Fiske Kimball

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Fiske Kimball (1888-1955) was an art historian and architect who served for thirty years as director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1925-1955) and for thirty-one years as Chairman of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation's Restoration Committee (1924-1955) and as a member of the Board (1939-1955).[1] During his long association with Monticello, Kimball defined the restoration goals for the house and grounds and oversaw the specifics of every restoration project as well as determining the collection policy and refurnishing objects.

Born in 1888 in Newton, Massachusetts, Kimball received his B.A. from Harvard in 1909 and his master's degree in Architecture from the same institution in 1912. He served for a year as an instructor of art and architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana and then for two years as an instructor in architecture at the University of Michigan, where he also received his doctorate in 1915. During his time as an instructor, he met and married Marie Goebel in 1913. Her discovery that Thomas Jefferson had executed architectural drawings developed into an article written by Kimball entitled "Thomas Jefferson as Architect: Monticello and Shadwell," which was published in the Harvard University Architectural Quarterly in 1914. In 1915, his dissertation, "Thomas Jefferson and the First Monument of the Classical Revival in America" was published, and in 1916, he published his folio Thomas Jefferson Architect. These writings were the first scholarly examination of Jefferson's architectural work, and with the appearance of his History of Architecture (1918; written in collaboration with Harvard professor Harold Edgell), Kimball became one of the leading American scholars of the history of architecture.

In 1919, the Kimballs moved to Charlottesville where he became Chairman of the newly established School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. While in Charlottesville, he also became curator of the Bailey Museum of Fine Arts, and served as the supervising architect for the university (designing several University buildings). In 1923, the Kimballs moved to New York City where Kimball was to organize a Department of Fine Arts at New York University in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He successfully launched the program, but in 1925 left New York to become director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He held this position until his retirement in 1955. During his tenure, his acquisition of several significant collections moved it from a newly constructed but empty building to one of the finest museums in the country. In addition to this post, he was involved with several restoration projects, including those at Colonial Williamsburg, Stratford Hall, Fairmont Park, Gunston Hall, and Monticello. He also served as head of the American Institute of Architects, was on the advisory boards for the Rockefeller Center and the National Park Service, and served as an adviser on art to President Harry Truman.

Kimball's association with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (later renamed the Thomas Jefferson Foundation) began in 1924 when he was named Chairman of the Restoration Committee. In 1939, he was elected to the Foundation's Board of Directors. He held both of these positions until his death. During his tenure at Monticello, he oversaw all restoration projects for the house and grounds. These included the restoration of the Ice House, the North and South Pavilions, the north and south dependencies, the dome and roof, the major interior structural repairs to the house in 1953-1954, and the restoration of the east and west lawns. He also oversaw several other architectural projects on the mountaintop including the remodeling of the Weaver's Cottage, the construction of the old Gift Shop, and the proposed but never constructed visitors' "Entrance Building." In addition to his architectural duties, Mr. Kimball determined the Foundation's collection policy and sought out and acquired numerous Jefferson objects, as well as determining where those objects were displayed in the house.

Kimball died in Munich, Germany, in August of 1955.

Major Publications

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Anna G. Koester, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Archives: Collection Guide and Catalog, October 1989, p. 14-16.

Further Sources