Robert North

By Jennifer Walkowski

Robert North was one of the most prolific designers of ecclesiastic architecture in Western New York.

Born in 1883 in Batavia, NY, North graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1905. Shortly after his graduation, he taught several courses in architecture at Cornell.

Upon returning to Buffalo, North worked for the notable architectural firm of Green and Wicks.

North‚s inspiration for church design likely came from a 1907 tour of European churches, castles and other grand buildings, which sparked not only his architectural interest but an interest in painting as well. He also toured Greece in 1912, studying ancient building technologies.

North, Shelgren and Swift / North & Shelgren

In 1919, North was a partner in the firm of North, Shelgren and Swift before he teamed with Olaf Shelgren to form the firm of North & Shelgren in 1925. Both together with Shelgren and individually, North was responsible for the design and construction of over 50 churches, including St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia (1908, NR 2004), the Tudor Revival Calvary Episcopal Church in Williamsville, NY (1952), and the Church of the Advent in Kenmore, NY (1951).

North also was a prolific designer of other buildings including numerous Buffalo Public Schools, the Hall Baking Company Building, the Crosby Building, and the Westbrook Apartments as well as numerous residences.

North was an avid painter, with examples of his work exhibited at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 1937, and he was involved with the Roycroft artisans in East Aurora, NY for many years.

After his AIA membership lapsed in 1939 North continued to practice architecture, but eventually the firm of North & Shelgren dissolved in 1945. After retiring from architectural practice in 1953, Robert North died on May 2, 1968 after several years of ill health.

Building designed by Robert North:

Building designed by North & Shelgren:

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