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Writings by William Gray Purcell
Publications (1920s-1960s)

Northwest Architect (1940-1955)

For fifteen years Purcell wrote a lead article for nearly every issue of this professional journal.  The wide-ranging scope of subject matter combined architectural, historical, literary, biographical, and editorial analysis with many archival photographs and other documents.  In addition to essays, Purcell also edited several columns variously titled "They Said it," "You Said It," "SEDITS", etc.  These short editorials often contained correspondence from readers or Purcell associates with commentary by Purcell, not infrequently contrived to make a point about organic understanding.  Works by P&E appeared from time to time as illustrations and, ironically, more than once Northwest Architect became a vehicle for the republication of writings by Louis Sullivan.

Abstract: The role of the architect in supervising building construction needs to be creative and dynamic. A more effective architect learns the art of architecture by sharing the building process democratically with craftsmen and other co-workers. Drawings and specifications are only temporary mental tools in the evolution of a finished building.

Abstract: Doors perform an important mechanical and aesthetic function in architectural and interior design. Height and width of doors, particularly glazed doors, can be used to advantageously affect the sense of space. Historically, the size of doors has varied in different times and cultures.

Abstract: Doors are fundamentally important in the psychological process of experiencing a building. The increased role of the automobile in modern life requires the garage be carefully integrated with the entrance to the house. The garage door is a significant element in such design.

Abstract: The do's and don't of designing a breakfast area in the "Pullman" style (illustrated).  Editorial note: "The Statics and Dynamics of Architecture" (p. 3).

Abstract: Biographical information and personal recollections of educator and P&E client Thaddeus P. Giddings, and his development of the kitchenette (illustrated).

Abstract: Successful advertising of architects' services should emphasize a commitment to the public interest. Rather than the finished building, the essential functions of architects need to be sold to the client. The sales effort can join the interests of architects and building materials suppliers into a mutual structure to educate the public. References to P&E client Alexander Brothers, a manufacturer of industrial leather belting.

Abstract: Sales is function and advertising is form. The presentation of architectural services has special considerations. Creative editorial and publicity work can increase the effectiveness of Northwest Architect by reaching a wider audience. References to Maurice I. Flagg, Robert T. Jones, and Architect's Small House Service Bureau.

Abstract: Fun is when experience is complete and satisfying in itself. Doing something for yourself is more fun than having it done by someone else. Playing creatively with architecture can be fun.  (Illustration, Studio for Paul Mueller [Minneapolis, Minnesota 1910]).

Abstract: Literary colloquy between Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Gray Purcell, discussing the quality of beauty in form and function (illustrated). Reference to Walter Burley Griffin.

Abstract: Improper window treatments can defeat the purpose of a window. Use of a sliding sash to completely reveal window openings to the outdoors creates the pleasant effect of a porch. References to John S. Bradstreet, Minneapolis architect Edwin H. Hewitt, engineer E. Fitch Pabody, P&E interior designer Harry Rubins, and Catherine Gray residence, also known as W. G. Purcell residence [Minneapolis, Minnesota 1907]. (Illustration, Edna S. Purcell summer residence [Rose Valley, Pennsylvania 1918]). Letter from George Grant Elmslie (p. 3).

Abstract: The pioneering spirit of Scandinavians is aptly expressed in their art and architecture. The paintings of artist Carl Larsson characterize this quality (illustrated). References to H. P. Berlage, Ferdinand Boberg, Heinrik Bull, Eric Gill, Herman Muthesius, Otto Nyrup, and Eliel Saarinen.

Abstract: The graphic arts must be subservient to the building arts, not vice versa. The psychological experience of people with a building is an overriding design consideration. The "feel" of a structure is more important than the "look." References to Douglas Donaldson, and Louis Heitman residence, second scheme [Helena, Montana 1916] (illustration). Letter from former P&E drafter LeRoy A. Gaarder: reference to Parish House and Chancel for Christ Church [Eau Claire, Wisconsin] (p. 12). Letter from George Grant Elmslie: reference to Frank Lloyd Wright (pp. 13 14).

