Platt, Charles Adams

PLATT, Charles Adams (1861-1933), a leading American designer of domestic and institutional buildings, was born in New York City and educated both there and in Paris where he gained a reputation as an artist of landscape paintings and etchings. He travelled extensively in Italy, and developed a strong interest in Italian garden design, and later wrote an illustrated book on the subject, Italian Gardens, published in 1894. Platt's reputation as a master of the American Renaissance is based on his designs for important clients such as Vincent Astor (Astor Court Apartments, New York, 1915), Charles F. Freer (the Freer Gallery, Washington 1914), and Harold McCormick (the McCormick House, Lake Forest, Ill., 1909). He also designed university buildings and prepared campus plans for Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass (1925), for John Hopkins Univ., Baltimore, and for the Urbana campus of the Univ. of Illinois (1922).

In Canada he was commissioned in 1924 by John W. McConnell, the wealthy owner of the St. Lawrence Sugar Co. in Montreal, to take the shell of an unfinished house on Pine Avenue West, MONTREAL, QUE., and to design a substantial addition to the building that had originally begun construction in 1913 to the plans of David J. Spence. Platt collaborated with the local architect Kenneth Rea to complete the work by 1926, creating a sumptuous three storey Renaissance Revival palazzo that became one of the largest private residences in the city (Montreal, Les Residences, 1987, 115-17, illus.; F. Remillard & B. Merrett, Mansions of the Golden Square Mile Montreal 1850-1930, 1987, 216-19, illus. & descrip.). Platt was keenly interested in classical Italian garden design, and it is likely that the gardens surrounding the McConnell house were also designed by him. A full set of drawings for the Montreal residence can be found in the Platt Collection, Avery Architectural Library, Columbia University, New York.

According to the P.Q.A.A. Application Form for Oliver Barwick, Architect, Barwick claimed to have assisted Platt on another residence and garden for J.W. McConnell, located on McConnell Drive near Lakeshore Drive, DORVAL, QUE., c. 1927; burned c. 1965. This was called 'Ashburton', a summer residence originally built in 1879 and transformed into a stone mansion for McConnell and facing Lake St. Louis.

Near Guelph, Ont., Platt was hired to design an elaborate French Renaissance Revival addition to Cruickston Park, BLAIR, ONT., the estate belonging to Matthew Wilks. Originally constructed in 1856-73 by William Ashton, the mansion remained unfinished for nearly thirty years. Wilks had married the granddaughter of John Jacob Astor and it was likely on her grandfather's recommendation that Platt was hired (ACORN - The Journal of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, xviii, No. 2, Summer 1993, 3, illus.). The mansion now forms the centrepiece of a 1,000 acre estate located near Blair, Ont. and was recently purchased by the University of Guelph.

Platt retired from practice after 1930 and died at his country house and estate in Cornish, New Hampshire on 12 September 1933 (obit. New York Times [New York], 14 Sept. 1933, 23; obit. & port. Architectural Record [New York], lxxiv, Nov. 1933, 338; biog. National Cyclopedia of American Biography, xxvii, 1939, 447-8; H. Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects, 1956, 475-6; biog. MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects, 1982, iii, 438-9). A lengthy illustrated article on the work of Platt appeared in Architectural Record [New York], xv, March 1904, 181-244, illus.). A folio on his work entitled Monograph of the Work of Charles A. Platt was published in 1913.