1867 - 1947
James Gamble Rogers - Architect of Laurel Court
James Gamble Rogers was the nephew of Peter and Laura (Gamble) Thomson. He was born in Bryant’s Station, Kentucky on March 3, 1867. His parents were Katherine (Gamble) and Joseph Martin Rogers.
Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Buena Park, a northern subdivision near Chicago, Illinois. One of his neighbors was William Bryce Mundie of the William LaBaron Jenney architectural firm. Mr. Mundie would later be instrumental in Roger’s career development.
James Gamble Rogers graduated from Division High School in 1885. He enrolled at Yale University in Fall of 1885, where he would become known as “Gamble Rogers.” At the end of his junior year, Rogers was selected as one of sixteen students to be inducted into the secret elite Yale Scroll and Key Society. He befriended Edward Harkness, the son of Stephen Harkness who had partnered with John D. Rockefeller to form Standard Oil Company. Their continued friendship after graduation would be result in Rogers gaining the architectural commissions for projects endowed by the Harkness family. Rogers had been a member of the Yale baseball team and was team manger his senior year. This affiliation gave him the opportunity to go to Europe after graduation of 1889 as a representative for A..J. Spalding Company’s exhibition baseball team.
Upon his return to the United States, Roger’s neighbor, Mr Mundie arranged a job for Rogers in the office of William LaBaron Jenney, an architectural engineer who had trained at Ecole Centrales des Arts et Manufacturs in Paris, France and served as chief engineer in the Union Army during the Civil War.The Jenney architectural firm was a pioneer of the modern skyscraper building techniques. Rogers left this firm to join Daniel Burnham at the Practice of Burnham and Root. Rogers was named Superintendent of Building for the Ashland Block project in Chicago.
Gamble Rogers left Chicago in 1892 to travel to Paris, France where he enrolled in Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He graduated with his architectural certification in 1898. He returned to Chicago and started the Rogers and Rogers architectural firm with his brother, John Arthur Rogers.
In 1902 he was presented with the opportunity to design Laurel Court in an area just north of Cincinnati, College Hill, Ohio as home for his maternal aunt Laura (Gamble) Thomson and her husband Peter Gibson Thomson, the founder of Champion Paper Company. This Beaux-Arts building was modeled from the design of La Petit Trianon, Versailles, France. The Thomson family moved into Laurel Court in 1907.
During the time of this project, Rogers was traveling to New York and in 1906 formed the New York firm Rogers and Hale, partnering with Herbert Hale. It was to be a short-term partnership as Hale died in 1909.
In 1908, Rogers designed the Edward Harkness House on 75th Street which is currently the Commonwealth Fund Headquarters, (this nonprofit organization was founded by the Harkness Family.)
In his book about James Gamble Roger’s works, James Gamble Rogers and the Architecture of Pragmatism, Aaron Betsky chronicles the many designs that Gamble Rogers completed during his career. James Gamble Rogers was indeed an important architect of his time. The firm he founded still exists as RSBD and is one of the oldest continuing architectural firms in the U.S.