Obituaries

Richard Howland; Promoted Art, Architectural Preservation

Richard Howland, shown chatting with Marjorie Merriweather Post at a 1957 benefit gala, was the National Trust for Historic Preservation's first president. He also oversaw the restoration of the 19th-century Smithsonian Building.
Richard Howland, shown chatting with Marjorie Merriweather Post at a 1957 benefit gala, was the National Trust for Historic Preservation's first president. He also oversaw the restoration of the 19th-century Smithsonian Building. (By Robert Striar)
By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 3, 2006

Richard Hubbard Howland, 96, an eminent architectural and art historian who served as president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1950s, died of pneumonia Oct. 24 at his home in Washington.

Dr. Howland, a debonair socialite as well as dedicated scholar, was a man of many facets. He was a classical archaeologist, art history professor, author, founder of learned societies and a special assistant at the Smithsonian Institution.

He moved to Washington in 1956 to accept the new post of president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He traveled throughout the country, promoting the National Trust's mission. At the request of philanthropist Paul Mellon, Dr. Howland devised a plan for the future direction of the nonprofit National Trust that resulted in a $1 million gift by Mellon.

Richard Moe, current president of the National Trust, said Dr. Howland was "one of the giants who really built the institution in its early days."

"He was a consummate gentleman of the old school, a wonderful raconteur and, especially, a dedicated and effective leader," Moe said.

In 1960, Dr. Howland became chairman of the department of civil history at the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology. He later was appointed special assistant to Secretary S. Dillon Ripley and oversaw the restoration of the 19th-century Smithsonian Building. He also established a collection of Victorian furnishings for the Smithsonian Castle.

With his encouragement, the Countess Mona Bismarck provided the National Museum of American History with some of her fabled wardrobe for its costume collection.

An engaging lecturer, Dr. Howland inaugurated and led Smithsonian study tours abroad with an emphasis on the classical and archaeological world of Greece and Rome. He retired from the Smithsonian in 1985.

A former Baltimore resident, he co-wrote with art scholar Eleanor P. Spencer "The Architecture of Baltimore" in 1953. An updated version was published in 2004 with a foreword by Dr. Howland.

"In the fifty years since our book was published, historical preservation has been legally mandated at national, state and local levels. We may be thankful for the change," he wrote.

Dr. Howland, a native of Providence, R.I., graduated from Brown University in 1931. He received a master's degree in art history from Harvard University in 1933 and a doctorate in classical archaeology from Johns Hopkins University in 1946.

He taught art history, first at Wellesley College from 1939 to 1952, then at Johns Hopkins from 1947 to 1956, where he founded and chaired the department of art history. During World War II, he was a section chief in the Office of Strategic Services in Washington and elsewhere.


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