firm active: 1907-1921

minneapolis, minnesota :: chicago, illinois
philadelphia, pennsylvania :: portland, oregon

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Writings by William Gray Purcell
The Parabiographies manuscripts (circa 1930s-1950s)

Volume for 1919-1920

Job Date (in Parabiographies): November 17, 1919 [Purcell accounting number 602]


This is the Wolf Creek Bridge. I had a number of discussions with C. H. Purcell with respect to the aesthetics of bridge design. I called his attention to the fact that practically all of the forms for spandrel piers and arches, abutments, railings, portals, etc., were forms taken from stone masonry, and such as did not lend themselves to either efficient or artistic results in concrete poured in forms. He agreed that this was the case, and I was asked to cooperate with their engineering department in the design of the Wolf Creek Bridge.

This is the first pure engineering structure in America so far as I know, in which a conscious and creative attempt was made to express the structure in reinforced concrete in free forms and to relate these forms to use, site, and character of the American people. I made a number of drawings of the different types of railing, and let the engineer select the one he thought the most satisfactory. The designs were well received in the engineering department. They were found to be effective drawing construction on the job, and resultant bridge is a very clean and natural structure which will be able to maintain its self-respect.

Job Date (in Parabiography): June 17, 1920 [Purcell accounting number 607]

William Gray Purcell residence Georgian Court

I know that I am psychologically conditioned to enjoy coming to grips with a real problem. - That basic satisfaction in loving to work at something that seems to defy me, or to present peculiar difficulties which can not be met by conventional procedure, goes back to my pioneer life in the primitive forest, and undoubtedly further back than that, inherited from my forebears who were Ohio pioneers, built up the country from the log cabin days of Abraham Lincoln. At any rate, in purchasing this lot for my own home, while the site was an unusually beautiful one, the plan of construction difficulties were enormous. These were solved, and at no small additional cost, but drove me into problems in operations #608, and 609 which perhaps never were solved, and which detailed, after a number of years of business maneuvering, some very considerable losses.

   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.13]
research courtesy mark hammons