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April 19, 2014
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The Prairie School tradition is magnificently represented by the William Gray Purcell Papers (1814-1965). Purcell (1880-1965) and George Grant Elmslie's (1871-1952) highly successful partnership produced some of the finest Prairie School buildings in America. Present are drawings and other documents for almost every commission, plus those designed by both men before and after the period of their partnership. Also included are drawings from the firm of Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) as well as correspondence and other papers of Purcell's grandfather, William C. Gray , a prominent 19th century Chicago newspaper editor.

The Louis W. Claude Papers form yet another "Prairie School" link, for Louis Claude worked in the Adler & Sullivan office, in Chicago, for a period of time. Louis W. Claude (1868-1951) and Edward F. Starck (1868-1947) formed a partnership in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1896. They designed hundreds of residences, commercial buildings, and many Carnegie Libraries in small towns throughout the Midwest.

John Howe (1913-1997) joined the Taliesin Fellowship of Frank Lloyd Wright, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, in 1932, becoming a charter member of the Fellowship and apprentice to Mr. Wright. Howe has often been called "the pencil in Mr. Wright's hand" for his lovely work on hundreds of architectural renderings. Howe remained at Taliesin until 1964 as one of the Taliesin Associated Architects, during which time he designed more than thirty structures throughout the United States. Howe moved to Minnesota in 1967 and opened an office which he maintained until his retirement in 1992. After retirement John Howe and his wife Lu Sparks Howe moved to California. He died in Novato, California on September 21, 1997. His collection consists of architectural materials and includes working drawings, renderings, prints, photographs, job files, contracts, correspondence and specifications for over 300 commissions, built and unbuilt.

The Leroy S. Buffington Collection houses more than 100 original drawings by the outstanding draftsman, Harvey Ellis (1852-1904). Buffington (1848-1931), who practiced in Minneapolis for almost 60 years, employed Ellis in the late 1880s. This is one of the largest existing assemblages of Ellis's work, whose beautiful artistic creations were executed in watercolor, pen and ink, pencil, and charcoal.


The Edwin Lundie Papers document the career of a meticulous and skillful architect. Lundie (1886-1972) excelled in the design of finely-crafted residences and his papers include hundreds of highly detailed renderings and plans for almost all of them. The papers also contain his daybook diary/calendars, scrapbooks, and a portion of his personal library.



Other prominent regional architects whose papers are in the archives are Liebenberg & Kaplan (1922-1975), designers of dozens of art deco movie theatres in the Upper Midwest; William Channing Whitney (1851-1945), who produced some of the most beautiful mansions in Minneapolis in the decades just before and after 1900; Ellerbe & Company of St. Paul, one of the largest architecture/engineering firms in the U.S., whose records include hundreds of drawings for the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota and the St. Paul City Hall & Court House , an outstanding local art moderne landmark; and Long & Kees, founded in 1878 in Minneapolis. The papers document work by this firm and its successors from 1885 to 1975. Newer acquisitions include the papers of TKDA (Toltz, King, Duvall & Anderson) of St. Paul, a large architecture/engineering firm whose history and records extend from 1910 to 1992; and David Salmela (1945- ) of Duluth, one of the top regional designers in practice today.


Clarence ("Cap") Wigington (1883-1967) was the first African-American registered architect to practice for any substantial length of time in Minnesota. He may have been the first black municipal architect as well, having practiced in the City Architect's office of St. Paul (MN) for nearly three decades, from the late 1920s to the 1940s. He is responsible for some of the landmark structures in the city, including the Highland Park Water Tower (1928), the Harriet Island Pavilion (1941;now the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion) and the Holman Field Administration Building (1939) for the St. Paul Municipal Airport. His papers, called the Pemberton-Wigington Family Papers, include plans for these and over 100 other commissions.

The Jack Lenor Larsen Collection consists of the business and production records of prominent textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen, Larsen Design Studios, and Jack Lenor Larsen Inc. It contains almost 400 boxes of drawings, business files, and fabric samples. The collection is not yet available for research. For further information about Larsen's work, visit the Web site created by staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Larsen: A Living Archive.


Other unique collections are: the Trade Catalog Collection consisting of more than 6,000 pieces of literature for products associated with the building arts and materials from 1880 to 1960; the Stock Plan Book Collection, containing about 200 published compendia of plans for houses, commercial structures, garages, churches, small stores, lake cabins, and farm buildings from the same period; and the Minneapolis Plan Vault Collection, comprising plan sets deposited by builders with the Building Inspections Department from 1909 to 1990 as a prerequisite for obtaining building permits. This rich collection documents thousands of structures of all types in Minneapolis.

Women in architecture are represented by the papers of Valerie Batorewicz (1936-1983); Mildred Grunau (1909-1992); Emma Brunson (1887-1980);Marion Alice Parker (1873-1935); and the Beta Chapter (Twin Cities) of the Association of Women in Architecture (1921-1964).

Engineering firms are prominently represented by the Walter Wheeler Papers (1828-1968) and the George Levin Papers (1951-1977). Wheeler's (1883-1974) hundreds of projects are documented by job files (correspondence, notes, contracts, and reports). Additional papers relate to his family: diaries,photographs, and the business ledgers of his father, a Minneapolis real estate agent. Levin (d.1977) was a consulting structural engineer in St. Paul. His papers include reports, correspondence, photographs, and drawings of his many and varied commissions.

The project files of the landscape architecture firm of Morell and Nichols constitute a very large collection. Anthony Morell (d.1924) and Arthur Nichols (1881-1970) established their firm in 1909 and it is continued today by successors. Together, they were responsible for the landscape designs in cemeteries, parks, private residences, and the corporate town of Morgan Park near Duluth. Their work is documented by drawings, photographs, and correspondence. As well, thirteen original letters written by H.W.S. Cleveland (1814-1900) during his stay in Minneapolis in the 1890s describe in rich detail his life, work, and philosophy as he neared the end of his career.

Two of the major construction firms in the area have placed their records in the archives. C.F. Haglin and George Cook, both of Minneapolis, are represented by blueprint copies of plans they erected for local architects through the first six decades of the 20th century.


The Architects Research File holds biographical information for some 600 architects, contractors and engineers who have practiced in the region. This unique file is continually being enlarged as additional information is received.

The papers of Beverly Wachsmuth (1930-1994 ), an interior designer, contain drawings, photographs, and correspondence relating to her work with such companies as IBM, Hershey’s, Kodak and General Mills.