SPOTLIGHT: Ernest Flagg

For our last Spotlight of the year, we wish to pay tribute to a vital part of our history and the architect of the building our organization calls home: Ernest Flagg. If you've visited the Center, you will notice his photograph and commemorative plaque on the wall when you first walk through the front door. Ernest Flagg influenced New York City architecture, planning and policy, and his application of French design theory blazed a path of progressiveness throughout the United States near the end of the nineteenth century. 
 
Photo of Ernest Flagg Found in NPC

Born in Brooklyn in 1857, Ernest was the son of a priest/artist and one of six children. His mother died when he was 9 years old and he spent the remainder of his early life being transferred between various academies by his step-mother. He left school at a young age to enter real estate with his father and brother, and he earned recognition as a planner by the 1880's. Ernest's cousin by marriage, a Vanderbilt, saw his potential and used family connection to get Ernest into the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1888. Ernest was trained in Paris with a fine classical style and he used it to impact the American urban reform movement when he returned to New York in 1891. 

Other than the Rectory of St. Marks Church In-the-Bowery, some of Ernest's notable designs include the Singer Building: the tallest building in the world at the time of its construction in 1908 (demolished in 1968), St. Luke's Hospital: the winning design from a competition in 1896, and the Flagg System Homes: an affordable and attractive alternative to tenement housing (many of which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Although criticized by his contemporaries for his Franco-philic design methods, Ernest Flagg is credited today with many architectural contributions to New York City and beyond. He died in 1947.

 
The Singer Building in NYC

If you are interested in learning more about this celebrated architect, please reference our in-house library that includes a biography of Ernest Flagg titled, Beaux-Arts Architect and Urban Reformer by Mardges Bacon. You can search all of our library on our website.

If you've enjoyed our monthly Spotlight series, please donate this year-end! Your gift helps sustain place-based non-profit organizations here at the Center and helps maintain our research resources and public programs year-round.