firm active: 1907-1921

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E. C. Tillotson residence
Purcell, Feick and Elmslie
Minneapolis, Minnesota  1912

Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1910
Text by William Gray Purcell
for 1912

Parabiographies entry for JN 157

Job Date (in Parabiographies): April 15, 1912


We met these clients through Armitage, Gallaher, and Oscar Owre. The house is but a half block from Owre's. The plan bears some relation to Owre and Leuthold, but the general expression is quite different.

One of the interesting reactions in producing this dwelling illustrates the extent to which the sincere architect must think for his client. We were always conscientious enough in trying to keep our entire office alive to the fact that we were building our client's house and not our own, but the client himself had at times a very vague and shifting notion of how to build either a good or practical life within the fabric of home and its various implications.

All through the development of the Tillotson house, we were plagued with the cost over-run, and were put to some unsatisfying economies in order to bring the building within the amount that Mr. Tillotson was able to pay.

On the second floor was owner's bedroom, guest bedroom, child's bedroom, and one other bedroom undesignated, so the drafter marked all in sequence as A, B, C, and D. When we came to decorate the house, I asked Mrs. Tillotson for her plans as to what this room was to be used for, and she was quite nonplussed - she "didn't know, it was just a room", and so there was nothing for us to characterize in its decoration and furnishings. It seems she had no need for the room at all, she had looked forward to no use of it. She had just known that many houses had four bedrooms and she "thought it would be nice to have four bedrooms", - the maid's room was in the attic. Here was this extra room which, if it had been omitted from the design agenda to begin with, would have paid for all the good construction and better equipment which they had been so unhappy to lose. Tillotsons lived in the house unchanged for 38 years, when they sold it and moved into an apartment in 1950.

George Elmslie's ornamental design in sawed cypress for the Tillotson entrance gable was made several inches too big for its framed opening - had to be resawed (or omitted). We polychromed the panel and hung it in the drafting room. Later took it to Portland and set it in the wall of my home there where it can be seen in the photographs - destroyed in 1932.


      Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.6]
research courtesy mark hammons