His designs even were even built abroad as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quest to export American architecture with the construction of the United States Legation in Helsinki.

In his foreword to the book, Robert A.M. Stern observes, “Harrie T. Lindeberg was not an eclectic architect working in identifiable historical styles but instead a traditional architect who drew upon diverse sources, which he did his best to conceal, synthesizing them into an identifiable personal style.” He goes on to liken this ability most closely to that of Frank Lloyd Wright, “who despite his claims to not be a traditionalist also drew from the past and from the work of his contemporaries but concealed the sources of his inspiration.”

“His clients were people who would look down on stockbroker classicism. They preferred a more romantic and naturalistic architecture,” states Pennoyer. Photo: Jonathan Wallen
“He was never designing a house to be big or grand or impress. There’s a calm comforting scale that’s very humanistic, even in houses that are very large. He gets you to the front door in stages so it unfolds in a comfortable way, perhaps even entering through a side door. At Great Craig, you discover the house room by room and come from behind each of the major rooms,” says Pennoyer. Photo: Jonathan Wallen
“When you approach Wyldewood in Lake Forest Plan, all you see is the entrance pavilion surrounded by trees. You don’t see the bulk of the house that looks out over the lake. His attention to detail and craftsmanship can be seen in the metalwork here,” notes Walker. Photo: Jonathan Wallen
“His roofs are pure sculpture. He pulls the roof down lower than the top of the windows so it feels like a cloth that is fitted over a house. He doesn’t interrupt his roof forms with extraneous angles or dormers. Then, he scales the chimneys, so they feel like they’re coming up from the earth,” says Pennoyer. Photo: Jonathan Wallen
“Lindeberg had a keen sense for the color of materials. For Bunny Mellon’s childhood home, the Lambert house in Princeton, all of the slate for the roof was laid out before they put it up, so the pattern of the colors were correct,” explains Walker. Photo: Jonathan Wallen
“I’ve always admired the Van Beuren house, Gray Craig, near Newport. It’s the closest thing to an American Lutyens house. The house seems to grow out of nature and comes out of a dramatic slope and rock outcroppings,” says Pennoyer. Photo: Jonathan Wallen

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