History

We proudly celebrate both our vision for the future and the distinguished legacy established by our founder, Henry Hobson Richardson. His collaborative design approach and eye for detail paired with rigorous quality control continue to define our firm. This legacy, beginning with Boston’s Trinity Church and the first buildings at Stanford University extends to our current projects for leading healthcare, education and civic institutions.

Trinity Church, Boston, MA, 1886

The Office of H. H. Richardson (1874-1886)

Born in Louisiana, in 1838, Henry Hobson Richardson studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and then began his distinguished architectural career with a small office in New York City, opened in 1866. In 1872, Richardson won a competition to design Boston's Trinity Church and in 1874, reestablished his practice in the Town of Brookline, Massachusetts with a small staff, including George Foster Shepley, Charles Allerton Coolidge, and Charles Hercules Rutan, an engineer who started with Richardson as an office boy.

Trinity Church not only brought Richardson to Boston, but earned him great recognition. Widely regarded as the premiere example of the 'Richardson Romanesque' style, this masterpiece is now a National Historic Landmark and a continuing source of pride for the firm and the City of Boston.

Establishing a pattern that remains characteristic of the firm today, Richardson built his practice by responding to the region’s growing demand for new building types, such as academic facilities, railway stations, public libraries, courthouses, churches, commercial buildings and residences. During this period, he designed Sever Hall (completed in 1880), the first of more than 120 new buildings, additions and renovations completed by the firm for Harvard University.

After expanding the practice outside New England, Richardson and his assistants took on a major commission for the Marshall Field Wholesale Store (1885) in Chicago, frequently noted by architects and critics for its representation of Richardson's three constant design principles: continuity, permanence and expressionism. Other important work during this period included the Ames Monument (1879) in Wyoming, the Oliver Ames Free Library (1879) in North Easton, Massachusetts, the Allegheny County Courthouse (1884) in Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce (1887).

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Stanford University, Campus Master Plan, 1887

Shepley Rutan and Coolidge (1886-1915)

Richardson died prematurely in 1886 at the age of 47. The new firm, Shepley Rutan and Coolidge (SRC), headed by Shepley, inherited more than two dozen projects at various stages of completion, as well as numerous leads that would ripen into new commissions. In 1888, the firm was commissioned by Senator and Mrs. Leland Stanford to join landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted in planning the original campus for Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. As one of the first colleges in the country to be conceived and constructed in its entirety from the ground up, this proved to be one of the firm's most significant early projects. The firm maintained a temporary office in San Francisco from 1888 to 1891 to manage the project. During this time the firm maintained offices in St. Louis (1897-1900) and Chicago ( 1892-1914). In 1889, the firm introduced the "skyscraper" to Boston with the 14-story Ames Building, the world's tallest building at that time. The firm maintained its own offices in the building for 93 years, until 1982.

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Boston Lying-In Hospital, Boston, MA, 1923

Coolidge and Shattuck (1915-1924)

Like his predecessor, George Shepley died at a young age, followed 12 years later by Charles Rutan in 1915. Charles Coolidge then offered partnership to George Shattuck, a long-time employee, and the firm became known as Coolidge and Shattuck. The practice continued its prominence in the design of medical schools, creating new buildings for institutions such as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York and the Peking Union Medical Center in China, and hospitals such as Massachusetts General and Boston Lying-In.

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New York Hospital - Cornell Medical School, 1934

Coolidge Shepley Bulfinch and Abbott (1924-1952)

In 1924, civil engineer Francis Vaughn Bulfinch, young Henry Richardson Shepley and Lewis B. Abbott were made partners of the firm, which then became known as Coolidge Shepley Bulfinch and Abbott. During this period, twenty new projects were undertaken for the Rockefeller Institute in New York and New Jersey, as well as a new medical school for the University of Virginia (1929). Continuing work at Harvard included the seven Harkness River Houses, of which Dunster House (1931), with its distinctive form, is considered the most notable. Work with laboratories began with the Woods Hole (MA) Oceanographic Institution. In 1934, the firm completed New York Hospital-Cornell Medical College - its largest commission to date - and projects for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and New England Deaconess Hospital.

