Gideon Shryock: His Life and Architecture, 1802-1880

Gideon Shryock: His Life and Architecture, 1802-1880
Item# BB415

Book Summary

IPPY Bronze Award for Best Regional Nonfiction 2022WINNER of the 2022 Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Regional Nonfiction
“A truly engaging read, we need more books like this... Excellently researched and written and beautifully illustrated.” —Richard Guy Wilson
By Winfrey P. Blackburn, Jr. and R. Scott Gill
10 x 11 inces
256 pages
Full color throughout
ISBN 978-1-953058-34-8
Pub date October 2021
Carton qty: 8

Gideon Shryock, Kentucky’s first formally trained architect, brought the international style of the Greek Revival to Kentucky and the American West, and in the process imparted a template of architectural and professional dignity for others to follow. Over the course of a half-century career distinguished by a considerable body of projects, he became one of the state’s – and the era’s – most important architects. This book presents, for the first time, the story of the man and his work.

Shryock lived in robust, exciting, and contradictory times, an era when a complex assortment of Americans from the eastern states, European immigrants, and enslaved Africans crossed the Allegheny Mountains into the ancient Native American territory of Kentucky. For some, it was a pursuit of great aspirations and opportunities; for others, it was a time of dispossession and despair.

Born in Lexington in 1802 to devoted parents from Maryland, Shryock was the second of ten children, and the first son. Formally schooled at a private boys’ academy, he learned the building trade working with his father, a skilled carpenter and builder. At the age of twenty, he traveled to Philadelphia to apprentice under the country’s great architectural master, William Strickland. There, Shryock absorbed the skills, rules, and resources of his chosen profession, and made valuable friends among his talented cohort of apprentices. Upon returning home, he won the coveted prize to design and build a new statehouse in Frankfort. It was an extraordinary accomplishment that launched the young architect toward a remarkable future.

While Shryock is most known for his monumental Greek Revival buildings in Frankfort, Lexington, and Louisville, his body of work was quite varied and included numerous houses, churches, commercial buildings, and even a patented “steam-boiler furnace.” He pursued competitions, including for the Washington Monument and Tennessee State Capitol. In his twilight years, he was honored as the first president of the newly created Kentucky Association of Architects.

This first and definitive book about Gideon Shryock chronicles the peaks and valleys of the architect’s life and work, all within the fascinating historical context of nineteenth-century Kentucky. The authors reveal a man greatly admired by his colleagues and friends, respected by his clients, and beloved by his family. His buildings stand testament to his passion for his profession and to his success in awakening the pioneers of Kentucky and beyond to the nobility of majestic architecture.

About the Authors

Winfrey P. Blackburn, Jr. is a practicing attorney in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a native of Frankfort, Kentucky, and holds both bachelor’s and law degrees, with honors, from the University of Virginia.

R. Scott Gill teaches architectural history and practices real estate in Austin, Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University, a master of architecture degree from Rice University, and a PhD in architectural history from the University of Texas at Austin.

Blackburn and Gill are co-authors of Kentucky Houses of Stratton Hammon and Country Houses of Louisville, 18991939.


“A truly engaging read, we need more books like this one on Gideon Shryock, who created a classical and Greek identity out on the frontiers of Kentucky and Arkansas. Shryock’s work, from state capitols and churches to commercial buildings and houses, shows a wealth of invention and reveals an architecture that is among the best of the period. Excellently researched and written and beautifully illustrated, this book restores Shryock to his rightful place as one of America’s great architects.”

“Long overdue, this significant biography celebrates the Commonwealth’s great architectural prodigy, Gideon Shryock. Through a very nice balance of documentary investigation plus human charm, local history in company with a broader national context, and the appeal of antiquity invading the nineteenth century, the authors offer a richly engaging and wonderfully illustrated narrative that unfolds the career of this very exceptional Kentuckian. This is the definitive biography of an important early American architect.”

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