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William E. N. Hunter, Detroit Architect

February 7, 2016

Among several regional proponents of the Akron-Auditorium plan, Detroit’s W.E.N. Hunter was a major contributor. By far the best bigraphical information about him comes (oddly) from The Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, simply because he practiced in a market area that straddled the U.S.-Canadian border:

HUNTER, William E.N. (1868-1947), a native of Hamilton, Ont., was born on 16 February 1868 and educated at Hamilton Collegiate Institute. He served an apprenticeship under the well-known Hamilton architect William A. Edwards, then moved to Buffalo, N.Y. to continue his training, and later moved to Detroit, Mich. where he was assistant to Mortimer L. Smith & Son for seven years, then worked forJohn Scott & Co., and for the leading firm of Mason & Rice. He relocated to Toledo, Ohio, but by 1900 he had returned to Detroit and opened an office there in partnership with Joseph G. Kastler (as Kastler & Hunter, 1900-1906). He later practised under his own name where he established a reputation as a talented ecclesiastical designer, with works in both the United States and Canada. His best known work in Ontario was for the commission he received in his home town of Hamilton for the elaborate Italian Renaissance Revival design of First Methodist Church, 1912-13 (burned 1969). Arranged in a cruciform plan, with a substantial circular dome nearly 60 feet in diameter, this monumental work can rightfully be considered one of most accomplished ecclesiastical works in eastern Canada in the early 20th C. This project by Hunter was a development of his earlier design constructed with a similar form, but on a smaller scale, for Central Methodist Church in Windsor, Ont. (1905-06) and still standing today. Hunter retired in 1939 and moved to California in 1943, and later died in Los Angeles, Calif. on 4 January 1947 (obit. and port. Michigan Society of Architects Weekly Bulletin, xxi, 18 Feb. 1947; obit. National Architect, iii, March 1947, 15; biog. H. Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects, 1956, 312)

Examples of his work have already appeared here, notably the Methodist churches at Hastings, MI and both Hamilton and Tillsonburg, Ontario — variations on an A-A theme.

ONhamiltonME MIhastingsMEONtillsonburgME

Also take a look at his church in Big Rapids, MI. Notice the family resemblance?

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