Herbert Langford Warren

Architect, Professor of Architecture
Place of Birth
Higher Broughton Salford
Harvard USA


  • Born      29 March 1857 at Higher Broughton, Salford.
  • Died       26 June 1917 Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
  • Burial     Walnut Hills Cemetery, Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts, USA

Herbert Langford Warren was a highly influential figure in the development of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States, particularly in the Boston area of New England, at the turn of the twentieth century. Warren provided the theoretical and philosophical foundation of the Movement which as Dean of the School of Architecture at Harvard he had ample opportunity to promote.

The son of an American father and English mother, Herbert Langford Warren was born in Higher Broughton, Salford on 29 March 1857. His father Samuel Mills Warren was a successful entrepreneur, having established a partnership with his brothers in a tar roofing business in the United States. While maintaining his interest in the company, he embraced the Swedenborgian faith and became a missionary in England, serving in Manchester and then London. He was, descended from what Herbert described as "an old Massachusetts family," which could trace its origins to a Warren who had settled in the town of Weymouth. New England, by 1638.  Soon after arriving in Manchester, Samuel Mills Warren met Sarah Anne Broadfield (1827-1878) of Bridgenorth, Shropshire, whom he married in 1855.

Samuel Mills Warren's commitment to the Swedenborgian religion also shaped Herbert's views. Throughout his life Herbert was a practicing Swedenborgian, and he designed two Swedenborgian church buildings. The religion was based on the extensive writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688—1772), a Protestant theologian who devoted his studies to interpreting the Bible's Old and New Testaments. Swedenborg hoped to inspire a "New Church." and 1787, followers in London had organized the Church of the New Jerusalem at Hatton Garden.  In Manchester Rev John Clowes (1743-1831) was busily spreading the new doctrines in his own Church of England parish of St John, Deansgate, without meeting with any serious opposition.

Samuel Mills Warren returned to the United States in 1864 sailing from Liverpool to Boston and with his family was living in Boston in 1865 (Massachusetts census). About 1869 the family moved to Germany where Herbert’s brother, John B Warren was born. Herbert Warren spent two years attending the gymnasia of Gotha and Dresden (1869-1871). During this period, wrote James Sturgis Pray, Herbert's Harvard colleague, "he received such a thorough grounding in the German language that it was ever after nearly as familiar to him as his mother tongue.'" Warren's fluency was unusual and admired in his milieu, although a basic familiarity with German was routine. Architecture students at Harvard were expected to read texts in German by prominent historians. Years later, Warren's appreciation for German culture and German architecture in particular would lead to his involvement in the construction of the Germanic Museum at Harvard. Between 1871 and 1875 Warren continued his studies at Owens College, now Manchester University. He took courses in watercolour painting and drawing with William Walker, who had in turn studied under J. D. Harding, John Ruskin's teacher. Warren also attended the University of London.

In 1875 Warren began his architectural career working as a draughtsman for the architect William Dawes, (qv) on the Gothic styled Victoria Hotel in Deansgate Manchester.  He then re-joined his family who had returned to the United States at the beginning of the decade, and entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. taking courses there in 1877-1879. He later joined the office of the Boston architect, H H Richardson with whom he remained for several years. After taking a special course at Harvard, Mr. Warren went abroad as a travelling student in Europe for a year. On his return he was employed in the department of the City Sanitary Engineer in New York, but later returned to Boston where he set up in partnership in the firm of Warren & Smith. In 1888 Herbert Warren became instructor in architecture at Harvard, and a year later was made assistant professor. In 1900 he was appointed professor.

He articulated and promoted an aesthetic guided by an attachment to the past, and he encouraged his students at Harvard to revive and reinterpret English and Anglo-American models. Another characteristic of Warren's aesthetic was "restraint," a quality generally attributed to the region's Puritan settlers. "Restraint" also meant a rejection of both the lavish ornamentation of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the more original styles such as Art Nouveau that were emerging at the turn of the century. Rather they followed the ideals of John Ruskin, William Morris, and later leaders of the English Arts and Crafts movement, with an emphasis on close collaboration with the craftsmen who enhanced their buildings.

On 8 November 1887 he married Catherine Clark Reed, of Boston, by whom he was survived. He left also two daughters. Miss Winifred B. Warren and Miss Hilda Warren, and two sons, Arthur B. Warren and James R. Warren.

 Herbert Langford Warren died suddenly after a brief illness on 26 June 1917 and was buried at Walnut Hills Cemetery.

1857-1862: Higher Broughton Salford
1863-1869: Boston
1869-1871: Germany
1876- : Hillside Avenue, Roxbury Boston (parents’ House)
1900: 64 Oxford Street  Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts
1917: 6 Garden Terrace Cambridge, Massachusetts

Obituary: Cambridge Chronicle 30 June 1917 page 5

Maureen Meister Architecture and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Boston. 2003
Charles A. Coolidge: Herbert Langford Warren (1857-1917). Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 68, No. 13 (Dec., 1933), pp. 689-691