Thomas U. Walter (1804-87) is the most famous architect whose name you have never heard (unless you are related to me, have been my student, are a friend of mine, or a person who sat next to me on the train, or the bag boy at the grocery store, or the mailman…). Among the 100s of projects he designed during his very long career, the dome of the Capitol in Washington (yes, that Capitol) was, in many ways, the highpoint. But there are dozens of other really fine (if less-famous) buildings of his that still stand: the Chapel of the Cross (Chapel Hill NC), the Chester County Bank (West Chester, PA), Eutaw Baptist Church (Baltimore MD), and the one that made him a celebrity, Girard College (Philadelphia PA). On top of all that work, he wrote the country’s first architectural theory and invented the AIA.
I’ve been working on Walter for a long long long long long time now, starting with my dissertation, one book, lots of chapters and paper presentations. The point of my sabbatical is to wrap up the giant monograph I’ve had in the works for several years. In terms of my own editing/rewriting, the end is in sight, although the fun of querying publishers has yet to begin. But rather than think about that and give myself a stomach ache, instead I will focus on the gazillion of pages I have written already, a portion of which are not too bad. And then I will go enjoy the nice dinner I have prepared in Mr. Walter’ honor, and listen to my children sing his praises, or at least their thankfulness that Walter’s birthday means crème brûlée for dessert.