Sunday, April 17, 2011


Joseph Worcester 1836-1913

Daniel Burnham left Chicago in 1863 to study at Thomas Worcester's Swedenborgian School in Waltham Massachusetts. Here, he met Thomas' son, Joseph, who would become his teacher, mentor and lifelong friend.

Daniel's time with Joseph was short -- less than two years. But when Daniel returned to Chicago (after that little side trip to Nevada) he knew he wanted a career in architecture. But this post is not about Daniel Burnham. It is about "Uncle Joe."

Joseph Worcester was born in 1836 in Waltham Massachussetts. He graduated Harvard studying divinity (and architecture and drawing at Lawrence Scientific School) where he had been strongly influenced by William Morris , John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Emanuel Swedenborg.) In 1864 he left Waltham to visit the San Francisco Bay area (traveling via schooner, rounding Cape Horn) . He returned to stay --after a trip to Europe -in 1867.

The Swedenborgian Church under Joseph Worcester's leadership became the center of the Bay Area's arts community. Worcester's own views on architecture significantly advanced the Arts and Crafts movement in California . Names that fall within Worcester's Circle include Bernard Maybeck, A. Page Brown, Willis Polk, Julia Morgan, Phoebe Hearst, William Keith, John Muir, Frederick Law Olmsted.

Worcester sat on Boards that reviewed the architecture and master plans for Berkeley and Stanford. And, with Willis Polk, Worcester encouraged Daniel Burnham to submit a Master Plan for the City of San Fransisco. And if not for that Earthquake.....

In 1888 ideas were afoot to match New York's Statue of Liberty at the mouth of San Francisco Bay. Daniel Burnham REALLY wanted that commission.

In 1892, when Daniel Burnham was nearly buried in Chicago's Columbian Exposition, he still found time to correspond with "Uncle Joe" regarding the architecture of the new Swedenborg Church in San Francisco.

Edward Bennett was from California, educated at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris with a gift from Phoebe Hearst (where he met Peirce Anderson) . Bennett worked with Burnham, Worcester, and Polk on the Plan of San Francisco.  Peirce got Washington DC.

H.H. Richardson left Lawrence Scientific in 1860 -- where he might well have been Worcester's classmate. (Unconfirmed). Worcester's Papers at Berkely include photographs of Richardson's work at Trinity Church in Boston.

Joseph Worcester's major life achievements were still in the future when he taught young Daniel Burnham, fresh from Central High. But a man of this intellect, optimism, confidence and creativity --and Faith -- could certainly have shown him "possibilities." 

Daniel may not have been "educated" in Waltham.  But he knew the way.


1 comment:

  1. Daniels grandfather was a Swedenborgian minister on his mothers side and why he was sent to study with Uncle Joseph.
    Didn't know about DHB's tie to the Swedenborg Church here in San Francisco altho my sister was married in it. It is a beautiful, peaceful wood lined structure. Thanks again! Shannon