Robert Cary Long Jr. was born in Baltimore on February 5 1810, the son of architect Robert Cary Long Sr. The elder Long was Baltimore’s first native-born architect, the younger, Baltimore’s first native-born professionally-trained architect.
The elder Long began his career as a carpenter, a trade we would describe as a builder or general contractor. He became a self-taught architect, his Baltimore buildings altogether professional in design including Davidge Hall (the University of Maryland School of Medicine), the Union Bank, the third St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and the Peale Museum. The first and last of these still stand as do the walls of St. Paul’s, incorporated in the present church after the fire of 1854.
After the younger Long’s education in St. Mary’s College in Baltimore, the elder Long arranged for his son to apprentice in the New York office of Martin E. Thompson with Ithiel Town, one of America’s first prestigious architectural offices, there being nothing comparable in Baltimore. After his father’s death in 1833, young R. Cary (as he usually styled himself) returned to Baltimore to continue his father’s practice.
Cary Long excelled in all the prevalent styles of the day, the Greek and Gothic revivals, the Egyptian, and finally the Italianate. The Baltimore Architecture Foundation has collected documentation for over 80 buildings by him and a few studied attributions. He was an architectural scholar and lecturer with eight known articles or publications and six documented lecture series on architectural history and principles of design. We know nothing of his office staff.
His earliest extant works include: Mt. Ida (1833) and the Patapsco Female Institute (1834) in Ellicott City; and Humphries Hall (1835) at St. John’s College in Annapolis.
His best-known Baltimore works include a synagogue and four churches: Lloyd Street Synagogue (1841); St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church (1842), a church that firmly established the Gothic Revival in America as the proper style for churches; St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church (1842); Mount Calvary Episcopal Church (1844); and the former Franklin Street Presbyterian Church (1844). In 1847, he designed the first Bethel AM.E. Church on Saratoga Street between Gay and Holliday Streets, now destroyed.
Nearby Maryland churches by him include: Ascension Episcopal in Westminster (1846); St. Timothy’s Episcopal (1845) and Salem Lutheran (1849), both in Catonsville; and Trinity Episcopal in Upper Marlboro (1846). He was the favored architect for the Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, William R. Whittingham for whom he designed a residence on Madison Avenue in 1849, destroyed by urban renewal in the mid-20th century.
The main gate of Green Mount Cemetery (1839) is an important Gothic revival work by Cary Long, preceded by an Egyptian-revival work that was not built. The Samuel W. Smith house (1848) at Park Avenue and Hamilton Streets is by Long, much altered. The Baltimore Athenaeum (1846), a masterpiece formerly on St. Paul Street at Saratoga Street, and many other known institutional, commercial and residential works by him in Baltimore are destroyed.
He quickly became known beyond Maryland. His major Virginia works include the School for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind (1839) in Staunton; Kinloch (1847), a major house in Essex County destroyed by fire in 1948; and St. George’s Episcopal Church (1849) in Fredericksburg. His St. Mary Roman Catholic Cathedral (1842) in Natchez, Mississippi, together with St. Alphonsus in Baltimore, established a basic style for Roman Catholic Churches copied elsewhere. The Natchez Cathedral followed the appointment of the first Mississippi bishop who was President of St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, and for whom Long designed a steeple in 1840 (now destroyed) for Godefroy’s earlier chapel there. The Cathedral’s drawings were among the drawings auctioned in New York following Long’s death.
In 1835, he entered the competition for the Houses of Parliament in London and may have designed a villa in Hungary in the early 1840s for a nephew of the founding pastor of his St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore.
In late 1848, Cary Long announced his intention to relocate his office to 61 Wall Street in New York where a new major project, the Astor Library, had drawn him. He died tragically young of cholera on July 5, 1849, in Morristown, NJ where he was visiting a client, leaving his widow and four children still in Baltimore, the move not quite complete. Cary Long is buried in the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Morristown, New Jersey*.