William J. Dodd

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W.J.Dodd, ca. 1900.[1]
T. Hoyt Gamble House. Old Louisville Historic District. One of Dodd's final Louisville residential designs from 1912.

William James Dodd (1862–1930) was an American architect and designer who worked mainly in Louisville, Kentucky from 1886 through the end of 1912 and in Los Angeles, California from early 1913[2] until his death. Dodd rose from the so-called First Chicago School of architecture, though of greater influence for his mature designs was the classical aesthetic of the Beaux-Arts style ascendant after the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. His design work also included functional and decorative architectural glass and ceramics, furniture, home appliances, and literary illustration.

In a prodigious career lasting more than forty years, Dodd left many extant structures on both east and west coasts and in the midwest and upper south, among the best known of these being the original Presbyterian Seminary campus (now Jefferson Community & Technical College), the Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments, and the old YMCA building, all three in downtown Louisville. Also notable are his numerous residential and ecclesiastical designs still in use in Kentucky and Tennessee. In California, examples of his extant work include the Pacific Center and Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mission Auditorium south of Pasadena. Some of his earliest attributed designs may be found in Hyde Park, Illinois.

Early years[edit]

Art glass window sash with tulip-lotus on water motif for the T.Hoyt Gamble House, Louisville, KY (1912)

William J. Dodd was born in Quebec City, Canada, in 1862.[3] Prior to emigrating from Canada to the United States and Chicago Illinois, William's English/Scots father, Edward, was an inn keeper and before that a wharfinger, and his Irish mother, Mary Dinning, was a school teacher and dressmaker.[3][4] In 1869, the family of six, then including daughters Jane (Jenny) and Elizabeth, and sons Edward Jr. and William James, moved to Chicago.[5] The 1870 Chicago Directory gives the first known address for the Dodds on south Des Plaines near the original site of the Old St. Patrick's Church. In 1871, the ill-timed move of the Dodd household to West Harrison Street in Ward 9 placed them in the path of the great Chicago fire in October of the same year.[6]

Dodd received his training in the architectural office of William Le Baron Jenney, ca. 1878-79,[7] and his first employment appears to be for the Pullman Car Company as a draftsman of architect Solon Spencer Beman's designs for the planned city of Pullman, Illinois from 1880[8][9] through 1883.[10] Dodd's social life in Pullman was marked with athletic participation on the first Pullman competitive rowing crew.[11][12][13][14] As a member of the Pullman Rowing Club and the Pullman Pleasure Club he was often mentioned in the press accounts of fetes and dance parties that he coordinated for the young elites of Pullman and Hyde Park.[15][16][17] This sporting sociability is not merely incidental to Dodd but returns as an important feature of his later life in Louisville, with his membership in the Pendennis Club and Louisville Country Club, and in Los Angeles with his co-founding of The Uplifters Club, an offshoot of the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

In 1889 William J. Dodd married Ione Estes of Memphis, TN. Ione was from a large family of some political and historical importance in post-Reconstruction era Tennessee and in the Upland South region. While Dodd's religious upbringing was Methodism, after his marriage to Ione his denominational practice was Presbyterianism. The marriage produced no surviving children.