Abstract: The work of the architect requires sensitive understanding of the client's feelings. Old values in art and architecture reveal the worth of present ones. Description of construction, floor plan, mechanical design, and furnishings of William Cunningham Gray residence #1, built in 1874 (illustrated). References to Jonathan F. Gray, W. C. Gray, Charles C. Miller, and the Pleasant Run farm. Excerpt from Camp Fire Musings, by W. C. Gray (p. 7), and biographical note (p. 3).

Abstract: The W. C. Gray residence #2 exhibits the organic evolution of natural architectural style. Pattern and color are essential aspects of natural architecture. Architects must let the lives of the people flow through their designs (illustrated). References to H. P. Berlage, Gutzon Borglum, W. C. Gray, Charles C. Miller, Purcell & Elmslie, and Louis Sullivan. Also, floor plan and cost analysis (p. 10).

Abstract: The design of genuine log cabins reflects the pioneer spirit. Construction uses materials indigenous to the site. The fireplace is the heart of the dwelling (illustration). References to John Morrison family and Island Lake. Editorial note: reference to the National Inventor's Council (p. 3).

Abstract: The life and history of the Ojibway Indians before the white man came, recollected by Island Lake personalities Margaret Bosquet and John Morrison (illustrated).

Abstract: The character of William Green represents an organic relationship between man and nature. The self sufficient and practical approach to life at Island Lake exemplified the pioneer spirit shared by Green and W.C. Gray (illustration). References to Cesar Daly, and Lewis Ramsdell. "Traditionism" (p. 3).

Abstract: How to use mirrors as a design tools in the production of balanced plans and decorative enrichment. Architectural ornament should be the flower of the spirit, not merely the shadow of the intellect (illustrations of Stewart Memorial Church [Minneapolis, Minnesota 1909] and Service Buildings for Henry B. Babson [Riverside, Illinois 1915]). References to Irvin Cobb, George Grant Elmslie, and Louis Sullivan.

Abstract: Excerpts from "What Is Architecture: A Study of the American People of Today" by Louis Sullivan, with commentary by Purcell.

Abstract: Additional excerpts of Sullivan essay. "Sullivan at Work" (p. 11).

Abstract: History of the journey man drafter, 1880 to 1900s. References to Leroy Buffington, Henry Ives Cobb, Harvey Ellis, F. W. Fitzpatrick, Guy Henderson, Roy Hotchkiss, John Galen Howard, E. E. Roberts, and Louis Sullivan. Other reference to Harvey Ellis (p. 6).

  • "Wood in the Modern World"
    March-April, 1945 (vol. IX, #1 2), pp. 3-8.

Abstract: The enduring qualities of architecture are the ideas from which a building arises. Wood possesses uniquely beautiful and practical qualities. The concepts of architecture are expressed through the considerate choice of materials. The historical uses of wood have reflected cultural values (illustrations of AR:P&E 104, 197; WGP 744). See also B:B2. MSS:A9.

  • "Lay That T-Square Down!"
    Unspecified, 1945 (vol. IX, #5 6), pp. 4-7, 14.

Abstract: Entering a drawing in a competition is not the practice of architecture. The best spirit of the architect can be seen in the writings of Victor Hugo. Recommendations for training students of architecture in experimental building laboratories (illustrated). References to John B. Pierce Foundation prefabricated dwellings.

  • "Architects Relax!"
    Unspecified, 1946 (vol. X, #1), pp. 4-7.

Abstract: Enjoy the relaxing pastime of painting, and organize a contest to share the results. Criteria from an exhibition sponsored by the Oregon Society of Artists in 1930. Biographical note: Lawrence A. Fournier (pp. 8-11).

  • "History Was Today"
    Unspecified, 1946 (vol. X, #2), pp. 5-8.