Charles Allerton Coolidge, an energetic designer and business developer for more than half a century and the last of the original partners, died in 1936, leaving the practice to Henry Richardson Shepley. Under Shepley's able direction, the firm flourished for the next quarter century with a range of work that included the innovative B. B. Chemical Building in Cambridge (1939) and the original Logan International Airport (1947) in Boston.

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Squaw Valley Tramway, 1969

Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott (1952-2000)

In 1952, Coolidge's name was replaced by that of Joseph Priestley Richardson, a partner since 1950 and grandson of H H Richardson. At this point, the firm's name changed to Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott (SBRA). The firm undertook a number of significant projects in the following decade, including a series of projects for Harvard that "took Harvard vertical," including the award-winning Quincy House (1960) and Leverett House (1961).

In 1962, Henry Richardson Shepley died, leaving the senior partnership to his cousin, Joseph Priestley Richardson, nearly a century after the firm was established by their grandfather. The design practice continued to grow in the healthcare, education and science markets which remain central to its work today. Notable projects included new science facilities for Dartmouth (1962), Vanderbilt (1965) and Smith (1967).

Since its founding, an emphasis on teamwork characterized the firm's work style. Its cadre of loyal and experienced staff worked together to produce the quality buildings for which it had become known. In that spirit, work was usually attributed to teams, rather than to individuals, a tradition that became stronger with the firm's transition from family business to partnership, and its incorporation in 1972. While the firm maintained its team focus, the talents of several of the firm's leading architects were recognized by the profession: Joseph P. Richardson, James F. Clapp Jr., Sherman Morss, Jean Paul Carlhian, Hugh Shepley, Paul Sun, and Daniel J. Coolidge became Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

During the 1970s, the firm received the AIA's National Honor Award for its design of the Tramway Terminal in Squaw Valley, California (1969). In 1973, the AIA bestowed its highest honor - the AIA Firm Award - on SBRA, citing it as "a firm which has produced consistently distinguished architecture since its beginnings almost a century ago...[and] has also served as a training ground for young practitioners in the finest tradition of the architectural profession." At that time, only nine other firms had been so honored. The following year, SBRA celebrated its 100dth year of continuous practice. George Mathey assumed the presidency in 1978, succeeding the ailing Joseph Priestley Richardson, who passed away the following year.

In 1982, the firm moved from the Ames Building - its home since 1891 - to the Boston Insurance Exchange Building, built by Coolidge and Shattuck in 1924. The following decades saw the completion of the South Quadrangle complex of the Smithsonian Institution (1987) and a return to courthouse design after a hiatus of almost 80 years.

Hugh Shepley, who had joined the practice in 1955, retired from the firm in 1990. As the last descendant of H.H. Richardson and George Shepley in the firm, his retirement finalized the transition from family to corporate management.

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World Trade Center East, Boston MA, 2000

Shepley Bulfinch (2000-2008)

Rapidly changing technologies on academic campuses and in the fields of research and healthcare drove the rapidly evolving design of new facilities and adaptive reuse projects, along with an increasing demand for flexibility.

Award-winning design commissions included the renovation and expansion of Higgins Hall science building at Boston College (2000), the renovation and restoration of the historic McKim Building at the Boston Public Library (2005) and the Boole Library addition at University College Cork, in Ireland (2008), as well as work at Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and Yale-New Haven Hospital.

In 2004, Carole Wedge became the first woman president in the firm's history. Since her election Carole has championed the firm's commitment to sustainable design and to a collaborative working environment that was enhanced by our move in 2006 to a new office in the World Trade Center East building, designed by Shepley Bulfinch several years earlier. This carried forward a practice established with the Ames Building of occupying spaces of the firm's design.

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Brody Learning Commons, Johns Hopkins University, 2012

Shepley Bulfinch today (2009 - )

The firm began a strategic geographic expansion in 2009, when it merged with merzproject, a small, award-winning Arizona design firm, establishing Shepley Bulfinch's Phoenix office.

The firm is building on and expanding its national portfolio with cross-office project teams in healthcare and higher education.

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©2014 Shepley Bulfinch