Day 275/365 of Steel – Napoleon LeBrun

Napoleon LeBrun (January 2, 1821 – July 9, 1901) was an American architect. He began his career in Philadelphia designing churches and theatres including St. Augustine’s Church, the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Peter and Paul and the Philadelphia Academy of Music.

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (right) and North Building (left), Manhattan, New York City
Fig 1: The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (right) and North Building (left), Manhattan, New York City
Photo: Beyond My Ken

He moved to New York City, established the firm Napoleon LeBrun & Sons and designed multiple additional churches. He became the official architect of the Fire Department of New York and designed 42 firehouses between 1879 and 1895.

He also designed early skyscrapers in New York City such as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower and the Home Life Building.

The Met Life Tower building under construction in 1908
Fig 2: The Met Life Tower building under construction in 1908
Photo: Scientific American

LeBrun and his firm designed numerous churches in New York City including the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin (1894–1895) on West 46th Street. St Mary’s was the first church in the US to be designed with a concealed steel skeleton, for this reason it was known in its early days as the “Chicago Church”, after the Chicago school of architecture, which was largely responsible for the use of steel skeletons in skyscraper construction.

The Church of St. Mary
Fig 3: The Church of St. Mary
Photo: Americasroof at English Wikipedia

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower was a near-perfect copy of the Campanile in Venice’s Piazza San Marco. However, it lost much of its Italianate design in a 1960’s renovation.

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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