Abstract: The spirit of architecture arises from the self awareness of the builders. The differences between the traditional, the modern, and the organic. (illustrations of AR:P&E 132, 221). Reference to a presentation painting for AR:P&E 276. Letter from Purcell: reference to AR:WGP X40 (p. 18).

  • "50,000 Carpenters S-T-U"
    Unspecified, 1946 (vol. X, #4), pp. 5-9.

Abstract: A satisfying life can be created through ingenuity. Cooperative efforts can lower costs and overcome obstacles more effectively. Housing shortages are a community concern (illustrated). References to James Van Evera Bailey, William Roger Greeley, John B. Pierce prefabricated dwellings, and AR:WGP X40.

  • "'No Home?' 'So What!'"
    Unspecified, 1947 (vol. XI, #2), pp. 4-6.

Abstract: Advice for first time home builders. Use the pioneer spirit. Look for value in functional use (illustrated). References to Billy Green, Loren O. Kirk, Louis Ramsdell, and Edward L. Sharretts.

  • "Woodsman Build for Me"
    July-August, 1947 (vol. XI, #3), pp. 4-8.

Abstract: Natural surroundings are an inspiration to architects. The evolution of thought in architecture reflects democratic cooperation among people (illustration [P:GN]). References to Edward Faulker, W. C. Gray, and Island Lake (Wisconsin). Cover art by Charles S. Chapman.

  • "Many Hands Want Light Work"
    September-October, 1947 (vol. XI, #4), pp. 4-7.

Abstract: Activity with the hands is the best approach to solving a problem. Cooperation among local builders can produce practical regional solutions to increasing construction costs. Experiment with materials, and be a "self starter." References to James Van Evera Bailey, and Alma Carroll. Cover photograph by Erven Jourdan.

  • "An Authority? That May Be Yourself!" [PDF]
    January-February, 1948 (vol. XII, #1), pp. 4-8.

Abstract: How to develop and organize a personal collection of ideas and information (illustrated). References to Douglas Donaldson, Bernard Maybeck, and the Gray Memorial Record (illustrated).

  • "1950?! Let's Find Out"
    March-April, 1948 (vol. XII, #2), pp. 5-7.

Abstract: How to sell architecture as a service, and the relationship of building production to commerce. Introduction by Purcell to an essay by advertising consultant Ben Nash. "Who is Ben Nash?" (p.4).

  • "Art and Mr. Chapman" [PDF]
    Unspecified, 1948 (vol. XII, #4), pp. 4-6.

Abstract: The work of artist Charles S. Chapman discussed in biographical anecdotes, with analysis of the graphic arts (illustrated). "Our Fan Mail" [PDF] (pp. 13 14, 16, 18). References to Elbert Hubbard, and Gustav Stickley; and including letter from John Jager (p. 16).

Abstract: Review by Purcell of the essay "What the Engineer Thinks," by E. van Regay (pseudonym: John Jager), reprinted from The Western Architect (see AR:P&E 281), with biographical notes. References to Alexander Brothers, Hewitt & Brown, and P&E. "Need and the Man" (p. 3). Letter from John Jager (p. 8).

  • "An American Weapon the Kentucky Rifle"
    Unspecified, 1949 (vol. XIII, #1), pp. 4-7.

Abstract: History of pioneer firearms in settling the American frontier. See also MSS:A34(NWA 37). "Our Fan Mail" (pp. 17 18), with references to Alexander Brothers, W. C. Gray, and Helen E. Starrett. Letter from Alda Jourdan (p. 18).

  • "Down to Earth Farm and Function"
    Unspecified, 1949 (vol. XIII, #2), pp. 4-7, 14.

Abstract: The absence of necessary nutrients in food is often a factor in disease. Chemical treatment of food corrupts health by breaking the natural connections between human beings and the earth. Architects can design communities to restore healthful practices in American food production. References to H. C. Garvin, Alfred Owre, and Francis M. Pottenger. See also MSS:A34(NWA 39) "To Produce Architecture" (p. 3). "Our Fan Mail" (pp. 15 16, 21 22).