There are some uncertainties in Dodd's biography. Although naturalized in 1869 upon entering the United States, from the 1890s onward Dodd claimed to be Chicago-born,[18] doing so, Jay Gatsby-like, in all kinds of public documents. In an 1897 interview with a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal [19] W. J. Dodd left the reporter, and thus posterity, with the impression that he was a native Chicagoan, that he graduated from "the Chicago schools" and had been in the first graduating class of the Chicago Art Institute. The archives of the Institute do not yet support this claim.[20][21] Similarly unclear is when, in what year, Dodd began his professional practice in Louisville. The year usually offered in the histories of Kentucky architects (from Withey to Hedgepeth[22] to Kleber[23] to Luhan, Domer and Mohney[24]) for Dodd's arrival in Louisville is 1884, based on the forementioned 1897 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. In contrast, Chicago newspapers place him still in Pullman by early 1884, thereafter taking employment as an architect with the Northern Pacific Railway upon recommendation by S.S. Beman and moving to the rail company's office in Portland Oregon only to return to Chicago (Hyde Park) and employment with the Beman brothers (S.S. and W.I) by the end of 1885 after the Northern Pacific's collapse and reorganization. The journal Inland Architect of February 1886 announces Dodd's imminent departure from Chicago to begin a partnership with O. C. Wehle of Louisville, saying: "Mr Dodd will [soon] be a valuable addition to the architects of Louisville".[25] By September 1886 Dodd is cited as partner with Oscar Wehle for the design of "a magnificent three story brown stone residence" in Louisville.[26] In November 1886, Dodd was elected to membership in the Western Association of Architects, his home city being given as Louisville.[27] Dodd first appears as a resident, a boarder, in Louisville in the 1887 Caron's Louisville Directory. The American Institute of Architects [A.I.A.] Historical Directory of American Architects has held that Dodd did not join the A.I.A. national organization until 1916[28] despite Dodd's listing in membership with the Louisville Chapter of the A.I.A. in 1912[29] and in Southern California A.I.A. chapter in 1915.[30]


The John Stark House, ca 1898, designed by W.J.Dodd & Arthur Cobb in Old Louisville's St. James Court.[22]

Dodd spent nearly twenty seven years in Louisville. During this time his professional partners were Oscar C. Wehle, Mason Maury, Arthur Cobb, and Kenneth McDonald. Also, Dodd's output from these years contained many free-lance projects. He worked throughout Kentucky and across the midwest, specifically Illinois,[31][32] Indiana,[33] Ohio, and Tennessee,[34][35] creating structures of exceptional craftsmanship and high style, designs which traced the transitional tastes and technologies of the period before Modernism. On the east coast, extant Dodd structures from the early 1890s can be found in Virginia, in Norfolk's historic Ghent neighborhood.[36]

On Christmas Day 1912[37] Dodd departed the midwest to continue his professional career in the greater Los Angeles area, a period lasting until his death there in June 1930.[38] In Los Angeles, Dodd partnered briefly with J. Martyn Haenke (1877–1963)[39] and later with William Richards (1871–1945), his longest professional partnership.

In southern California, "the Southland", Dodd's buildings are to be found in the old downtown financial district around Pacific Center, above Hollywood in Laughlin Park and Hancock Park, to the west in Rustic Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Long Beach, southeast to San Gabriel, and possibly northeast in Altadena. Related to Dodd's Los Angeles work are residences in Oak Glen[40] and Palm Springs, California.

From as early as 1893, and to the end of his life, Dodd was a mentor to talented younger designers who were new to the profession, designers with now well-known names like Lloyd Wright,[41] Thomas Chalmers Vint,[42] and Adrian Wilson,[43] often outsiders without a developed practice and contending with a new client base and fast evolving licensing standards in cities enjoying rapid expansion as was Louisville after the American Civil War and Los Angeles after World War I. The architect Julia Morgan, a mostly free-lance California designer from upstate San Francisco,[44] rare as a female in a male-dominated profession, formed a team with W. J. Dodd and J. M. Haenke as her LA facilitators and design partners for William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building, a landmark downtown Los Angeles project completed in 1915.[45]

William Dodd's design work extended to glass and ceramics. His designs of Teco pottery are among the most sought-after and rare of the Arts and Crafts movement products introduced by the famed Gates Potteries near Chicago Illinois. He also designed furniture and art glass windows for many of his best residential and commercial buildings;[46] examples of such work by Dodd are to be seen in the Ferguson Mansion, currently the Filson Historical Society, and the Hoyt Gamble house, both of Louisville.


Pacific Mutual Life Building, Los Angeles (in 2012). Dodd & Richards design of 1919.[47]
Three Dodd Teco designs from 1905 Teco Catalog[48] of the Gates Potteries Co.
Dodd designed Teco vase No. #87 (ca. 1902[49]). Size: 12" x 8". See Teco Catalog[48] of Gates Potteries.
Design of a Cooking-Stove 1887 W.J.Dodd, Louisville KY [50]
Illustration by W.J. Dodd for a story on Japanese themes in a magazine.[51]

This section is under construction. Please check again as list is updated.

