Asher Benjamin

Asher Benjamin

Asher Benjamin, photographer unknown

Asher Benjamin June 15, 1773 - July 26, 1845

Born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Asher Benjamin was a prominent American architect who transitioned between Federal style architecture and later Greek Revival. During his apprenticeship, he worked on the Old Connecticut State House, designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, and located in Hartford, Connecticut.

He designed numerous houses and churches throughout New England. The first Deerfield Academy Building, 1797-1798, was by him; it is now open as the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. He lived and worked in his native Greenfield, in which several of his works remain; three years in Windsor, Vermont where his Old South Congregational Church (1798) still stands; and then later in Boston.

Benjamin's greatest influence is due to his pattern books, the first written by an American architect, which brought architectural history, style and geometry to ordinary builders in the field. These handbooks provided superb drawings and practical advice on not only full house plans, but also such details as circular staircases, doorways, mantlepieces, dormer windows, pilasters, balusters and fences. He sketched houses and churches, even a courthouse.

The archeological sources of his designs were scrupulously cited, from the Temple of Theseus in Athens, Greece to the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy. Other architects, including Ithiel Town and Ammi B. Young, assimilated his plans.

His book, The Practical House Carpenter, published in 1830, had an enormous influence in changing American architectural taste towards the Greek Revival style from the Federal style, espoused by his previous handbooks.

The charm of many early New England towns owes a debt to Asher Benjamin, some of whose books remain in print. He died in 1845 at Springfield.