Architect Marcus Reynolds Focus of Rural Cemetery Project


By on

The 1899 Marcus T Reynolds House at Albany Rural CemeteryThe Albany Rural Cemetery is set to kick-off a special capital campaign to restore the 1899 Marcus T. Reynolds House (formerly the superintendent’s residence) and to celebrate Reynolds’ many contributions to the Cemetery’s cultural landscape, on October 14.

The event will be held at the Cemetery on the lawn of the Reynolds House and will include a special luncheon, music, costumed greeters, and a rare opportunity to tour the inside of the Reynolds House which is normally closed to visitors.

Marcus T. Reynolds was New York’s most prominent architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born on August 20, 1869 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he was raised in Albany by his aunt, Laura Cuyler Van Rensselaer, on Columbus Street in Albany. Educated, in part, at the Albany Academy, he attended Williams College where he took up photography as a way to document architectural details. He transferred to Columbia University, graduating in 1893. He returned to Albany and, that same year, oversaw the dismantling and removal of the old Van Rensselaer Manor House to Williamstown.

After a trip to Europe in 1894, Reynolds began an architectural career that “changed the face of downtown Albany. Among his many designs in downtown and beyond are:

• The Van Rensselaer House at 385-389 State Street (1896-1897)
• The United Traction Company Building at 598 Broadway (1899-1900)
• The Pruyn Free Library at North Pearl Street and Clinton Avenue (1900-1901)*
• Albany City Savings Institution at 100 State Street (1901-1902)
• First Trust Company Building at State Street and Broadway (1904)
• Hook and Ladder Number 4 at Delaware Avenue (1910)
• The Albany Academy at Academy Road (1928-31)

*demolished

His most renowned work is the spectacular Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company Building (now the SUNY System Administration Building) on Broadway at the foot of State Street. Constructed during World War I, the ornate building is Flemish Gothic in style, but incorporates many references to Albany’s Dutch heritage such as carved beavers, coats of arms of prominent Albany Dutch families, and the massive replica of Henry Hudson’s ship, the Halve Maen.

In 1899, Marcus T. Reynolds was commissioned to design a house for the superintendent of the Albany Rural Cemetery. The building, one of Reynolds’ earliest residential projects, is also his earliest signed work; his name and the date of the building’s completion are inscribed over a door on the south façade of the house.

Now called the 1899 Reynolds House at Albany Rural Cemetery, it is a handsome hybrid of Italian villa and rustic American styles. It combines Ionic columns, Italianate windows, a stuccoed attic, and cedar shingles. A generous porch on the east side gives the building a comfortable elegance. A smaller porch on the south side has since been demolished.

Author Eugene J. Johnson observed that the building’s “classical form stands in deliberate contrast to the cemetery’s carefully designed, irregular landscape” and that Reynolds introduced “no formal garden to make a transition from the building to nature.”

Following the completion of the residence for the superintendent, Marcus T. Reynolds designed a number of significant monuments for the Cemetery. These include:

• Andrew Hamilton (Section 28, Lot 91)
• John D. Parsons (Section 29, Lot 12)
• Erastus Dow Palmer (Section 34, Lot 15)
• George Hilton (Section 29, Lot 23)
• William Bayard and Laura Dexter Van Rensselaer (Section 14, Lot 1)
• Georgiana Myers Palmer (Section 30, Lot 16)
• The Dalton Cinerarium (Section 21, Lot 34)

He also designed the Linden Cottage at the Cemetery’s South Gate and the urn-crowned field stone gates at the Cemetery’s main entrance on Broadway are attributed to him.

Known for his sarcastic wit and exacting professional standards, Marcus T. Reynolds died of appendicitis on March 18, 1937. He was buried in the large Dexter-Reynolds family plot at Albany Rural Cemetery in Section 17, Lot 1.

Located within the Cemetery gates in a serene and picturesque setting, the 1899 Marcus T. Reynolds House has potential and could be used as a visitors center, as well as for meeting, exhibit, and event space. It has, unfortunately, stood vacant for several decades and is now in need of extensive repair and upgrades.

For more information about Albany Rural Cemetery, including their online historical resources, visit their website.

Photo of Marcus T. Reynolds provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *