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William R. Brown

September 20, 2016

It’s tempting to say that the tangled partnerships of W. R. Brown have made his career difficult to reconstruct. Actually, the problem comes from incomplete on-line sources and what seems to be a significant lack of a paper trail. My subscription to comes in very handy when issues like this arise.

The Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940 provides the clearest chronology, which helps me augment:

  • Cincinnati directories for 1884-1885 list a Wm. R. Brown boarding with Mrs Anna Stump on Yungbluth Avenue in the Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood on the city’s far eastern edge. His occupation is “painter” but the 1885 directory settles the question.
  • The directory for ’85 also lists W. R. Brown, “architect, at J. W. Cotteral  & Co.,” a planing mill and lumber dealer. This W. R. Brown was living across the river in Dayton, KY, up-river from Cincinnati.
  • By 1887 he was an independent architect with offices at 283 Broadway
  • In 1888 he had moved to #46 in the Wiggins Block and by 1889 Charles Crapsey had joined him in partnership [Crapsey & Brown suggests Crapsey as the senior partner].
  • The C&B partnership continued through 1889-1896 and then dissolved by 1897.
  • 1897 puts him alone at 222 W. 4th Street.
  • 1899-1901 directories list the firm of Brown, Burton & Davis [Matthew Brown and David Davis]. The Dictionary mentioned above gives the firm as Brown & Davis during 1902-1907.
  • The Chicago director for 1903 lists Brown alone, with an office 423 Wabash, presumably a branch office of B&D. It also puts Brown in New York city during 1905-1906 and 1909.
  • After 1909, Brown disappears from view, perhaps in retirement, though I don’t know his age at the time.
  • Then for 1916-1917 he surfaces in Auburn, NY, as an architect at 136 Genesee Street.

Now match this rough chronology with with works attributed to Brown alone or his various partnerships and his role as a designing partner become clearer. I should note that Charles Crapsey also continued in practice, either alone or with a partner named Lamm, and that he also did a large number of church buildings, which complicates the sorting out of their significant list of projects.

Search here in the blog for Brown’s name and you get a sense of his style, which was almost uniformly A-A and primarily for Methodist clients. In the meantime, here is a sampling of recent images added to the database:

inindianapolisbap nelincolnme nyrochesterparsells

These are images for First Baptist Church, Indianapolis; St Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church, Lincoln, NE; and another Baptist church in Rochester, NY. As you can see, lanterns play a large part in Brown’s Protestant church work.

UPDATE [29JUN2017]: One more Brown & Davis church to add to this group: First Baptist Church of Worcester, MA, lost to a fire, I believe.



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