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John V. Van Pelt


Centurion, 1909–1962

Full Name John Vredenburgh Van Pelt

Born 24 February 1874 in New Orleans, Louisiana

Died 30 May 1962 in Patchogue, New York

Buried Willow Glen Cemetery, Dryden, New York

Proposed by Thomas Hastings and James B. Reynolds

Elected 5 June 1909 at age thirty-five

Century Memorial

“Gothic,” said John Van Pelt, “is the only style that can architecturally express religious emotion.”

The design of churches was perhaps the best known accomplishment of Van Pelt’s architectural career although he was also responsible for several institutional buildings including sanitoria, libraries, and town halls. He taught at Cornell and was formerly dean of the College of Architecture of Cornell University.

He was born in New Orleans. When he was fourteen, his mother, who was of French descent, moved to Paris, and John soon began a brilliant career at the École des Beaux Arts. He was the first American to win the title of Architecte Diplôme par le Gouvernement. This was in 1895, and, in the two following years, he was named laureate of the Société des Architects Diplôme par le Gouvernement. On his return to the United States, he was appointed assistant professor of architecture in charge of design at Cornell. He was soon made full professor and then dean. In 1904, he resigned to take the position of director of the Hastings Atelier at Columbia. Ten years later, he moved to the University of Pennsylvania where he became professor of design. Throughout his life, he lectured and wrote on various phases of architecture. He had, as well, a talent for painting.

Among his designs are those of the Church of St. John of Nepomuk, Long Island, the Church of the Guardian Angels in New York, the pedestal for Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Statue of Joan of Arc on Riverside Drive, the Loomis Sanitarium at Liberty, New York, and the Union Health Center of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. On Long Island, he designed the Patchogue Municipal Building, the Patchogue Library, and the Brookhaven Town Hall Contemporary Arts Building. He planned the Cornell athletic fields. He served as secretary of The New York State Fine Arts Committee and as a member of The New York Fine Arts Federation.

He left us in his eighty-ninth year.

Roger Burlingame
1964 Century Association Yearbook