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Cass Gilbert


Architect Cass Gilbert (November 24, 1859-May 17, 1934) designed the West Virginia state capitol, which was built from 1924 to 1932 on the Kanawha River in the east end of Charleston.

Born in Zanesville, Ohio, Gilbert attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year before working briefly as a draftsman for the noted New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White. In 1882, he entered a partnership in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he later designed the Minnesota state capitol, built 1896–1903. After attracting national attention, Gilbert moved to New York City. There he built the U.S. Custom House (1899–1905), in a Renaissance style with Germanic detail, and the Woolworth Building, a 60-story skyscraper with lacy Gothic detail in terra cotta over a steel frame. It is regarded as a model of tall commercial building design.

In Washington, Gilbert built the U.S. Treasury Annex (1918–19) and the federal courthouse (completed 1936), as well as the Supreme Court Building. Gilbert is also responsible for the planning of the campuses of the universities of Minnesota (Minneapolis) and Texas (Austin). Pleased that the budget for the West Virginia project had stayed within the amounts appropriated, Gilbert wrote in 1932 that the ‘‘State Capitol has been erected with a view to the dignity of the State, without excessive expenditure of money.’’ He died in New York.

Written by Emmitt Maxwell Furner II


  1. Cohen, Stan & Richard Andre. Capitols of West Virginia. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1989.

  2. Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vol. 9. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1976.

  3. Irish, Sharon. Cass Gilbert, Architect: Modern Traditionalist. New York: Monacelli Press, 1999.