Purcell and Elmslie, Architects
Firm active: 1907-1921
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Chicago,
Correspondence: General Description of the Documents
The great number of letters, telegrams, memoranda, and other forms of written communication that survive from the design and decoration of Lake Place are a tremendous resource for those studying the give-and-take that occurred between Purcell and Elmslie for their work in general. Even though the house was a personal residence for Purcell and Elmslie knew the living patterns and architectural goals of his friend--and his friend's wife--reasonably well, the letters deliver a very intimate sense of discovery as the design progressed. However, the down side is that many things known to them from now missing pieces of correspondence (and in particular, sketches) or as a matter of daily course (e.g. materials suppliers) are mentioned in a short hand that is sometimes indecipherable.
On the whole, no other P&E design of any kind has this level of documentation. As a major work, indeed the finest of all their residential achievements, the correspondence about Lake Place represents a significant window into the life and aspirations of both Purcell and Elmslie as individuals and as architects. Clearly, George Elmslie let himself push the poetic envelope, just as Purcell was wont to restrain him from time to time in matters of practicality. The resulting cascade of letters, including those reflecting the years when the Purcells lived in the house, reveals a lot about how the architects worked in partnership to realize their spiritual values about beauty in concrete expressions of daily living.