In 1830, Young opened his own office in Burlington, Vermont, a trade center growing fast since the 1823 opening of the Champlain Canal which connected Lake Champlain with the Hudson River and New York City. Here he designed the 1832 St. Paul's Church in the Gothic Revival style. His first monumental work was the Second Vermont State House, a cruciform Greek Revival structure built between 1833 and 1838, which combined a Doric portico modeled on the Temple of Theseus in Athens, with a low saucer dome inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The building's granite blocks were hauled to Montpelier on the frozen Winooski River from quarries at Barre. But a fire in 1857 destroyed much of the building, except for the portico and some of the walls. With considerable respect for Young's original design, the Vermont State House was rebuilt, although now with wings extended by a bay, and a cupola crowning the roof – the plan of Thomas Silloway, trained in Young's office from 1847 until 1851. The result was considered by architect Stanford White the finest example of the Greek Revival style in the country.
Entering the 1837 competition to design the Boston Custom House, Young submitted another cruciform scheme combining a Greek Doric portico with a Roman dome. Planned on a large scale at what was then the waterfront, the building reflected the strength and confidence of the young, growing nation. It won, defeating several other entries, including one by Asher Benjamin. Young was appointed supervisor of construction, which took from 1837 until 1847. In 1838, he established a Boston drafting room. The building's 32 columns were each carved from a single piece from Quincy granite. They measured 5 foot 4 inches in diameter, stood 32 feet high, and weighed 42 tons. Purists decried the Roman dome on a Greek form. Far less sympathetic to the building's Greek form, however, would be the soaring Custom House Tower which replaced the dome in 1913-1915. Boston's first skyscraper, it was designed by Peabody & Stearns to add both office space and presence to a building obscured by later others.
Young entered the 1850 competition to design enlargements to the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Although considered a leading competitor, he lost to Thomas U. Walter. As a sort of compensation, he was appointed in 1852 as the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, a position created by Thomas Corwin, Secretary of the Treasury during the Fillmore administration. From a studio in the Treasury, Young produced designs and specifications for federal buildings ordered by the government to facilitate its various functions throughout the nation. Mandated to be fire-proof, the custom houses, post offices, courthouses and hospitals he built featured masonry foundations, walls and vaulting, with cast iron interior structural and decorative elements, including columns, stairways and railings. Heavy iron shutters were mounted on the inside of windows. Floors and treads were marble, and roofs were galvanized metal. Column capitols, fascia and pediments on the exterior, when not stone, were cast iron painted to look like stone -- which drew criticism of parsimony by the federal architect. Cast iron components were manufactured to Young's specifications in New York state, then shipped to building sites.
At the same time, ongoing modifications to the Treasury Building concerned Young, expected to create working drawings based on plans by Walter. For the South Wing, he invented a column capital which symbolized the department, substituting acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order with eagles and a fist holding a key. Young held the role until he retired on July 24, 1862, dismissed by Salmon P. Chase of the Lincoln administration. Chase's friend from Cincinnati, Isaiah Rogers, succeeded him as Supervising Architect, although the Civil War curtailed the department's activities. Several of Young's buildings would play a part in the rebellion, particularly his custom house in Richmond, Virginia, which served as the Confederate Treasury. When Richmond in April of 1865 was evacuated by the Army of Northern Virginia, with orders to burn warehouses and factories, the Richmond Custom House survived the conflagration -- a testament to its fire-proofing. Indeed, from its courtroom Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason in May of 1866, although he would be granted amnesty.
Young was awarded honorary degrees (M.A.) from the University of Vermont (1839) and Dartmouth College (1841). He died in Washington.
Buildings while Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department
Buying a time share in Boston History Custom House suites snapped up for shopping trips, weekend get-aways (and visiting in-laws)
Apr 16, 1997; For professor Jere Danielle of Dartmouth College, it's an opportunity to own a bit of Boston history. For Jack and Ann Pendergast...