Electus D. Litchfield (1872-1952), Architect and Town Planner

Architect Electus Darwin Litchfield posing in the rear of a home he designed for Lockwood Barr at 20 Beech Tree Lane, Pelham Manor, NY. Reference: Historic Pelham.

July 2, 1931. Photographer: Samuel Herman Gottscho (1875-1971)

Photo Courtesy Library of Congress
LC-G612-T01-16403-B

Electus Litchfield was one of the main architects and town planners of Yorkship Village. He explains in his 1919 papers the recent need for building homes for the growing numbers of workers at the nearby shipyard in Camden, New Jersey. World War I (1914-1918) was underway at the time, with the United States entering the war in 1917.

Litchfield has another connection with U.S. Naval history. He succeeded in restoring the rank of his great-grandfather, Lieutenant William S Cox. Lieutenant Cox was on the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812.


"E. D. Litchfield, 80, Architect, Is Dead: Civic Leader Here Won Reversal of Grandfather's Demotion in Court-Martial of 1814," New York Times, November 28, 1952, p. 25.

Electus Darwin Litchtfield, a leading architect and civic spokesman in this city for half a century, died yesterday in St. Barnabas Hospital, the Bronx, after a long illness. He was 80 years old.

A lifelong resident of New York, Mr. Litchfield, as a member of many private and city organizations, championed civic-improvement causes including slum-clearance and housing projects. He was a devotee of municipal beautification.

He had headed the firm bearing his name at 80 Fifth Avenue, until two years ago, when he retired. His home was at 171 East Seventy-third Street.

Recently, Mr. Litchfield had come into the news as the grandson of William S. Cox, a naval lieutenant in the War of 1812, whose commission had been revoked by court-martial in 1814.

Lieutenant Cox had helped carry the dying Capt. James Lawrence below decks of the frigate Chesapeake during a battle with the British at Boston Harbor. As the result of leaving the scene of the fighting while senior uninjured officer, Mr. Cox was demoted.

Sought Reversal 40 Years

For forty years, Mr. Litchfield sought to have the Navy remove the stigma of that decision. On Sept. 8 he won his fight when the Navy presented to him at St. Barnabas a certificate of restoration of Mr. Cox's commission authorized by the President and the Congress.

Mr. Litchfield was graduated from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and Stevens Institute of Technology. He became associated with several architectural firms in the succeeding years until, in 1926, he established his own.

In addition to many commercial buildings in this area, Mr. Litchfield designed Yorkship Village, a World War I industrial town of 2,000 homes for shipbuilders near Camden, N. J. He was also an architect for the Red Hook slum clearance and housing project, assisted in reconstruction of Bellevue Hospital, and designed the Brooklyn Masonic Temple.

Mr. Litchfield also designed many public and commercial buildings and monuments in other cities, including the Denver post office and courthouse; the public library in St. Paul; the National Armory in Washington, and a monument to the Lewis and Clark expedition at Astoria, Ore.

Fought Park Conversion

As president of the Municipal Art Society in the Nineteen Thirties, Mr. Litchfield took part in a fight in 1933 and 1934 against a proposal by John Sheehy, the Park Commissioner, to convert a thirty-two-acre area in Central Park into baseball and athletic fields. A compromise plan was put through to include children's playgrounds and landscaping.

Mr. Litchfield served the city as a member of the Building Revision Commission in 1906 and 1907.

He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a member of the Architectural League of New York, the New York Fine Arts Federation, the Beaux Arts Institute of Design, a former director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and a founder of the New York Building Congress.

In addition, he was a former governor of the Society of Colonial Wars of New York and a member of the General Society of Colonial Wars, the City Club of New York and The Pilgrims.

Surviving are his widow Elizabeth; a daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Lamble of Sarasota, Fla., and a son, Burnham Litchfield of Edgartown, Mass.