Purcell and Elmslie, Architects
Firm active: 1907-1921
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Chicago,
Commission Date (in Parabiographies): April 6, 1907
Minneapolis' First Garage
Old man Goosman, a "Dutchman" if there ever was one, - short, round, bald, jovial, and irascible - was wise enough to see the doom of his business in the rise of the automobile, and was the first to set up a regular garage business other than those maintained by dealers in the corners of old buildings or in remodelled warehouses and horse barns. The word "garage" was then strange and was usually pronounced "gair-edge," the word falling into local speech as a word obviously connected with "carriage." The Goosman Palace Stables had been the leading "Livery Stable" of Minneapolis and must have dated back thirty years. Goosman hung on to his horse and buggy business as long as he could, but finally folded up in 1912. This building was doubtless in prospect for a year before anything was done on it, hence its early [commission] number.
Commission Date (in Parabiographies entry): August, 1908 
Working drawings completed August 11, 1908. Construction started the following week.
Horseless Carriage Stable
This was the first "built-for-that-purpose" garage in Minneapolis. First garage with 30" x 6" interior bump curb. This sidewalk-like ledge around building also served as a clean, oil-free area handy to each car for tools and for temporary storage. In 1907 autos had no bumpers. They banged against the wall when backed in. This building was an early use of the then very novel sand-lime brick. They stood up well, and got harder with time, as predicted. The wood trusses were designed by George Feick, Jr. too close for comfort to building law minima. They were rejected by the Building Department and our good friend, E. Fitch Peabody, of the American Bridge Company, came in and showed us how to make a heel plate that would stay put. The trusses were all firm and in line after twenty-five years use - the building unstained by leaks. We developed a pioneer electric-hydraulic automatic entrance door lift; it worked well. The building was badly cut into, about 1925, for filling station.
For the interior of the office, the drawings called for a sequence of horizontal bands and panels. This was the first use in Minneapolis of wood used horizontally for interior architecture. The details created a mild mental riot at the planing mill and with the carpenters. Beginning with a very wide robust baseboard, the panels and other members above formed a graduated series of shapes and kinds in sequence, all carefully arranged to line with window sills and door heads. In 1908, even in the formal details of public buildings, such a unifying assembly and pattern, to create that integral fabric for its members, which is now generally referred to as "streamline," was not even thought of in architecture practice. The whole problem of the architecture of that day was the decorating and enriching of the "finish," as it was called - both exterior and interior. If this was "beautiful" and "correct," no designer bothered to relate to the actualities of doors, windows, and construction, the "architectural material" which he had usually lifted bodily from some book or magazine. Functional inter-relation existing everywhere in nature, as expressed in every animate and inanimate form, was quite ignored and any reference to it classed one as something akin to the "Red" of 1938. The first principle of Professorial architecture was to get the structure out of sight behind columns on the exterior, and by various interventions on the inside. Indeed, the whole process was one of negation.
A Bas Beaux Arts!
Long rows of equal windows with slim equal mullions between, were also only found in those days in the buildings of L.H.S. and F.L.W. The 'school" trained designing mind just couldn't leave things alone. The most frequent phrase in drafting rooms was, "What can we do to it?" instead of listening to what it had to say - the true and philosophical way! Even in this "modern" age of 1938, in which fashionable architecture is largely the same old French Renaissance thought pawing over later moraines, the designers must always be spoiling the patterns at the margins or weaving walls within one another like pushed-back sliding doors. There is still no deep desire to deal only with the tremendous potential that lies so naturally at hand within the object and all its relations to Man and Use. The fashionable designer of 1938, like his sire of 1908, must always lug in some irrelevant literary reference, historical junk, or now meaningless symbolism to obscure all the living forms which press like the content of wet spring seeds against their enclosing fabric - forces which are so eager to tell the simple multiplicity of their function to any sincere and humble mind with decent respect for living things outside his own ego.
Today the pert designer, instead of reaching for Pitti Palace pediments, cartouches, entablatures and porticoes - pares from his proposed building's mass forms all such now unfashionable furniture, although these forms are natural to its academic aesthetic and essential to its conventions. He then turns to the records of the creative masters of today, copies the appearances he finds there. He feels himself an advanced mind when he wraps windows around the corners, slices his surfaces, uses plumbing pipes for posts, and thus creates as much of an atmosphere of insincerity by his omissions as he formerly did with meaningless decorations.
Advertising is Art
Another series of experiments, fairly new then, which we continued upon buildings of widely varying character was the use of the actual wall surface of buildings as a field for sign lettering. The architects gave not even a mental glance at the "sign" blight which they hated. With stores and commercial buildings they just pretended to themselves that there would be no signs. Their only other attempt was the use of diagonal wire mesh for sign letter backgrounds, "so as to let the architecture show through."
After a lot of argument and "no-can-do's," we got the sign makers to boil the wood letters in hot linseed oil and paint three coats all over. At first we attached the letters to two slender horizontal rods, but this begged the question. We finally put screw eyes in the back of the letters, and wired them down on tiny angle bolts tapped into the wall.
In the electric fixtures designed for this building, there was a very definite reach to secure a three dimensional, interesting mass form with contrapuntal movement of parts. Whether just a coincidence or not, a few years after the equilateral triangle exclamation point which we developed as an advertising symbol for Mr. Goosman's business and worked into the door and lamps, it began to be used - and still is - by some gasoline company all over the United States.