century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

View all members

Joseph Trench


Centurion, 1847–1850s

Born 26 May 1811 in Schenectady, New York

Died 27 August 1879 in Oakland, California

Proposed by N/A: Founder

Elected 13 January 1847 at age thirty-five

Archivist’s Note: He likely resigned or was dropped from the rolls between 1857 and 1860.

Century Memorial

Trench was born in 1811 and died in 1879. He lived and worked at 12 Chambers Street. He was the senior architect of the first department store in the United States, A. T. Stewart Dry Goods Store at 280 Broadway. Modeled on an Italian palazzo, it was, perhaps, the first example of Renaissance Revival architecture in New York. The building was later converted into the headquarters of the Sun newspaper; it has been rehabilitated and serves as New York City administrative offices. The Landmarks Preservation Commission report of October 7, 1986 states that it “is an important milestone in the development of American architecture. . . . Noted diarist Philip Hone called the store ‘spacious and magnificent beyond anything of the kind in the New World, or in the Old.’. . . The architectural impact Stewart’s store had upon New York in the mid-19th century was as strong and influential as the impact that the Lever House would have upon New York in the mid-20th century.” Trench left his architectural partnership with John B. Snook in the early 1850s when he joined the California gold rush.

William A. Frosch
“Our Original Amateurs, 2009”