Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fathers of the Five Towns: William Adams

Residence of S.F. Morris*, Hewlett 
One hundred years ago, the Branch communities were renowned for their beautiful homes and gardens.  The summer season, which attracted vacationers from all over the world, was the perfect time for gracious outdoor entertaining in these seaside locales, and this was reflected in  grand lawns and spacious areas for entertaining.

Among the celebrated architects creating these magnificent country homes, was William Adams (1870-1956), a resident of Lawrence.

Adams was the grandson of the Rev. William Adams, pastor of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and a founder of Union Theological Seminary.   The younger Adams attended Yale University and later studied at Columbia University's School of Architecture.  According to the Michigan Society of Architects Monthly 30 (April, 1956), p. 11,

"The earliest recorded work by William Adams is the remodelling [sic] of his own house, a handsome Greek Revival residence at No. 23 West 10th Street, in 1893. The following year, he formed a practice, which lasted until at least 1911, with Charles P. Warren and, in association, Professor A.D.F. Hamlin, former head of the School of Architecture at Columbia University."
On New Years Day of 1894, Adams married Boston socialite Alice Cameron Greenleaf.  Their wedding in the Berkshires  was a high point of the New York and Boston society calendars.  Their family soon grew to include three sons: William (b.1894), Lewis Greenleaf (1897-1977), and John Thatcher (b.1908).   By 1900, the couple  had left Manhattan for Lawrence.

William Adams house at 80 Causeway
Adams' house - Living Room

Adams designed and built his home at 80 Causeway, not far from real estate magnates  Samuel P. Hinckley and  Robert Burton, financiers James R. Keene, J. Henry Work, Talbot J. Taylor and Albert Francke.  Francke, a classmate at Yale, was an usher at Adams' wedding.  He was also a client.  The home which Adams designed for Francke, built around 1899, is featured in the January 17, 1912 issue of American Architect and Building News.

William Adams showed a great sensitivity for designing his houses to complement their location, and for the location to enhance the house's design.
"[H]is plans capitalized on their sites, [he was admired] for the straightforward arrangement and good proportion of his rooms, and for the appropriateness of his designs to the Long Island landscape. "  -- MacKay, p. 38
Most of the houses are designed in the Georgian or Federal Revival styles.  
According to MacKay (p.38):
 Houses by Adams have many features in common.  In each, the main public rooms (entry hall, living room, dining room, and den or library) occupy the ground floor of the main block, with sun rooms in one wing and kitchen and service rooms in another wing on the opposite side of the main block. 

In addition to the house designed for  Albert Francke, Adams designed several other houses in the area:
  • with Charles Peck Warren, Federal Revival shingled house with a gambrel roof for Mrs. S.P. Sampson, Lawrence, c.1900
  • for Howard Summers Kniffin, Sr. (1870-1929), financier and partner in Kniffin and  Caffrey (a hemp and jute brokerage firm) at 515 Ocean Avenue, Lawrence.  The house, Restleigh was a Georgian Revival home, built in 1911. The home was later owned by Robert Morrow.
  • for realty broker John F. Scott (d.1934), a brick Federal Revival-style house in Hewlett Bay Park.

House of John F. Scott, Hewlett Bay Park
  • for attorney Norton Perkins, (1875-1925), a partner in McCurdy and Yard, and a trustee of the village of Lawrence. The Georgian Revival-style house, Whale Acres was located at 350 Ocean Avenue in Lawrence and was built c.1914. It was later owned by merchant and financier Samuel Sloan Achincloss, Sr. (1873-1934).
  • for C.Lawrence Perkins, a financier involved with railroads in Hewlett, (American Architect & Building News, January 17, 1912).
  • for financier Alfred Oliphant Norris (b.1901)  at 70 Causeway, Lawrence, in 1897, the house was subsequently purchased by the architect's son, William Adams III (b1895), Landfall   The younger Adams was a capitalist and builder.  He owned the house until 1951, when it was sold to Stephen Baker Finch.  It was renovated in 2006.
  • for stock broker Stuyvesant Fish Morris (d.1925), a descendent of President Martin Van Buren,
    *The photograph labeled "Residence of S.F. Norris" which appears in American Architect and  Building News, January 17, 1912 was, in this author's opinion, the home of Stuyvesant Fish Morris which is located on Everit Avenue between Hewlett Lane and Auerbach Avenue (now 235 Everit Avenue) in Hewlett Bay Park
  • for financier Arthur Nelson Peck, a shingled house, c.1912 on Channel Road in Woodsburgh. Peck was the president of Walters, Peck, and Co., a stock brokerage firm.  The house is featured in a 1912 issue of House Beautiful (v. 31) Feb 1912: 183.

Adams also designed the 1913 Lawrence High School building, the 1914 Woodmere Academy and the No. 4 School in Inwood, which opened in 1911 and is still in use.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 17, 1911, p. 6

 A practicing architect for forty years, Adams retired in 1932.  He was a member emeritus of the American Institute of Architects and a member of the University Club of New York and the Rockaway Hunting Club.  William Adams died in 1956 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

    Further information (some links may require H-WPL library card number)

House of C.Lawrence Perkins, Hewlett

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