Records say that architect James C. Bucklin was a native of Pawtucket, but in view of his family's Rehoboth origins, the place of his birth on July 26, 1801, was probably on the east side of the Blackstone, an area not acquired by Rhode Island until 1862. His parents were James and Lorania (Pearce) Bucklin. When his father died only a year and a half after his birth, James's widowed mother moved with him to Providence, where he would live for the remainder of his long life.
Bucklin received a common-school education, and at age fourteen he was apprenticed to carpenter-builder John Holden Greene. After seven years of training he entered into a business partnership with lumber dealer William Tallman, and the new firm, styled Tallman & Bucklin, became a large and prosperous architectural and building supply company. In 1828, when Bucklin was only twenty-seven, his firm joined with Russell Warren in the design and construction of the Providence Arcade. For Bucklin's design of the Weybosset end of this classic Greek Revival structure, he looked to John Haviland's stepped parapet on the Philadelphia Arcade, which Bucklin had visited in 1826.
In the year following their Arcade triumph, the team of Warren and Bucklin combined again, using the Greek temple motif, to design the Westminster Congregational Church on Matthewson Street. Eventually the team dissolved when Russell Warren left Bucklin's firm in 1835.
During the 1830s and 1840s Bucklin continued to provide his patrons with sober, classical houses, schools, churches, business blocks, and libraries, many finished with stucco and often scored in imitation of stone.
Still prominent among his surviving buildings are Manning Hall (1834) and Rhode Island Hall (1840) at Brown University; Shakespeare Hall at 128-134 Dorrance Street; the arsenal of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery (1839-40) on Benefit Street, now a military museum; the Rhode Island Historical Society Cabinet (1844) at 68 Waterman Street, now used for offices by Brown University; Athenaeum Row (1845) on Benefit Street; and the original Butler Hospital Building (1847).
Architect Thomas Tefft's brief association with Tallman & Bucklin from 1847 to 1851 apparently influenced Bucklin's later efforts. When the partnership ended in the mid-1850s, Bucklin continued his impressive output for another two decades. Notable survivors from this period are the Hiram Hill House (1864) on Charlesfield Street, the Hay Block on Dorrance Street (1867), and the Monohasset Mill (1868) on Kinsley Street.
According to a 1908 genealogical profile, Bucklin was “the architect of some 300 mill structures and many fine residences as well as business buildings in various parts of the country.” He even designed numerous memorials in Swan Point Cemetery for leading Rhode Island families.
While Bucklin's business life was busy, his civic involvement was more limited. He was known as “a great reader of good books” who “was fond of his home and family.” That family included his wife, the former Lucy Dailey of Providence, whom he married on March 16, 1829, and five children. Lucy died in November 1888 after fifty-nine years of marriage; James died in September, 1890, at the age of eighty-eight.
- (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley
African Americans | Agriculture / Farming | Architects & Designers | Artists & Painters | Banking / Finance | Business / Entrepreneurs | Civic Leaders | Civil Engineer | Civil Rights / Abolitionists | Clergy | Craftsmen | Dance | Econonomics / Theory | Education & Universities | Entertainment Development | Explorers & Adventurers | Famous RI Families | Food / Culinary | Founders of Rhode Island | Government & Politics | Historians/Historical Accounts, Preservation | Immigrants: Chinese | Immigrants: Irish | Immigrants: Portuguese | Industry - General | Industry - Jewelry | Industry - Maritime | Industry - Textiles | Inventors & Inventions | Labor / Unions | Law / Legal Pioneers | Literature / Writers / Newspapers | Medicine & Health Care | Military | Music (Singers, Composers) | Native Americans | Olympic Athletes | Philanthropists | Religion & Churches | Retail Pioneers | Rogues | Sports - Baseball | Sports - Basketball | Sports - Football | Sports - Golf | Sports - Hockey | Sports - Other | Sports - Tennis | Sports - Track and Field | Technology & Science | Theater | TV & Radio | Women |