Dec 1, 2003
Harold Tatton practiced architecture in the first half of the 20th century and specialized in the Colonial and Tudor Revival styles which grace much of our community. Born in England, he traveled to America as a young man. He lived at 41 Mountain Avenue in Maplewood from the 1920s until his death in 1965.
In 2002, Tatton’s daughter-in-law Barbara B. Tatton donated to the Durand-Hedden House a voluminous collection of architectural drawings, glass slides and blueprints, which we are only beginning to sort through.
Tatton’s early work, done when he was a student in the Atelier of Donn Barber, includes some stunning watercolor renditions of palazzos and a bell tower from 1909-1910. Barber had been trained in the Beaux Arts style, which drew heavily on Italian and French Renaissance sources. The style worked well for imposing public and institutional buildings.
Tatton’s training in Barber’s atelier, or studio, prepared him well for a position at McKim Mead & White, a renowned firm that executed many grand commissions from the Boston Public Library to Vanderbilt mansions in New York and Newport.
At McKim Mead & White, Tatton was involved in the design of the lettering on the magnificent New York City Post Office Building (8th Ave. & 31st St.) of the motto “Neither snow nor rain nor hail nor dark of night stays these couriers from their appointed rounds.”
During this period he also was the supervising architect for a unique Short Hills house called The Close. Designed by English architect M.H. Baillie Scott, The Close is an ancient-looking half-timbered building that may be the closest thing in America to a 16th century English country manor, with heavy structural timbers and small-paned windows of wavy glass.
Other notable New York buildings Tatton worked on were the Daily News Building, the Title Guarantee Trust building on lower Broadway, and Beekman Towers on First Avenue.
As Tatton moved to smaller architectural firms and finally went out on his own, his talent for designing elegant, functional homes for America’s growing and prosperous middle class became apparent. Small-scale developers working in towns like Short Hills and Summit found his ideas appealing and marketable.
Tatton’s files contain a stunning array of drawings and designs for Tudor and Colonial Revival houses, some of which were built in Maplewood, Short Hills, South Orange, Summit and Montclair from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Our “history detective” work in learning more about Tatton continues as we research and explore a variety of sources.
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