The Winterthur Library

 The Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera





Creator:          Thomas Ustick Walter (1804-1887)                                        

Title:               Architectural Drawings

Dates:             ca. 1857-1863

Call No.:         Col. 116          

Acc. No.:         66x100, 79x260-.274

Quantity:        15 items

Location:        Photos: 18 D 3; originals: Map case 6, drawers 7-8






Thomas Ustick Walter was an architect, best known for his work on the domes and wings of the United States Capitol.  He was the oldest son of Joseph Saunders and Deborah Wood Walter, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1804.  Thomas was an apprentice to his father in bricklaying and stonemasonry from 1819 to 1824.  During this time, Walter's father and Daniel Groves were in charge of the construction of William Strickland's Second Bank of the United States.  Walter trained in the office of William Strickland and returned again between 1828 and 1831.


In 1824, after marrying Mary Ann Elizabeth Hancocks, Walter joined his father in the construction business as a master bricklayer.  He also began attending the School of Mechanic Arts at the Franklin Institute, under the direction of John Haviland and the landscape artist William Mason.  By 1829, Walter was a member of the Franklin Institute, and he was named its professor of architecture in 1841.


Walter's first professional design was for a church in Louisville, Kentucky, dated January 1, 1831.  He continued in his father's business while he made efforts to establish himself as an architect. Walter rose to prominence with architectural designs for Moyamensing Prison (1831-1835), Girard College (1833-1848), Andalusia (the estate of Nicholas Biddle), and Portico Row (on Spruce St., between 9th and 10th), all projects in the Philadelphia area.  By 1843, he had designed more than two hundred projects and was a member of Philadelphia's new and well-to-do professional class.


Walter presented his designs for the Capitol extension in December 1850.  He moved to Washington, D.C. in June 1851 to begin work on the project and remained in charge until 1865.  While in Washington, he also worked on the design and construction of the extensions to the Treasury Building, Patent Office, and Post Office.  In 1865, Walter returned to Philadelphia.


Walter was an organizer of the American Institute of Architects and served as its president from 1876 to 1887.  From 1835, he was a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and from 1839 he was a member of the American Philosophical Society.  Walter was the author of A Guide to Workers in Metal and Stone, published in 1846, and (with J. Jay Smith) Two Hundred Designs for Cottages and Villas, also published in 1846.  Walter’s first wife died in 1847, but married Amanda Gardiner in 1848.  He had met Amanda at the church to which they both belonged; Walter was a devoted church member for his entire life.  Altogether, he had twelve children.  After many successes, but also many vicissitudes and financial setbacks, Walter died in Philadelphia in 1887.





 The collection consists of thirteen drawings for the alteration to the dome of the United States Capitol, a photograph of an iron foundry, and a drawing labeled "Central Park Bridge," perhaps submitted in the competition for the design of Central Park, New York City. 


Consists of thirteen drawings for the alteration to the dome of the Capitol, a photograph of an iron foundry (a sign on the building names it Iron Foundry and Machine Shop, Janes and Kirtland), and a drawing labeled "Central Park Bridge" (perhaps submitted in the competition for the design of Central Park, New York City). \b The drawings are done with ink and feature such things as the stairway to the dome, the floor of the tholo s dome;, designs for the railing, door elevations, supports and joints, details for the peristyle and laths; and the pedestal of a statue.





The items are arranged by photographic accession numbers.





Purchased from Timothy Trace.





Photographs of original documents must be used.  The collection requires conservation treatment before physical access can be granted to the originals.





Personal and professional papers of Thomas Walter are located at The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 South Sixth St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.






            United States Capitol (Washington, D.C.) - Design and construction.

            Architecture - Designs and plans.

            Public architecture.

            Gothic revival (Architecture)

            Domes - Design and construction.

            Architecture - Details.

            Architectural design.

            Architectural drawings.







Location: 18 D 3 [photos that are to be used]; Map case 6, drawers 7-8 [originals – not to be used]



Negative No.


79.260             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Stairway to Top of Dome"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Jan. 15, 1863

                        copied from original by B.B. Freud, Jr.

                        No. 2068, duplicate of No. 2065


            The top half is an elevation of a circular staircase as fitted with supports made of metal.  The stairs are solid and the supports of the railing are an "x" shape.  The bottom half shows a grid for a platform with small drawings of cross sectional joints.



79.261             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Stairway to Dome"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 1862.

                        No. 2057, duplicate of No. 2060, Scale 1 inch to a foot


            Drawing shows a side of a staircase.  It has landings, with seven steps between each landing.  The supports of the railing have a "t" shape with floral details at the cross. The plans for stairs are shown in cross section; there are diagrams of platforms.



