Purcell and Elmslie, Architects
Firm active: 1907-1921
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Chicago, Illinois
The contents of this web site, as well as three books and 75 published articles, contain the results of research and writing aided over the past twenty years by a large number of kind, generous, and supportive people and organizations.
I especially want to thank Alan K. Lathrop, curator of the Northwest Architectural Archives, and Barb Bezat, his longtime assistant curator. Had not these two people brought me into the fold on a work-study position in 1979, none of this could have happened. I am indebted to Al and Barb for many things, and perhaps not a little for their understanding of my struggles over the years to keep going through a panoply of personal difficulties and unknowing bad choices. In this immediate context, I am particularly grateful for the permission granted to me by Al in 1994 to add digital facsimiles of documents in the Purcell Papers to the P&E web site from which the present pages evolved. While I am sure I have disappointed their expectations for some work that went undone, I hope that my completion of the Guide to the Purcell Papers and other accomplishments balanced the negatives to some degree--I have been clear that I stood on their shoulders whatever I did. Al supplied every request I ever made of him, even when he was doubtful of my past performance. Barb Bezat taught me a particular form of insistence on accuracy in detail and citation that continues to impress my work. While time has parted us, my heart is genuine in a warm salute of gratitude. On whole, I hope that one day they will find the sum of my efforts worth their longtime investment.
Bruce J. Labelle, of St. Paul, supported me in every way during those early years by putting a roof over my head and food in my stomach, as well as fine wine. Bruce is the kind of person you can only appreciate fully in retrospect, when time has matured enough to show how much he did without complaint just because I asked. Everything I have accomplished for the memory of Purcell & Elmslie is creditable in substantial measure to his effort when it mattered most. The other person who sometimes saved my life is Corey Firnstahl, whose lasting friendship remains a great source of validation in an arduous existence.
As I moved forward on this quest, others stepped forward to recommend me largely on the basis of their friendship with William Gray Purcell. Word can hardly express the extent of their blessings. Brooks Cavin, FAIA, was instrumental in my receipt of a grant award from the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. How fitting that his last offices occupied a space marked "Philosopher's Office" in what is now the Landmark Center of St. Paul. He was a gentleman of the old school, who taught perfect dignity simply by being in the same room. Kenneth Nishimoto, a Pasadena architect, was another old friend of Purcell's who took an helpful interest in my work, as were Paul and Mary Carson, the last clients of Purcell. My thanks in this category also go to Arthur Dyson, AIA, who has always reported my writing as worthwhile.
The first Purcell family member to embrace me was Dorothy O'Brien, the sister of Purcell's second wife Cecily. She gifted me with not only archival letters and drawings and a painting, but most of all with her sweet thoughtful friendship that lasted until her death. I want also to acknowledge her special friend Mary Hill, who helped Dorothy correspond with me despite the difficulties of macular degeneration. Through their efforts I met and corresponded with many of Purcell's surviving friends, all of whom I thank here for their knowledge and gifts. Another family member, Helen Purcell, was dear enough to my heart to present her with my author's copy of the Minnesota 1900 essay; I regret that my tumultuous life interrupted our correspondence. I also thank Purcell Palmer for her kindnesses to me.
What can I say about the generosity of Roger Kennedy, Director Emeritus of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, that even begins to show his contribution to my progress? His recommendations were major supports in grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Minnesota Humanities Commission. I also thank Ken Rothchild for his support in that latter grant. The support of Carter J. Manny, director emeritus of the Graham Foundation, was especially appreciated. One of the happiest moments of recognition I recall is his declaration of pleasure at discovering the Minnesota 1900 essay and telling me I had accomplished what the Graham Foundation gave me the money to do.
While at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Michael Conforti gave me two opportunities whose realization would have been impossible without his intelligence and commitment to quality. I thank him with heartfelt appreciation for bringing me into the restoration of Lake Place as the archival consultant, and for the subsequent great opportunity of curating the Purcell and Elmslie galleries in the Minnesota 1900 exhibition. Michael nursemaided me through the rigors of that essay, and accepted my selection of artifacts with hardly a qualm. While he doesn't know it, he also started me thinking seriously about what has to be done to fructify the argument about P&E that I want to make. Michael is one of those people who was both a friend and a mentor--even if he didn't know how much I appreciated the privilege of being around his example--despite my tendency to argue.
This web site also exists through the profound generosity of David J. Klaassen, professor and curator of the Social Welfare History Archives. While I worked at that unit of the University of Minnesota Libraries to develop an archival information management system called HyperFind, Dave allowed me to explore the issues of digitization through creating the precursor of the present web site. His flexibility also allowed me to work on Minnesota 1900, and more than once I would have gone hungry without his surreptitious deposit of money in my coat pocket. Dave taught me both self-respect and faith in my values as a fundament to my work.
Others who have assisted me, bailed me out, and kept me going include Linda Mack, Larry Millett, Sig Peck, Arnold J. LaBelle (craftsman extraordinare), Rolf Anderson (the kind owner of the C. T. Bachus house), John Salisbury (owner of Gaytee Stained Glass, and the preserver of surviving records from Edward L. Sharretts' Mosaic Art Shops), Mark Walbran (gentle owner of the Buxton bungalow), Sally Rubenstein, Jennifer Komar, Tran Turner, Keith McDowell, Joy Mitchell, Jerry Weinstock, and Mardik Martin. Lastly, there are a host of people whose names do not appear, but whose contributions are part of the whole. To them, I also offer sincere thanks. Hopefully at the end everyone will have found the outcome worthwhile.