  • "From the St. Croix Trail"
    Unspecified, 1949 (vol. XIII, #3), pp. 4-6.

Abstract: Writings of W. C. Gray, edited by Purcell. References to Agnes Gray, Jonathan F. Gray (illustration of AW:B1a3), Robert Gray (illustration), W. C. Gray, John Morrison, Island Lake, and the Pleasant Run farm. See also MSS:A34(NWA 35). "Minnesota Vacation 100 Years Ago" (p. 12). "Our Fan Mail" (p. 18), with reference to Alma Carroll.

  • "'Modern' Queer to You?"
    Unspecified, 1949 (vol. XIII, #4), pp. 4-9.

Abstract: The passing trends of art and architecture are merely fashions which lack originality. Often the purpose of "modern" art is merely to gain publicity for the artist, rather than the stated goal of transcending limitations. Such artworks are inconsistent with organic values. References to Charles Chapman (illustrated), and Eric Gill. "Holder Versus Movers" (p. 3). "Your Fan Mail" (pp. 16 17), including letter from Colista Dowling.

  • "Hot Air Doesn't Rise!"
    January February, 1950 (vol. XIV, #1), pp. 14-15.

Abstract: Heat must be made to move to where needed. Each application is a unique problem, and should be met with fresh thought. Insulation can be an effective tool. "This Was Functional Architecture" (p. 36), with reference to the Michael Dowling residence, North Bend, NB. "Your Fan Mail" (pp. 56 58), with reference to MSS:A34(NWA 36).

  • "Noise as Music"
    May, 1950 (vol. XIV, #2), pp. 8-10, 30-32.

Abstract: Architecture is part of the musical performance. Music of different historical periods was created with the architecture of the time in mind. Graphic records of music or architecture are only the shadows of the living art. Music has evolved as a reflection of cultural and spiritual values.

  • "Time Bomb"
    August, 1950 (vol. XIV, #4), pp. 4-6, 8.

Abstract: The design of the 1906 Cook County Court House (Chicago, Illinois) by Holabird & Roche,with suggestions for restructuring the space for better public use. References to Pietro Belluschi, and AR:P&E 276. "House of Many Mansions" (p. 3). "Polio Do You Have Children?" (p. 12). "You Said It" (pp. 28 -0). "It Can Be You" (p. 31).

  • "Draw More...You Can...It's Fun!"
    November, 1950 (vol. XIV, #5), pp. 4, 6, 8, 10.

Abstract: Drawing adds to the appreciation of life for both yourself and others. Develop your technique to tell the action of the subject, and avoid presenting a static appearance. Use sketches in correspondence and manuscripts to create more effective records. Ref. Charles Livingston Bull. "You Said It" (pp. 28 32), including letter from André Nejavitz.

  • "Say It All, Mr. Architect!"
    January-February, 1951 (vol. XV, #1), pp. 4 5, 25-29.

Abstract: Every object represents an idea. Understanding forms as actions in process is the basis of organic architecture. The successful organic designer expresses function through the articulate choice of building materials (illustrations of AR:P&E 171, 222, 368; and WGP X40. References to James Van Evera Bailey, Purcell & Elmslie, Louis Sullivan, and MSS:A6. "You Said It" (pp. 30 31), including letter from Richard Schindler to Douglas Haskell, with reference to the United Nations Secretariat Building.

Abstract: Avoid polio through proper nutrition. Architectural note by John Jager (pp. 6, 30-32).

  • "BOZART!"
    May-June, 1951 (vol. XV, #3), pp. 12-13, 42-45.

Abstract: Analysis of the Secretariat Office Building at the United Nations complex in New York (illustrated). See also MSS:A34(NWA 46, 51). "They Said It" (pp. 47-48).

  • "The Log Cabin Architect"
    July-August, 1951 (vol. XV, #4), p. 6.

