Gurdon P. Randall began his architectural studies in Boston, in the office of Asher Benjamin. Around 1850, he came to Chicago, where he built a thriving Midwestern practice. The Inland Architect described Randall as “perhaps more widely known throughout the West than any other architect.” In Chicago, Randall designed, residences, commercial structures, churches, and schools, including the original Newberry, Skinner, and Haven schools and five smaller branch schools. Randall produced a publication in 1868 entitled A Hand Book of Designs, Containing Plans in Perspective, of Court Houses, Universities, Academies, School Houses, Churches, Dwellings, Etc., and Suggestions Relative to their Construction, Heating and Ventilation. He wrote that Newberry and Skinner schools each contained “eighteen school rooms, besides a large hall, teachers’ retiring rooms, wardrobes, recitation rooms, library, etc.” The illustrated catalogues contained plans of the school buildings as well as colleges, churches, and other buildings, together with “suggestions relative to their construction, heating, and ventilation.” Two of his many academic buildings – University Hall (1869) and the Music Administration Building (1874) – still stand at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston.
The best known of Randall’s designs today is Chicago’s First Baptist Congregational Church (originally Union Park Congregational). Built in 1869 of Joliet limestone, the structure had the City’s “earliest amphitheatrical interior,” and has been designated a Chicago landmark. It was here that Randall’s funeral was held in 1884, after he died at his home in Northfield, Vermont.