Albert Huntt was a prolific Richmond architect who designed close to 100 public, private and commercial buildings during his career. He was the great-grandson of Otis Manson, another noted architect responsible for buildings including the Union Hotel, Linden Row, the Westmoreland Club and the Richmond Theatre. Huntt’s early career began in partnership with German-born architect Carl Ruehmond, whose own house on West Grace Street is one of my favorites.
Huntt is remembered primarily as an ornamentalist, but as Architectural Historian Coleen Rodriguez has noted, he was ‘not a rogue architect grabbing at elements he didn’t understand, but part of the international trend of marrying elements of good design he understood from across the world and through thousands of years.’
Huntt exemplified the late 19th century edict of eclecticism. He borrowed, and then re-worked elements created by the ancients. His work on Monument Avenue, where he designed a total of 12 houses, is where his use of wit and free-form decoration really shined.
Do yourself a favor and stroll past the Colonial Revival at 1831 Monument Avenue. With its rusticated portico, fanciful window piercings and whimsical top story, it is an architectural delight. Huntt also designed a handful of houses off Monument Avenue including an English Arts and Crafts house at 1814 Grove Avenue, the row at 2114-2126 Hanover Avenue and a double house at 101-103 Rowland Avenue.
One of his early works is a house I know well, as I lived two houses away for ten years. The house was made modern in the most loving ways by its current occupants, my dear friends the Hawley-Hayes family, about 13 years ago. When Huntt designed this grand home, he paid particular attention to the side of the house facing Park Avenue. Colonial Revival in its massing, with restrained whimsy and folly on all sides. It’s a beauty and you should take a walk to go see it. (Also, Ms. Hawley has the BEST holiday decorations you won’t want to miss!)
Albert Huntt’s artful use of neoclassical styles in new and sophisticated ways garnered him great respect and helped him earn numerous architectural commissions. He helped shape the neighborhood, and the landscape of Monument Avenue in particular, where we all have the fortune of enjoying his enduring legacy.