Who was Alfredo S. G. Taylor?
Photo by Samuel Gottscho in 1936
Norfolk was in the midst of a building boom in 1902, when the New York architect, Alfredo S. G. Taylor and his wife arrived for a summer visit. They were smitten, as were many other city dwellers, by the town’s clean air and fresh spring water. Soon Taylor became one of Norfolk’s early commuters, boarding a train bound for New York City on Tuesday mornings and returning on Thursday evenings.
Eventually, many of Taylor’s designs became synonymous with life in the town, whether it was the Royal Arcanum Business Block still dominating the downtown or the buildings on the Ellen Battell Stoeckel estate that he transformed for use by Yale’s Summer School of Music.
Gas stations that resembled English cottages emerged at his drafting table alongside plans for the Church of Immaculate Conception, built to serve the town’s burgeoning Irish and Italian immigrant populations. Taylor designed the town’s World War I Memorial, recreational structures at six camps dotting the shores of Doolittle` Lake. Then there were the customized homes, in which according to Ann Havemeyer, author of An Architect and the Village Beautiful, he sought “to give each house a presence of its own.” Many of his works are now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Today, some 45 of these buildings are still in use. “Now mostly hidden behind a century’s growth of trees, Taylor’s houses and public buildings remain a vital presence,’ Havemeyer writes. When in Norfolk, look for Taylor’s recurring motifs: rubble stone, stucco, and terracotta tile, asymmetrical layouts, and unexpected balconies.