Abstract: The requirements for properly designing a log cabin (illustration). References to Chilson and Darragh Aldrich, with biographical notes (pp. 41 42). "UN Answer Letters" [regarding United Nations Secretariat Building, New York, New York] (pp. 12 13), including letters from Ernest O. Brostrom, John Jager, and Paul A. Desjardins. "Our Cover Photograph" (pp. 28 29), with references to John Jager, and Frederick A. Strauel. "They Said It (pp. 38 39), including letter from W. G. A. Millar.

  • "Louis H. Sullivan"
    September-October, 1951 (vol. XV, #5), pp. 6 7, 36 37.

Abstract: The "form and function" thesis of Louis Sullivan is a vital expression of essential democratic values. References to Ferdinand Boberg, Joseph Plecnik, Eliel Saarinen, Otto Wagner, and MSS:A39.

  • "Where There's Fire There's Smoke"
    November-December, 1951 (vol. XV, #6), p. 3.

Abstract: The dangers of asphyxiation in a fire.

  • "Money At Work"
    January-February, 1952 (vol. XVI, #1), pp. 4-5, 38-40.

Abstract: Buy real estate to avoid loss of investment capital due to inflation. "Gone With the Wind" (p. 3). "They Said It" (p. 36).

  • "1902 and the Gilded Age"
    March-April, 1952 (vol. XVI, #2), pp. 6-7, 18, 20-21, 24.

Abstract: The Andrew D. White Competition of 1902, in which Purcell took first prize. See also AR: WGP X4. "Succession is not Enough" (p. 5).

  • "Le-Duc 1814-1879"
    May-June, 1952 (vol. XVI, #3), pp. 12 13, 43 44.

Abstract: The design philosophy of Viollet-Le-Duc. "They Said It" (pp. 46, 48-49), ref. Gutzon Borglum, MSS:A34(NWA 45), and including letter from Claire Kembrey.

  • "Sweden"
    July-August, 1952 (vol. XVI, #4), p. 3.

Abstract: Editorial note referring to Gosta Edberg, whose article, "1952 and Swedish Empiricism" appears in this issue (pp. 7 8, 37 41); and biographical note, "Gosta Edberg" (p. 41).

  • "Our Cover Photograph"
    September-October, 1952 (vol. XVI, #5), p. 4

Abstract: Critique of the Science Buildings of the Ciudad Universitaria de Mexico. "They Said It" (pp. 49-50).

  • "That Haunted House"
    November-December, 1952 (vol. XVI, #6), pp. 16, 18.

Abstract: Remodeling by Frank Lloyd Wright of the Frank S. Gray House in Oak Park for the daughter of N. G. Moore (E. R. Hills residence). "Rewinding Our Line to Cast Again" (pp. 42, 44-45).

  • "First 'Skyscraper'"
    January-February, 1953 (vol. XVII, #1), pp. 4-5, 34-37.

Abstract: Design of the Tacoma Building (Chicago, Illinois, 1880) by Holabird and Roche, including excerpted letters from George Grant Elmslie and Lewis Mumford. "They Said It" (pp. 44 45).

  • "Is It Only Beautiful?"
    Convention Issue, 1953 (vol. XVII, #3), pp. 14-16, 53-56.

Abstract: Literary colloquy between John Ruskin and Purcell, derived from "An Inquiry into Some of the Conditions of Architecture in Our Schools" (1865). "He Said It" (p. 57).

Abstract: Efforts of Stella Woods to design a Minneapolis, Minnesota kindergarten in 1907. "Many Have Said It!" (p. 36). "Why! On the Cover" (pp. 40-42). "Wright Labels Architecture Totalitarian" (p. 43). "Sign Off for 1953" (pp. 47-48).

  • "No Wonder No Architecture"
    September-October, 1953 (vol. XVII, #5), pp. 4, 6, 44-46.

Abstract: Plan for enclosing downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, with an arcade similar to Gallerie Umberto I in Milan, Italy. "Our Cover Picture" (pp. 47-49).

