The Life and Work of Harvey Ellis

The move to Utica in 1885

In 1885, Harvey Ellis moved to Utica. The exact reasons are unclear, but 1885 was a time of controversy, both personally and professionally. The Ellis firm was involved in a legal confrontation over plans for the new jail to be built on Exchange Street.

In addition, Harvey Ellis was removed from the rolls of the Rochester Art Club. This was possibly due to his problems with alcohol.

In any case, Ellis continued his work in Utica. He submitted and won first prize in a national competition for a monument to Ulysses S. Grant. The following article from the Union & Advertiser of October 1, 1885 briefly describes the competition and monument.

Former Rochester Architect

"The American Architect's competition of design for a Grant monument has resulted in the distribution of three prizes of $50 each, the first to Harvey Ellis of Utica, formerly of Rochester, the second to O. Von Nerta of Washington, and the third to C.S. Luce of New York city. Mr. Ellis' design is for a heavy Norman tower, with semicircle colonnade approaching, and mortuary chapel in the interior; Mr. Von Nerta's is a base surmounted by an equestrian statue; Mr. Luce's the same, with the second member of the base supported by pilasters and figures emblematic of peace and plenty."


In the end, Ellis' plan for the monument was not used.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, 1885-1889

Ellis moved again, this time to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Here he worked with the firm of Leroy C. Buffington and with others.

In the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, over one hundred renderings in the Leroy S. Buffington collection are works done by Harvey Ellis. Ellis worked with Buffington on Pillsbury, Nicholson and Burton Halls on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. The Richardsonian Romanesque style is very strongly felt in these buildings. Pillsbury Hall in particular shows the use of hand-carved ornamentation similar to Rochester's Federal Building. Intricate patterns composed of four different kinds of stone are in effect throughout, including sunbursts and checkerboards.

Several mansions in Minneapolis and St. Paul, mostly gone, have been attributed to Ellis as well. Two of them were the John Merriam house and the Samuel Gale mansion.

Ellis is also described as the chief architect (working for Buffington) for the Mabel Smith Tainter Memorial in Menomonie, Wisconsin. This is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He also designed the Louis Smith Tainter House now part of the University of Wisconsin-Stout. These two buildings are very Romanesque in style.

Missouri, 1890-1894

In 1890 Ellis moved yet again, this time to St. Louis, where he became a draftsman with the firm of Eckel & Mann. One of his designs was for the Compton Hill Tower, a 179-foot tall tower that housed a standpipe for the water supply. He also worked on the St. Louis City Hall building.

In 1890, Ellis also designed the first police station in St. Joseph, Missouri. This Romanesque style building currently houses the National Military Heritage Museum.

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