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E. C. Warner residence, project
Purcell and Feick
Minneapolis, Minnesota  1909

Text by William Gray Purcell
Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1909

Job Date (in Parabiographies entry): November 11, 1909

E. C. Warner

E. C. Warner had made a fortune in flaxseed and was busy making it still larger. Three mistakes in judgment were made by us in approaching this prospect. First, it was assumed that he wanted a beautiful, comfortable, practical home to live in, and that he wished to obtain it at a reasonable price. Second, we accepted at its face value his statement that he didn't want to spend more than $40,000. Too late, it was plain that his sole object in building the house was to create an impressive and magnificent social and business front, and that the $175,000 which he spent on his house when he finally built it was not more than he was glad to pay for what he wanted.

The third mistake was the assumption that he would be impressed by my large-size drawings, especially if they gave the impression of not being rigidly and finally fixed in all their parts, so that he could really make all the changes he might wish. We also wanted Mrs. Warner to feel that we were not going to be arbitrary.

Experience Teaches:

Our competitors, Tyrie and Chapman, saw the situation accurately. They were a couple of bright, energetic fellows, wise in business ways, experienced in architects' conventions. They made a most beautiful, complete and distinguished set of presentation drawings, with every detail fixed. Very arbitrary himself, Warner did not associate the building with his own ego, and was quite willing to have it ordered about as if it were some minor executive in his business. What he really wanted was an architect whose opinion carried "authority," and it made him feel good to see authority exercised--toward someone or something other than himself. He wanted to know just what "they" were doing in architecture, and was frantic to conform to what was proper and correct. Our scheme is a nice, clean, organic project--a home in which any imaginative and wholesome person could have lived in happy enjoyment of it.

Too Far Ahead:

This plan anticipated by thirty years a detail to which the May, 1939, Architectural Record gives a special section, and which also appears in some pre-Hitler German dwellings. This is the large enclosed "flower box" in the end of the Warner living room, and area four feet by eighteen feet with windows on both the room side and along the exterior side of this area. The idea was to go one step farther with the window wall for a room, and decorate this wall with living patterns which could at once be protected when frost came by closing the outside sash. At the same time, by opening the inner windows, the garden could be brought directly into the room. A similar arrangement was planned for the Keith Dining Room (#73) but it was entirely too startling and had to be erased.

Both arrangements contemplated a system which later proved successful in several projects--that of removable galvanized iron deep earth trays, so that foliage groups grown in a greenhouse could be slipped into place when plants in the window has become leggy. Trays of blooms could also be introduced for gala occasions.


   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.3]
research courtesy mark hammons