Austin Eldon Knowlton
Austin Eldon Knowlton (July 23, 1909 – June 25, 2003) was trained as an architect but spent most of his career in the construction industry. His company designed, financed and built more than 160 college and university buildings on every major college campus in Ohio and more than 200 elementary and secondary school buildings. His companies have also constructed more than 35 major hospitals and 43 United States Post Offices throughout the country. In his lifetime, he designed more than 600 buildings.
A. E. Knowlton was born in Athens, Ohio in 1909, the second child of Clarence Luster Knowlton ("CL") and Vertura Mae Cundiff. His father had founded Knowlton Brothers Construction in 1906 with his brother Everett and had been in the construction business in Athens, Ohio. About 1917, they were awarded the contract to build the Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, Ohio and both brothers relocated to Bellefontaine and made it their home. The brothers separated their business about 1923, at which time "CL" formed his new company, C. L. Knowlton and Sons, Contractors, with sons Clarence Ernest ("CE") and Austin Eldon ("AE").
Eldon Knowlton grew up in Bellefontine, played football in high school and gained the nickname "Dutch." He was graduated from Bellefontaine High School in 1927 and then attended The Ohio State University where one of his favorite professors was Howard Dwight Smith. He was a member of Alpha Rho Chi fraternity. Dutch was graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, class of 1931. He rejoined his father's firm after graduation. After his father's retirement from the business, "AE" and "CE" founded the Knowlton Construction Company in 1937. Although Dutch suffered from dyslexia, he could add long columns of numbers in his head, and used a slide rule to calculate construction bids.
A. E. "Dutch" Knowlton's company specialized in educational, health care and commercial buildings. At his alma mater alone, he designed the Fawcett Center, Hitchcock Hall, Houck House, Jones Graduate Tower, the School of Allied Medical Professions, Wilce Health Center, Drake Union and Larkins Hall addition (the latter demolished 2005 to make way for a new Recreation and Physical Activities Center).
In 1994 The Ohio State University renamed its School of Architecture the "Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture." University President E. Gordon Gee praised the gift from Knowlton that made it possible for OSU to provide the finest architectural education possible. A new building designed by the firm of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects of Atlanta, Georgia, Knowlton Hall, opened for the School of Architecture in the fall of 2004. In 1995, Ohio State presented an Honorary Doctorate of Architecture to A. E. Knowlton.
Austin Eldon Knowlton married Phyllis Yvonne Coulon of Bowling Green, Ohio, in August 1933 in Wilmette, Illinois. They had three children. He was divorced from Phyllis in 1974 and later married and divorced Susan J. Dlott. He resided in Bowling Green and Hamilton, Ohio before building a home on his Emerald Farms in Delaware County, Ohio in 1947. In later life he spent winters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida until he donated his Delaware estate in 2001 to Augustana College and took up Florida residence full-time.
An enthusiastic sportsman, he raised championship American Saddlebred horses at Emerald Farms (colors: emerald and blue), which he showed under harness and his family under saddle for many years all over the midwest. In addition to show horses, he raced thoroughbreds and had an avid interest in baseball and football. He was a Trustee of the Little Brown Jug Society which runs the Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers in Delaware, Ohio. He was a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s, and was instrumental in building Riverfront Stadium. With Paul Brown, he co-founded the Cincinnati Bengals and was the largest shareholder and Chairman of the Board for twenty years. His Austin E. Knowlton Foundation has made many charitable gifts including funding the Knowlton Library of the Logan County District Library in memory of his parents and to The Ohio State University.