The Life and Work of Harvey Ellis

Rochester 1894-1903

Around 1894 Harvey Ellis moved back to Rochester, where he began to work with his brother Charles again. Their firm is listed in the city directories from 1895-1901 under the name C.S. & H. Ellis. Harvey Ellis resided in various homes in these, his final years. The city directories from this time period list him at Lake Avenue, Frost Avenue, Columbia Park (later Lee Place), University Avenue and Alliance Avenue. From 1902 to 1903 Harvey is listed solo as an architect, with an office at Number 780 in the Powers Building.

During his time away, Ellis seems to have sent drawings back occasionally to his brother's firm. One of these may have been the sketch for the 1894 Monroe County Courthouse. This was another commission given ultimately to another firm.

Drawing for second courthouse.
Drawing for second courthouse

Clock detail.
Court house detail

Courthouse entrance.
Courthouse entrance detail

While back in Rochester, Ellis seems to have done less architectural work and concentrated on his painting, drawing and furniture designs. An article in the Union & Advertiser of March 16, 1895 on local artists' studios describes his style of working in the out-of-doors.

In this period, Ellis was also part of the Arts and Crafts Society, formed in the 1890's to encourage the expression of taste in industry. He and fellow member and friend Claude Bragdon selected articles for exhibit at the Mechanics' Institute in 1903. He also was a teacher of art. Ellis was influenced by Japanese prints in his own work, and helped organize an exhibition of Japanese prints and French posters for the Society. He also converted to Catholicism, and some of his later work is strongly religious in tone and subject. Many of his original works are in the collections of the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum in Rochester.

At some period, Ellis married again, but possibly became separated.

Ellis continued to design interiors. The following example is one of his original (unfinished) sketches. This work shows Ellis' attention to detail.


Interior detail.
Sketch showing interior detailing of walls and fireplace

One of his last Rochester commissions was for James Sibley Watson's Library on Prince Street. This building was designed as a near replica of the Petit Trianon, the summer palace of Marie Antoinette, by New York architect John du Fais. The interior, however, has been attributed to Harvey Ellis. Intricately carved wood patterns co-exist with all manner of hand-painted flora and fauna. When the main house was razed, this library wing was preserved as a residence in its own right.

In 1903, Ellis moved to Syracuse to write articles and illustrate for Gustav Stickley's publication, The Craftsman. He became deeply involved in the Arts and Crafts movement. The following is an example of his writing style from the publication.

He also designed floor plans for the article.

First Floor plan.

Second Floor plan.

Floor plans of a house designed by Harvey Ellis, and described in The Craftsman, 1903

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