Skip to content

Condit, Carl W.

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Condit, Carl W.

    Other Names:

    • Carl Condit

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 29 September 1914

    Date Died: 04 January 1997

    Place Born: Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH, USA

    Place Died: Evanston, Cook, IL, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): American (North American), architecture (object genre), and sculpture (visual works)


    Americanist architectural historian of the skyscraper. Condit was the son of Arthur Thomas and Gertrude Pletz (Condit). His father was employed as a teacher in Cincinnati. After attending Walnut Hills High School in the city he entered Purdue University in Indiana studying Mechanical Engineering. He graduated with a BS in that subject in 1936. Condit’s interests were stronger in the humanities, however and he returned to Cincinnati and the University there to study English literature. He awarded his A. M. in 1939 and his Ph.D. in 1941. His dissertation topic was on Geoffrey Chaucer. While working on his graduate degrees he taught English at Cincinnati University. With the outbreak of World War II, Condit taught in the U.S. Army War Production School, Cincinnati, as a civilian instructor in mathematics and mechanics, 1941-1942. He was thereafter appointed at the instructor level mathematics at the University, 1942-1944, marrying Isabel Marian Campbell, then employed as a teacher, in 1943. Condit worked for the New York Central Railroad in Cincinnati as an assistant design engineer in the building department, 1944-1945. At the conclusion of the War, he taught as an instructor of English at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 1945-1946. His first tenure-track appointment was a Carnegie Institute of Technology (modern Carnegie-Mellon University), Pittsburgh, PA, as assistant professor in the humanities and social sciences in 1946. He rose to associate professor in 1947. By this time, Condit’s interest was on the phenomenon of the skyscraper’s roll in modern architecture. While a postdoctoral fellow University of Wisconsin for the 1951-1952 academic year, Condit issued his book on architecture, The Rise of the Skyscraper. He followed this with American Building Art: the Nineteenth Century in 1960, a book on the origins of American architecture. In 1964 Condit wrote his most important book, The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Buildings in the Chicago Area, 1875 to 1925, examing the phenomenon of a city rebuilding itself (from the fire) into a specific genre of modern architecture. The book, however, somewhat overstated the contribution of Chicago the development of modern architecture. He was appointed full professor in 1966. In 1972 he returned to Northwestern as Professor of History, Art and Urban Affairs. Condit was named a member of advisory council, Smithsonian Institution, 1973-1978. In later years he admitted the prominence he’d given to Chicago in The Chicago School of Architecture had been too great. To counter this, he authored a book with New York University professor of architecture Sarah Landau, Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913 in 1996. Condit died after a brief illness at age 82. Condit had no formal training in architecture or architectural history. His architectural histories adopted a structural-view of building and social history. The Chicago School of Architecture was the first to term the architecture of the Chicago Loop a school. He characterized the big windows and steel framework construction as the beginning of modern architecture. But the book failed to take into account the advances in skyscraper architecture in New York. American Building became a staple of architectural history classes, frequently used a the textbook.

    Selected Bibliography

    The Rise of the Skyscraper. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952; American Building Art: the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960; The Chicago School of Architecture: A History of Commercial and Public Buildings in the Chicago area, 1875 to 1925.Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1964; American Building: Materials and Techniques from the First Settlements to the Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968; and Landau, Sarah Bradford. Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 40 mentioned; Bey, Lee. “Architecture Expert leaves Towering Legacy.” Chicago Sun-Times January 12, 1997 p. 65; [obituaries:] Landau, Sarah Bradford. “Carl Wilbur Condit.” Society of Architectural Historians Newsletter 41 no. 4 (August 1997): 5; Vogel, Robert. “Carl W. Condit.” Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter 26 no.1 (Spring 1997): 9-11; “Carl W. Condit, NU Professor.” Chicago Sun-Times January 9, 1997, p. 57.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Condit, Carl W.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: