Finding a (Dead) Architect

As you know, I enjoy getting to know all the architects and builders who created the landmarks that make Mississippi Mississippi. But research into architects, especially in the Magnolia State, can be really difficult since they didn’t really get organized and professional until almost 1930, and even then it’s been a little hit and miss, with good record-keeping by the Mississippi AIA in some periods and not-so-great in others. Several years ago, finding myself in Washington DC for a couple weeks, I found my way to the national AIA archives, where I enjoyed several days of research into the membership forms for Mississippi architects they have in their collection.

Luckily for y’all, you don’t need to go to DC to do all that research, because the AIA has just released an online database called the AIA Historical Directory of American Architects that “helps you locate information about past U.S. architects in the AIA Archives and elsewhere.” This database is growing, but currently lists as a base record all the architects who were members in the AIA up to 1978:

What’s in the AIA Historical Directory

* Names of all national-level AIA members up to 1978
* Years of membership until 1978
* Does NOT include members who joined fewer than 30 years ago
* References to their entries in biographical directories (example: Jamieson Parker)
* Full text of the 3 editions of American Architects Directory
* Digitized files from the AIA Archives (example: Francis Abreu and note Related Records link to Abreu & Robinson with other digitized files)
* What might be in their AIA Archives file, if it isn’t digitized yet—you can request it to be scanned if the person is deceased
* Links to architects’ papers and drawings in other archives (example: Irving F. Morrow)
* Names of non-member architects who appear in directories or other archives
* Names of firms that appear in directories, in other archives, or in the AIA Archives
* Does NOT include lists of buildings

One of the most exciting aspects of this helpful site is the full text of the American Architects Directory, published in 1956, 1962, and 1970. Although it’s not indexed, you can scroll through and find your favorite architect and, if he took the time to respond to the publisher way back when, you can get a brief biographical sketch, including education, previous firms, church and other memberships, states registered, and number of children. Even more exciting (I know, I’m hyperventilating), you can see the five buildings from the past few years before publication that he thought worth mentioning, along with construction dates. It’s such an invaluable resource, and has been so hard to access up until now.

Just as an example, let’s look up our mystery man, Claude H. Lindsley. We find his AIA record, which doesn’t tell us much more than we knew before, except that his AIA membership was active from 1923-1964. But then we click on the 1962 American Architects Directory link, which indicates we’ll find a biographical entry for him there. Sure enough:

LINDSLEY, CLAUDE H(ENRY). AIA 23. Houston Chapter
t Claude H. Lindsley, Holcombe Blvd, P.O. Box 516, Ocean Springs, Miss.
b. Jackson, Miss, 94. Xavier A. Kramer, Dftsmn, 14-17; United States Ship. Bd, Resident Engr, 18-19; Supervising Archts. Off. Wash, Consltg. Arch, 34-36. Prev. Firms : Kramer & Lindsley, Jackson, Miss, 20-23; Hedrick & Lindsley, Houston, Tex, 37-48. Present Firm: Claude H. Lindsley, Org. 47.
Reg: Miss, Tex. Gen. Types: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,15. Prin. Wks: Ocean Springs State Bk, Ocean Springs, Miss, 56; Co. Hosp, El Campo, Tex, 57; Munic. Bldg, Pascagoula, Miss, 58; Pascgoula Pub. Sch, & Merchants & Marine Bk, Pascagoula, Miss, 59; Physical Ed. Bldg, for Schs, 59.

Some new information here that I, at least, didn’t know for sure: Hedrick & Lindsley seems to have been a formal partnership, and for much longer (1937-1948) that I had realized. He’s still a member of the Houston chapter of AIA in 1962, even though he’s living in Ocean Springs and had been since 1947/48. Maybe this continued connection to Texas explains why the Mississippi architecture community seems to have forgotten him later in his life. Also, he worked for the Supervising Architect’s Office in Washington DC during the Depression, so who knows how many Depression-era post offices and federal buildings he had a hand in? And we get the invaluable list of recent designs. Way to go, Claude Henry (may I call you Claude Henry?)!

The AIA directory includes primarily 20th-century architects, and for Mississippi, architects practicing from the 1920s onward. I did find an entry for W.S. Hull, who became a member of the Western Association of Architects in 1887 and of the AIA in 1889, possibly the first Mississippian member of AIA. We’ll hear more from Mr. Hull in the coming month, with a series on the Governor’s Mansion.

A feature I hope the Directory will add in the future is the ability to search by location, so that I could easily pull up a listing of all architects in the database who had any connection with Mississippi.

This latest AIA effort joins a growing base of information about architects and builders only recently getting published online–including the North Carolina “Architects and Builders“–that I hope will begin to allow researchers to examine the lives and works of those thousands of architects who have never made it into the coffee table books or received any attention from scholars. For the most part, these are the people who built Mississippi’s buildings, and the power of internet databases might create a broader field of research and hopefully shine the light on their regionally or locally important master works.

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Categories: Architectural Research

5 replies

  1. Interesting stuff!

    Like

  2. What a great resource! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  3. luv this e-resource, e.l…looked up john dinkeloo the architect of ravenia in atlanta and ford foundation in nyc…even found his home address and went down his street in connecticut 2 take a peek …google maps had the dead architect living in the woods :/

    Like

  4. forgot 2 say thanx 4 ur coverage & ref of lindsley…unusual story…hes an alltime fav of mine.

    Like

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