From Publishers Weekly
In this unsatisfying overview, Broderick looks at one of the leading architectural firms in turn-of-the-20th-century America. Redefining the American aesthetic, McKim, Mead & White put its stamp on Boston, Baltimore, and Newport, and most particularly New York, where it built NYU's and Columbia's libraries, the second Madison Square Garden, and the original Pennsylvania Station. High-minded Charles McKim brought American architecture up to European standards, but his personal life was overshadowed by a messy divorce and tragedy in his second marriage. Well-born William Mead was the sober, hard-working partner who shepherded the firm to success. Poorly educated Stanford White became more a celebrity decorator than an architect and was murdered by a madman obsessed with White's mistress. NYU architectural historian Broderick (The Villard Houses) is too dry for a general audience in discussing the firm's architectural masterpieces, while she shies away from a deep look at the men behind them: she chooses, for instance, not to focus on the firm's bisexual atmosphere. General readers interested in either a popular study of the great architectural firm or in the "scandal" and "class" of the subtitle will be disappointed. (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* The group of three—Charles McKim, William Mead, and Stanford White—that architectural historian Broderick portrays in this great, rambling mansion of a book sought to boost American architecture up to European standards. McKim’s decision to become an architect seemed “impulsive,” yet he quickly developed a knack for attracting clients and planning projects. Artist White proved to be a gifted designer with a flair for interiors and a mania for antiquities. Pragmatic Mead took care of the firm’s business side and lived a quiet, diligent life, taking up little space in this otherwise torrid Gilded Age saga. McKim suffered cruel personal losses and was plagued with depression yet triumphed to become the “serene dean” of architecture. White is the maelstrom, and Broderick avidly tracks every step of his extravagant and self-destructive reel of hard work, harder partying, and illicit schemes right up to his notorious murder. Broderick also tells the stories of the firm’s epoch-defining, technologically progressive creations, profiling their colorful, prominent clients and fully delineating diverse projects, from seaside chateaus to Madison Square Garden, the Boston Public Library, and a host of other iconic, if short-lived buildings. For all its heft and exactitude, this is a scintillating record of the complex lives and accomplishments of three adventurous architects who created American grandeur. --Donna Seaman