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"Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie, Biographical," by William Gray Purcell

[Note: These texts appear in various forms in numerous places in the Purcell Papers, including the Parabiographies.  Essentially the same information is found in the Walker Art Center exhibition catalog of 1953.  The version shown here is dated August, 1951]


Mr. Elmslie was born in Scotland, February 20, 1871, at Foot-o-Hill, between Huntly and Gath in Aberdeenshire. He came to the U.S.A. in 1884, age 13; he had attended the "Gordon" Public School (150 years old) at Huntley. He attended Chicago Public Schools 1884-1887; entered architect Silsbee's office 1888, age 19. This was about the year that preliminary designing for the "Columbian Exposition" was actively taken up; the world famous Transportation Building was designed by Sullivan in late 1891. He remained with Sullivan until 1910 - 22 years. In the Spring of 1910 there was no new work coming into Sullivan's office and Sullivan's cash capital was gone, no funds for the pay-check. So Elmslie joined "Purcell and Feick" as Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie.

George Elmslie became a member of A.I.A. in 1914; was made a Fellow , 1947; and given as custodian, to hold, the posthumus [sic] Gold Medal awarded to Louis H. Sullivan by A.I.A. in 1946. On his 80th birthday, February 20, 1951, he received many congratulations from Architects young and old all over the U.S.A., at his home, 5723 Blackstone Avenue, Chicago 37, Illinois.


George Feick, Jr., was born in Sandusky, Ohio in 1880. His father had become one of the leading contractors in Ohio - constructed most of the buildings at Oberlin College in his day. George Jr. graduated in Architecture at Cornell in 1903.  From March to December 1906 he traveled in Europe with Purcell. It was an eight months period of study, from Norway and England across Europe to Turkey and Greece, four months of it with The Bureau of University travel. January 1907 he joined with Purcell as "Purcell and Feick", Architects, in Minneapolis where neither of them really knew anyone. This now appears as a rather brash undertaking, but impelled by personal relation pressures affecting both somewhat alike. The partnership continued agreeable to both for seven years, when many circumstances made it desirable for Feick to return to Sandusky and resume contracting in the rapidly expanding business of his father. He married, was blessed with children, and a life of industry and prosperity. [Annotation by WGP on draft: He died in 1945.]


Organic architect and pioneer in several fields, William Gray Purcell, A.I.A., born in 1880, has been a first generation exponent of Sullivan and Wright since the 1890s. He grew up in the unspoiled Great North Woods just south of Lake Superior before the days of the lumber barons. Raised by his grandfather, a well-known newspaperman of Cincinnati, in Chicago 1871-1901, his interested were thus pushed back a generation and became well conditioned by men and the scene in the middle border. Through these early days experience his art and writings are close to the actual character of the living forms of his historical origins. Graduated from Cornell University in 1903, he has practiced his profession as Purcell and Elmslie in twenty states from Massachusetts to Oregon. He founded the Oregon Society of Artists; has written, spoken and built toward an indigenous American architecture for fifty years.

Personal records 8-51

      Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries [P&E Archives Office Records] research courtesy mark hammons