Lorimer Rich – Private, Untied States Army American Architect

He served in the Army during World War I and upon his return studied to become an architect. He won the competition for the design of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He helped to complete the Tomb with the assistance of sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones.

He was thereafter a resident of Camden, New York, and died at age 86 at a nursing home in Rome, New York. He was buried in Section 48 of Arlington National Cemetery, directly behind the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Memorial Amphitheater.

From a press report:

Architect Lorimer Rich is the Camden youth whose legacy includes five decades of designing buildings, including the world-famous Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery – a commission he won through national competition early in his career.

Mr. Rich also designed the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldiers at North James and Liberty Streets in Rome, one of his last works.

Most of his other works include government buildings – mainly post offices and court houses – college dormitories and a few churches. Locally, he designed the Rome Court House, Camden United Methodist Church and State University College at Oswego.

For his alma mater, Syracuse University, he designed a gymnasium, a law library and an art center.

Mr. Rich studied in Italy after graduating from Syracuse. Upon his return to this country, he joined the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in New York City. He established his own business in 1928 in New York.

Later, he was a critic in design at the School of Architecture of Columbia University, and in 1940 was awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Syracuse University. He also was a critic in architectural and city planning at Pratt Institute in New York City.

Mr. Rich retired in 1971 at the age of 80 to his native hometown, where he died in 1978. President Jimmy Carter personally approved his ashes to be interred in Arlington so he could be near the tomb he designed.


ROME, New York, June 6, 1978 – Lorimer Rich, the architect who designed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery, died Friday in a nursing home here.  He was 86 years old and lived in Camden, New York.

Mr. Rich, who graduated from Syracuse University in 1914, was selected for the tomb project from a field of 85 competing architects.  Collaborating with him was Thomas Hudson Jones, the Sculptor who designed the figures on the sides of the simple sarcophagus approximately 6 by 12 feet in width and length and 10 feet high.

Mr. Rich, a descendant of an old Cape Cod, Massachusetts, family began his career in New York City, joining other young architects, sculptors, painters and musicians seeking to learn from local masters.

After World War I, he joined the firm of McKim, Mead & White for eight years, working mostly on buildings, college facilities, institutional layouts and memorials before striking out for himself.  He won the award for the tomb in Arlington within a year.

Later he went to Washington with other architects to aid in designing Federal office buildings and post offices.  He designed 21 Federal buildings.  He returned to New York and taught at Columbia University and then resumed designing buildings.

Mr. Rich, a member of the American Institute of Architects since 1921, was made a fellow of the organization in 1950, and in 1960 was elected to the National Academy of Design, other organizations.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Martha Elizabeth Gregg of Camden.

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