Talbot Faulkner Hamlin was born on June 16, 1889 in New York City, the second of the four children of Alfred Dwight Foster Hamlin (1855-1926), professor of architecture at Columbia University. Hamlin went on to Amherst College and received his Bachelor of Arts in classics and English in 1910. In the fall of 1910, Hamlin enrolled in the School of Architecture at Columbia University and began his forty-six year association with the university. He received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1914. Upon graduation, Hamlin was hired as a draftsman in the New York architectural firm of Murphy and Dana. He became a partner of the firm in 1920. In 1930, Hamlin began his own firm, which lasted until the Depression, when commissions became scarce. During his years as a professional architect, Hamlin participated in various projects, mainly located in the United States and Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines. The bulk of his projects in the United States were residential and institutional (schools and churches), while projects in Asia were institutional (schools and monuments) and commercial.
Hamlin’s academic career began in 1916 when he was appointed a part-time instructor of architectural history and theory in the School of Architecture at Columbia University. In 1934, he relinquished his professional practice and accepted the full-time position of Avery Librarian for the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Among his major contributions to Avery Library, Hamlin established the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Hamlin remained librarian until 1945, when he resigned in order to devote more time to his professorship. Hamlin served the University for thirty-eight years, until his retirement in 1954.
In addition to teaching, Hamlin’s academic achievement also rests on his publications and public service. In his lifetime, he published eight book-length works and miscellaneous essays, encyclopedia and dictionary articles, critical and book reviews, as well as poetry, plays, and fiction. He was also the editor of the four-volume Form and Functions of Twentieth Century Architecture (1952). Among his publications, the most notable are Greek Revival Architecture in America (1944) and Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1955). The latter won him the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1956. Hamlin had appreciation for modern architecture and brought attention to Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Russian avant-garde architecture in his writing. Nevertheless, most of his major works are on historical architecture, particularly pre-modernist American architecture. Hamlin was also an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians and active in historical preservation in New York. Hamlin died on October 7, 1956, in Beaufort, South Carolina.