79.262             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Details of Floor of Tholus Dome of U.S. Capitol"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Oct. 18, 1859.

                        No. 1924 duplicate of No. 1919


            Drawing shows support plates and beams for the floor.  There are small drawings of cross sections of joints.



79.263             Drawing, Ink on linen

                        "Design for Railing Old Hall of Representatives"


            The upper half depicts two sets of identical columns and railing, except the first column in the first drawing is three times as thick as the second column.  Egyptian Revival acanthus leaves are shown.  The right is labeled "section thro' column base."  The lower half consists of designs for the flooring using various scales.



79.264             Drawing, Ink on linen

                        Elevation of Door

                        signed by Walter, "Ex. U.S.C."

                        No. 1718, duplicate part of No. 1090


            The top shows an elevation of a door with an arched cross section.  The middle displays a plan of a door jamb.  The bottom shows the detail of the decoration of the jamb.



79.265             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Central Park Bridge 27 (crossed out and 28 written in pencil)

                        Scale 2 feet to 1 inch


            The drawing is of a support for a bridge in the Gothic Revival style.  Three gothic arches meet at the base.  Only simple structural supports are shown.

            [note: According to Eric Delony of the National Park Service, the drawing of Bridge 28 was not done by Walter.  It is consistent with all the other drawings for this work done by Calvert Vaux.  The drawing may have been acquired by Walter from the Cornell Iron Works.]



79.266             Scrap, mounted

                        "Details of Dome Doors in Drum East and West Leading to Floor at Peristyle"

                        signed by Walter, M.C. Meigs copy of original

                        No. 1688


            The drawing shows joints and supports for doors.  The doors are topped by arch windows separated by Corinthian pilasters.  It is an inside view of what appears to be pocket doors.



79.267             Scrap, mounted

                        "Peristyle of Dome, U.S. Capitol"

                        A note: "Compliments Cha. E. Chase, 36 South Clinton St., Poughkeepsie, NY" is pinned to the drawing.


            The drawing shows the inner structure and outer shell of the peristyle with a fluted Corinthian column and Corinthian pilaster.  The arch has a decorated panel.  Brackets are used for support above the door and below the column.  



79.268             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Details of Dome Floor Plates and Balustrade on Top of Peristyle"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 1857

                        No. 1612, duplicate of No. 1556


            The drawing shows the plan of balustrade joints and brackets in the shape of spindles.  The illustration gives the number of each piece needed for construction.



79.269             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Brackets attached to Main Ribs to Support the Face Plates of the Exterior of IInd Story - Dome of the U.S. Capitol"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., July 15, 1859

                        W.B. Franklin, Cap. Top. Eng. in charge, Feb. 14, 1860

                        No. 1894


            Different cross sections and elevations of joints and side views of supports are presented in this drawing.




79.270             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Dome of U.S. Capitol, Section of Pedestal of Statue"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C. Jan. 16, 1863

                        copied from the original by B.B. Freud, Jr.

                        No. 2071, duplicate of No. 2054


            The drawing illustrates how iron supports over 18.5 feet long are joined to support the statue.  Decoration resembling bundles of wheat is shown for the sides of the supports.  An aerial view of the joinery is shown at the bottom of the drawing.



79.271             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Dome of U.S. Capitol, Details of Construction of Tholus"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Sept. 5, 1862

                        No. 2061, duplicate of No. 2044


            A sheet illustrating the joints for the ring of the dome partially covers a drawing of the details of supports for the dome.



79.272             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Cast Iron Laths for Plastering of Canopy over Rotunda, Dome of U.S. Capitol"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C., Feb. 14, 1863

                        No. 2067


            The drawing displays nine laths and the center lath. The number of pieces required for contstruction and their dimensions are given.  The drawing shows how the lathes fit together.



79.273             Drawing, Ink/Wash on Heavy paper

                        "Dome of U.S. Capitol, Details of Upper Part of Cupola"

                        signed by Walter, Washington, D.C. Nov. 6, 1860

                        W.B. Franklin, Capt. Top. Eng. in charge, Nov. 7, 1860

                        No. 2020, duplicate of No. 2018


            The drawing shows the detail of the balustrade, plans and sections of joints, and details of several brackets.  A listing of the piece numbers for construction is included.



79.274             Photomechanical reproduction


            Iron Foundry and Machine Shop of the firm Janes and Kirtland is depicted.  It is a two story brick building with arched windows on the second floor.  There are stone lions at the front door; two men are posed with the lions.