Great Architects of New York: Henry J. Hardenbergh
Rutgers University's Alexander Johnston Hall
Address
101 Somerset Street
New Brunswick, N.J. 08901
Location
Rutgers University's College Avenue Campus, northwest corner of Somerset Street and College Avenue.
Built
1830; Northern (right-hand) addition, 1870, designed by Hardenbergh; third-floor added subsequently.
Use
Originally a grammar school; now public relations offices for Rutgers' administration.
AIA Guide
N/A
Landmark Status
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Prior to starting his own practice, Hardenbergh apprenticed for eight years for an architect named Detlef Lienau, whom history has largely forgotten. But this is Hardenbergh's first solo project, and thus we have the humble beginnings of a master architect's career. He designed an addition to this building: the first two stories of the north, or right-hand wing. (The third story was added later.) As you can see, he was careful not to veer too far from styles and forms of the rest of the building. The second photograph zeroes in on the north wing. Hardenbergh's first work now sits inauspiciously, surrounded by a small parking lot, drooping power lines and shrubbery. Better things were to come.

Hardenbergh won this commission in part no doubt to his family connections. His great-great-grandfather had founded the institution that became Rutgers University. Nepotism? Nah. That's how things were done back then. Regardless of how he got the job, he impressed university trustees enough for them to invite him to design two far grander buildings for them over the next three years: Geology Hall and the Kirkpatrick Chapel.


East facade, facing College Avenue.


Northwest corner, facing a parking lot.