  • "Wintergreen Civic Development Unit"
    November-December, 1953 (vol. XVII, #6), pp. 4 6, 44-45, 48.

Abstract: A plan for development of a functionally integrated downtown shopping district that is shielded from the weather (illustrated). "Predictions of Things to Come" (p. 3). "Many Have Said It" (pp. 40, 42), ref. Kenneth Nishimoto. "Our Cover Photograph" (pp. 46-48), with reference to the Crystal Palace, London (1851). See also C:92.

  • "What Is a Library?"
    January-February, 1954 (vol. XVIII, #1), pp 4, 6, 54-55.

Abstract: A library is not merely a building, but a system of relationships which delivers books to people. The functions of the library need to be identified and their organization dynamically expressed through architecture. References to Gracia Countryman. "Editorial Page Comment: The New Era in New York" (p. 46). "Let's Say It" (pp. 56 58): with references to MSS:A34(NWA 59, 61).

  • "No Point In a Center"
    March-April, 1954 (vol. XVIII, #2), pp. 8-9, 49-50, 52-53.

Abstract: Plans for urban redevelopment need to make imaginative use of modern technologies for communication and transportation. Nearness and convenience, two essential aspects of city planning, are often misconceived in obsolete terms. A functional approach finds there is no single center to the life of a city (illustrated). "An Open Letter to the Otis Elevator Company" (p. 3). "Cover Picture," (pp. 62 65), with references to Louis Sullivan, William Dudok, and AR:LHS 27. "Editorial Page Comment: Transitors" (p. 66).

  • "SEDITS"
    May-June, 1954 (vol. XVIII, #3), pp. 36 39.

Editorial notes. "Quickies," (pp. 58-61).

  • "Ornaments of Snow Blew From Their Lips"
    July-August, 1954 (vol. XVIII, #4), pp. 8-10, 42, 43-46.

Abstract: The highly developed Ojibway language represents an organic understanding of nature. Many Ojibway words come from the natural sounds of the living forest. Frederick Baraga was the first linguist to study the Ojibway language (illustrated). Reference to Margaret Bosquet. "Scientific Works of a Man of Religion" (pp. 40, 42 43), ref. Frederick Baraga. "They Said It" (pp. 56 60), including letter to John Jager.

  • "Open Hearth Fires"
    September-October, 1954 (vol. XVIII, #5), pp. 26-28, 30, 32, 85-88.

Abstract: The design elements of a successful fireplace (illustrations of AR:P&E 197; WGP 607, 743, and other). Excerpt from Camp Fire Musings, by W. C. Gray (p. 5). "They Said It" (pp. 66 69). "Our Cover Photograph" (pp. 89 90), with reference to AR:WGP 743.

Abstract: Biographical account of John W. Norton as the first artist to apply "form and function" painting to architecture (illustration of AR:P&E 311). References to Alexander Brothers, Charles Livingston Bull, Hart & Kaiser Studios, Ellis F. Lawrence, Thomas E. Tallmadge, Walter Wilcox, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Biographical notes, (pp. 62 64), with references to Alexander Brothers. "Pictures on the Front Cover" (pp. 65-66).

  • "Half Your Fuel for Free"
    January-February, 1955 (vol. XIX, #1), pp. 14-16, 65.

Abstract: How to design a heating system that takes advantage of warmth latent in the ground. See also MSS:A34(NWA 67). "Chedworth Roman Villa" (p. 5). "Editorial Page Notes" (pp. 66 68), with reference to the Roman villa at Chedworth, England (illustrated). "They Said It" (pp. 72-74).

  • "From the Ground Up"
    March-April, 1955 (vol. XIX, #2), pp. 28, 30, 32, 36, 38, 40.

Abstract: How to heat spaces by circulating water through pipes in a concrete slab floor (illustrated). See also MSS:A34(NWA 66). "The Highway Project" (p. 58, 60), "Transitors Arrive" (p. 59), with reference to AR:LHS 27 (illustrated).

research courtesy mark hammons