The Life and Work of Harvey Ellis

Early Life and Schooling

Harvey Ellis was born October 17, 1852 in the City of Rochester. His parents were DeWitt and Eliza Haseltine Ellis. Harvey was the oldest of four sons born to the couple (the others were named Charles, Frank and Fred).

His early schooling was in the public schools of the city. He is first listed in the city directory in 1870 as a surveyor. His higher education consisted of a brief stint at West Point. An article in the Union & Advertiser of July 25, 1870, contained the following notice in its "Items in Brief" column:

"Harvey Ellis, son of D.C. Ellis, of this city, has been selected as a cadet for West Point by Judge Davis, M.C."

Ellis attended West Point from July 1, 1871 till January 12, 1872. Official accounts say he was discharged for reasons including neglect of French assignments, but other accounts say that he was expelled for having an affair (possibly including a secret marriage) with an actress. Afterwards, his father sent him off to Europe.

Ellis stayed in Europe until 1872, where he studied European art and architecture, then returned to his family (living at the time in Albany, New York).

Possibly due to family tensions, Ellis moved from Albany to New York City in 1875. In New York he studied architecture under Arthur G. Gilman. He also studied at the National Academy of Design with Edwin White. In 1877, Ellis returned to Albany.

In Albany, he met the person who was to become one of his great influences, the noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson was developing the style now known as Richardsonian Romanesque. This style, based on the Romanesque style of the Middle Ages in Europe, was known for its massive stonework, rounded arches, openings set deep in the walls, turrets and towers. Richardson was involved at the time in the construction of the state capital building in Albany, and Ellis may have been involved in the project.

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