Richard Hubbard Howland was an architectural and art historian who, over the course of his career, worked for the appreciation and preservation of America's artistic and architectural heritage. Howland was a classical archaeologist, art history professor, author, and speaker. He served as the first president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was a leader in numerous national and international art, architectural, and historical organizations.
Howland was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on August 23, 1910, to S. Carl Badger Howland and Cora Augusta Hubbard. His only sibling, Carl Badger Howland, Jr., was born in 1914 and was later killed during World War II. Howland graduated from Providence Classical High School at the age of 16. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Brown University in 1931, and a Master of Arts in art history from Harvard University in 1933.
In 1933 Howland was awarded the Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship and spent the academic year in Greece at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (ASCSA). He was able to extend his stay at ASCSA from 1934 to 1935 through the American School Fellowship and participated in archaeological excavations at Corinth. From 1935 to 1938, Howland served as a staff member of the Agora Excavations at Athens and founded the Society for the Preservation of Greek Antiquities. During this time, he married Caroline Marie Bullard of Chicago. The marriage ended in divorce in 1942. In 1938, the ASCSA published Howland's book, Greek Lamps and their Survivals, which became an important archaeological field guide. Howland's ties to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens remained strong throughout his life, and he served on the ASCSA Managing Committee from 1947 to 1975.
Howland returned to the United States in 1939 and taught art history, classical archaeology, and the history of architecture at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. During World War II, he served as section chief in charge of pictorial records in the Office of Strategic Services -- precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency -- in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. In 1946, Howland received a Ph.D. in classical archeology from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He served as a professor of art history at Johns Hopkins from 1947 to 1956 and was both founder and chair of the university's Department of Art History.
In 1953, Howland co-authored The Architecture of Baltimore with art scholar Eleanor P. Spencer. A revised edition of this book was published in 2004 with a forward by Howland. Richard Hubbard Howland fully transitioned into the world of historic preservation in 1956 when he became the first president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As president, Howland devised a plan for the future course of the National Trust, resulting in its first important endowment fund: a $1 million gift from Paul Mellon. He strengthened the organization's program areas, including professional and public education, publications, property and object preservation, maintenance and interpretation, and fund raising. Howland resigned the presidency of the National Trust in 1960 when he accepted the position of Chairman of the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Civil History at the Museum of History and Technology.
Howland served in this post at the Smithsonian Institution from 1960 to 1967. In 1967 he was appointed as the Special Assistant to Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, a position he held until his retirement in 1985. Howland was closely involved in the restoration of the original nineteenth-century Smithsonian Institution Building -- popularly known as the Castle -- and established its collection of Victorian furnishings. He inaugurated and led Smithsonian study tours abroad focusing on classical Greece and Rome. As Special Assistant to the Secretary, Howland served as the liaison between the Smithsonian Institution and White House staff and committee members associated with the historic refurnishing program. He was responsible for hiring the first Curator of the White House, supervision of the exhibition program in the White House corridors, and implementation of House Resolution 7997 that authorizes the transference of White House furnishings of historic interest to the Smithsonian Institution.
Howland's sphere of influence was also felt abroad. In 1965 he helped to found the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and served as the Secretary-Treasurer for the United States branch of ICOMOS from 1967 to 1969. In 1966 he headed a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) mission to Ethiopia to help organize an effort to preserve ancient monuments and artistic treasures; most notably he prepared an organizational plan for the Ethiopian Antiquities Administration. In 1969, on behalf of the trustees of the John D. Rockefeller III Fund, he undertook a similar mission to Nepal to begin the conservation of historic structures in the Kathmandu Valley. In 1991, Howland was made an Officer of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Over the course of his career, Howland was actively involved in numerous preservation-related organizations on which he often served as a board or charter member. He was a trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America and a founding member of the Society of Architectural Historians. He co-founded the Preservation Round Table in Washington, D.C., and was a member of the Washington Cathedral Building Committee. He also served the Irish Georgian Society, the Victorian Society in America, and the Washington branch of the English Speaking Union. Howland was a member of prominent Washington, D.C. social organizations such as the Nineteen-Twenty-Five F Street Club, and the Cosmos Club.
Richard Hubbard Howland died at his home in Washington, DC, on October 24, 2006, at the age of 96.