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E. E. Knowlton residence
Purcell, Feick and Elmslie
Rochester, Minnesota  1911

Text by William Gray Purcell
Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1911

Job Date (in Parabiographies): May 15, 1910 [1911]


In the fall of 1928, while in Rochester endeavoring to line up a half a dozen wealthy doctors who wanted to build mansions for themselves and would have done so had it not been for the depression the following year, I was confronted on an elm-lined street with a yellow Roman brick residence of more or less commonplace character, but still a considerable improvement on the average of that part of town. It began to dawn on me that this was one of my own designs which I had completely forgotten.

Holy Terror whose House it Was

Knowlton was a bombastic raucous rube. He was the czar of a prosperous small town department store and well conditioned into his role, through growing up with a small town business under pioneer conditions. He came to the office with a place of the house he wanted, drawn out quarter-scale with a carpenter's rule on a piece of wrapping paper, and he wanted it "fixed up" and no changes. Since his rooms upstairs and down would not go together so the building could be erected, we had several near riots before we could even accomplish the minor modifications necessary to get the stairs to work, the partitions to support one another, and some place to get in the plumbing pipes. The only way we were ever able to really get an actual building for him was due to the fact that aside from being able to find his way in general room arrangements, to relocate doors and windows, he was not so good at reading plans and could not visualize very clearly just what we had put down on the blueprints.

Pedestrian Architecture

Miss Parker stayed on the job--a long, ungrateful task of working drawings--and finally managed to organize a fairly presentable if rather dry scheme. By unifying and chastening the project through the use of long thin Roman brick, to which, for some reason or other, he made no objection; by standardizing windows and doors in a series of units; by lining up heights, cornices, belt courses and other practical elements of design on the outside, and with wherever possible organizing the interior for the use of our plastic trim system which pulled things together, the job turned out pretty well and the old man liked it a lot. He was still ruling his shop girls with a rod of iron when I last visited Rochester, in 1928. He died a couple of years later.

   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.5]
research courtesy mark hammons