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Harrison took classes in engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and in architecture at the Boston Architectural Club; he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in the early 1920s and won the Rotch Taveling Scholarship in 1922. He worked for McKim, Mead & White and Bertram Grovesnor Goodhue from 1916 to 1923, and later formed a series of architectural partnerships. His brother-in-law was married to John D. Rockefeller Jr's daughter, Abigail, and Harrison served as a designer and architectural adviser for Nelson Rockefeller, notably when Rockefeller was governor of New York.

Harrison started his professional career with the firm of Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray, participating in the construction of Rockefeller Center.  In 1941 Harrison joined with Max Abramowitz to form Harrison & Abramowitz, designing scores of university and corporate buildings, including Time Life (1959) and Socony-Mobil (1956).  

Among Harrison's most noted projects are the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Empire State Plaza in Albany; Director of Planning on the United Nations complex, which was built on property contributed by the Rockefeller family; master planner and supervising architect for the World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964 and LaGuardia and Idlewild (now JFK) airport.

Harrison was a member of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts from 1955 to 1959. In 1967, Harrison received the AIA Gold Medal. Harrison's architectural drawings and archives are held by the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Harrison was married to Ellen Hunt Milton in 1926. They had a daughter, Sarah, and lived in Manhattan and Seal Harbor, Maine.  Bio adapted from Wikipedia. 

 1931 - The Wallace and Ellen Harrison Summer House, 140 Round Swamp Road, West Hills NY. 11 acres. Included a 32-foot circular living room that is rumored to have been the prototype for the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. Fernand Léger created a large mural for the home's circular living room and sculpted an abstract form to serve as a skylight. Alexander Calder's first show is said to have taken place at the home. Frequent visitors and guests included Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Moses, Marc Chagall, and Lecorbusier.  Shortly after purchasing the property in 1931, Harrison bought the Aluminaire House designed by Swiss architect Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher and relocated it to the property. There is a guest house, too, aka the Tin House. Photos by Javier Haddad.

Sold in 1974 to Hester Diamond who placed the estate on the National Register of Historic Places. Sold in 1984 and about eight acres were sold off to form a subdivision called Laurel View Estates. Sold in 2003 and restored, winning the 2010 AIA Long Island Archi Award.

1936 - The Albert Fink Milton House, 69 Painter Ridge Road, Washington CT. Brother of David Milton, below. Sold in 2001 to Elliott and Karen Davis.  For sale in 2018

1936 - The Rockefeller Apartments, 17 West 54th Street, New York NY.  Designed with Andre Fouilhoux.  Originally 138 units, later converted into a 70-unit co-op, then renovated in 1997 by architect William Leggio.  Renovated in 2008.

1938 - The Julian and Narcissa Street Jr. House, 710 Long Hill Road, West Briarcliff Manor NY.  Completed in March, 1938, this house was designed with local fieldstone in the shape of a L using steel beams in the roofs of the house and garage.  Forty five years later, Street remarked that "it worked marvelously."  Sold in 1974 to Howard and Janette Tomkins.  Sold in the late 1970's to the Birnbaum family.  Sold in 2001 to Robert Niosi and Sally Lee, who expanded the kitchen, renovated the master bedroom and made other interior changes, but left the exterior relatively unchanged, including the round windows.  Niosi is an artist and filmmaker who designed the replica of the time machine (last photo).  For sale in 2018

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1939 - The Nelson Rockefeller Cottage, aka The Anchorage, Crowninshield Point, Mt. Desert Island, Seal Harbor ME.  Designed with Andre Fouilhoux.  Nelson's brother David Rockefeller had a house just across from his.

1939 - The David and Abigail (Abby)(Rockefeller) Milton House, aka Round House, Tucker's Town, Bermuda.  Commissioned 1936. For sale in 1984. Destroyed around 1997.


1939 - The Hawes Guest House, Pocantico NY.  The entire property is known historically as the Davids/Stephens/Hawes/Rockefeller Houses.  In 1939 Nelson Rockefeller commissioned Harrison to build a modernist guesthouse next to the Hawes house. The guesthouse was divided between the circular living room and the bedrooms by an open passageway.  The abstract shape of roofs cutout opening was designed by artist Fernand Leger.  (Photos courtesy Rockefeller Archive Center and an article by Lucas Buresh

Early 1940's - The William A. M. Burden House, Mt. Kisco NY.  Several plans over a period of 10 years, all unbuilt.

1943 - The Clinton Hill Coops, Brooklyn NY. a 12-building coop complex split between two campuses along Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn to house Brooklyn Navy Yards workers.

1944 - The Fort Greene Housing Project, aka Walt Whitman Houses and Raymond Ingersoll Houses, Myrtle to Park Avenues, Carlton Avenue to Prince Street, West Central Brooklyn NY.  Designed with Andre Fouilhoux.  3500 on 38 acres completed during World War II as high priority housing for Brooklyn's wartime industrial labor force.  Several architects were involved including Rosario Candela, and Ely Jacques Kahn.

1947 - The William A. M. Burden Estate, aka Sea Change, 27 Corning Way, Northeast Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, Seal Harbor ME.  Designed with Andre Fouilhoux and Japanese artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. B/W photos by Tom Leonard. Additions in 1956 and 1980. Harrison also remodeled the 3 guest cottages on the property.  In the early 1960's two of the cottages were connected and modifications made by architect William F. Pedersen, who also designed a 24 bed reinforced concrete bomb shelter.  Fire in 1999 destroyed the main house.  Rebuilt in 2005 by architect Heinrich Hermann. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Featured in Progressive Architecture, April 1950, pages 68-70.  Deeded to Burden's youngest son and daughter-in-law.

1948 - The William A. M. Burden House, Florida.  Unbuilt.

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Sabana Grande

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Las Lomas

1948 - The IBEC Housing Project, Puerto Rico and other countries.  Nelson Rockefeller hired Harrison in 1948 to create the International Basic Economy Corporation in order to build profitable housing projects in Latin America.  After visiting several areas Harrison returned to New York and began working out the details of a simple box plan.  The experiments eventually became the IBEC Method and one of the first housing projects was started in San Juan. Villa Las Lomas was a 1500 home project that began in 1954.  With the method Harrison put together, they were able to construct 6 homes a day, two basic models with 3 different facades. IBEC followed this with similar developments in Chile, Peru, and Iran.  In the early 1960's, the Housing Investment Guaranty Program was passed which aided private housing projects built by U. S. developers in Latin America.  Above are photos of three of Harrison's houses in Puerto Rico.

1950 - The Alcoa Guest House, no location.  Preliminary drawings for a circular, cantilevered house.  Unbuilt.  6 room model house to be cantilevered on a slim support on an escarpment.

1955 - Morningside Gardens Apartments, LaSalle and 123rd Street, New York NY.  Six multi-story buildings, cast concrete construction, with red brick bonded masonry walls.  A total of 980 apartments.  Beginning in 2007, CTA Architects embarked on an exterior renovation, replacing all main roofs and bulkhead roofs and new main roof perimeter walls installed.


1959 - The Nelson Rockefeller House #2 aka Hunting Lodge, Pocantico Hills NY.  Part of the Rockefeller's Pocantico Estate and said to be Rockefeller's second house.  Built.

Unknown date - Addition to the Pardee House, Bermuda.  Unsure if built.

Around 1975 - The Johnson House, aka the Jasna Polana Mansion, Princeton NJ.  About $30M to build.  Neoclassicistic style.  Became a golf course clubhouse in 1998.

Sources include: Wikipedia, Harris' collection at Columbia University.