In Kentucky:

  • Louis Seelbach residence (1888) or "Seelbach-Parrish House". 926 S. 6th St. Old Louisville-Limerick Historic District.
  • Louisville Trust Building in Louisville (1891). External links to images given below.
  • Nelson County Courthouse, Bardstown Historic District (1892)
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church, now West End Baptist, Magnolia Avenue, Old Louisville Historic District (1895). External links to images given below.
  • George Franklin Berry Mansion in Frankfort KY (ca 1901). External links to images given below.
  • Fourth Avenue Methodist-Episcopal Church, 4th & St. Catherine streets, Old Louisville Historical District (1902). External links to images given below.
  • Edwin H. Ferguson mansion, now the The Filson Historical Society Third & Ormsby, Old Louisville Historic District (1903–1905)
  • Muhlenberg County Courthouse in Greenville KY (1907). External links to images given below.
  • Atherton Building, Fourth and Muhammad Ali streets, Louisville (1907)
  • Stewarts Building, also known as Stewarts Dry Goods Company, Fourth and Muhammad Ali streets, Louisville (1907)
  • Presbyterian Theological Seminary (original campus) now Jefferson Community & Technical College, Broadway, downtown Louisville (ca. 1902-6)
  • Seelbach Hotel of downtown Louisville. Built in two phases: (1902 Andrews and Dodd) and (1907 McDonald & Dodd)
  • Louisville Country Club (1910)
  • Walnut Street Theatre, 4th & Muhammad Ali (formerly Walnut St.), Louisville (1910)[52] External links to images given below.
  • George Gaulbert Memorial Shelter House, near Big Rock in Cherokee Park (1910)
  • First Christian Church, now Lampton Baptist Church, 4th & Breckinridge streets (1911). External links to images given below.
  • Citizens National Life Insurance Building, Park Road, Anchorage (1911)
  • Louis Seelbach residence (1911–12)[53][54] or "Barnard Hall". 715 Alta Vista Rd. Louisville near Lexington Rd. & Cherokee Park
  • T. Hoyt Gamble residence, Ormsby Avenue, Old Louisville Historic District (1912)
  • Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments Annex, Broadway, Louisville ( ca. 1912) External links to images given below.
  • the old YMCA building, Broadway, Louisville (1911–1912). External links to images given below.
  • Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, a Carnegie library: America's first public library dedicated to serve African Americans, 10th & Chestnut (ca. 1905). External links to images given below.

In California:

  • Hearst's Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building, downtown Los Angeles, California (ca. 1915). Design team of Morgan, Dodd & Haenke)
  • the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Building, now the Pacific Center, at Sixth and Olive streets (1921)
  • the Uplifters Club House, now the Rustic Canyon Recreation Center, Haldeman Road, Pacific Palisades (1923)
  • San Gabriel Mission Auditorium, greater Los Angeles. (1926)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Notable Men of Kentucky at the Beginning of the 20th Century (1901-1902). Benjamin LaBree, ed. Geo. G. Fetter, pub. Louisville KY: 1902 p. 159
  2. ^ The L.A. Times of March 2, 1913 announces the purchase of a residence by Dodd; Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer trade journal of May 10, 1913 records that Dodd had recently been granted his certificate to practice in Southern California by the State Board of Architecture.
  3. ^ a b Quebec City Wesleyan Methodist Church records, leaf 21, baptismal record of December 17, 1862 (birth date: September 22, 1862)
  4. ^ U.S. census records of 1870 and 1880. These records identify Edward Dodd (Sr.) as a brick mason by trade; Mary turns to "Keeping house" and millinery work.
  5. ^ 1860 Census of Canada indicates an infant daughter named Sarah who does not reappear in the 1870 census.
  6. ^ 1871 Chicago Directory
  7. ^ The Autobiography of Irving Kane Pond, "The Sons of Mary and Elihu". Edited by David Swan and Terry Tatum with an introduction by Guy Szuberla and contributions by Dennis Domer. Published posthumously by The Hyoogen Press, Oak Park, IL in 2009. pp. 82-84.
  8. ^ Chicago Directory of 1880 gives an address for W.J. Dodd, 156 Michigan Avenue, the headquarters of the Pullman Car Company; his occupation is given as 'draughstman'. The 1880 census has his residence on South Water Street, the family home, and his occupation is 'architect'.
  9. ^ Twentieth Annual Report of the Chicago Board of Trade for the Year ending 1877. Compiled by Charles Randolph. Knight & Leonard Printers. Chicago: 1878. Page 194 establishes the address of the Pullman Car Co. as 156 Michigan Ave.
  10. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, June 26, 1887: p. 14 "Pullman Rowing Club"
  11. ^ Pasavento, Wilma. "Sport and Recreation in the Pullman Experiment: 1880-1900". Journal of Sports History, Vol. 9.2, Summer 1982
  12. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune: July 31, 1882, p. 8
  13. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune: Oct. 22, 1882, p. 1
  14. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune: June 26, 1887, p. 14
  15. ^ Chicago Times, December 31, 1881: "Pullman Pleasure Club"
  16. ^ Chicago Times, March 24, 1882: "Pullman Socialbility"
  17. ^ Hyde Park Herald, April 25, 1885: "A Fond Farewell"
  18. ^ Rand, McNally & Co.'s Handbook of the World Columbian Exposition. Compiled by Stuart Charles Wade. Published by Rand, McNally & Co., 1893, p. 194
  19. ^ Louisville Courier-Journal. 1897: March 13, Section 2 "Building", p. 8
  20. ^ Research offers a possible explanation for this biographical uncertainty; Dodd may have received his earliest technical training under the auspices of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts (1879-1882), the immediate predecessor to the Art Institute; the academy boasted an architecture and design curriculum. W.L.B. Jenney was on the board of the Academy.
  21. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, June 29, 1879, p. 8 "The New Academy" by W.L.B. Jenney
  22. ^ a b Hedgepeth, Marty Lyn Poynter. The Victorian to the Beaux-Arts: A study of Four Louisville Architectural Firms, McDonald Brothers, McDonald & Sheblessy, Dodd & Cobb and McDonald & Dodd. M.A. Thesis, 1981 University of Louisville
  23. ^ Kleber, John E., Editor. The Encyclopedia of Louisville, University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY:2001
  24. ^ Luhan, Gregory A., Dennis Domer and David Mohney. The Louisville Guide. Princeton Architectural Press, 2004
  25. ^ Inland Architect & Builder. Vol 7, No. 1, p. 8: February 1886
  26. ^ "Among the Plumbers." Sanitary News: Weekly Journal of Sanitary Science, Vol. 8 May 1 - October 31, 1886, p. 270 Google Books Web 22 Dec 2013
  27. ^ American Architect and Architecture: Vol. XX, July–December. 1886
  28. ^ http://www.aia.org/about/history/aiab082017. As of Dec 2013, the database is currently not available online. Contact A.I. A. archivist at nhadley@aia.org
  29. ^ Catalogue of the First Exhibition: Louisville Chapter American Institute of Architects. 1912, pp. 6-7
  30. ^ Architect and Engineer: v. 43-44 - 1915, p. 118 "New Chapter Members"
  31. ^ Inland Architect & Builder. Vol 6, No. 6, p. 104: December 1885
  32. ^ Rand, McNally & Co.'s Handbook of the World Columbian Exposition.Rand, McNally & Co., 1893, p. 194
  33. ^ Hedgepeth, p. 95
  34. ^ Johnson, Eugene J. & Russell, Robert D., Memphis: An Architectural Guide. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville: 1990
  35. ^ Hedgepeth, p. 98
  36. ^ Yarsinske, Amy Waters. "Ghent: John Graham's Dream, Norfolk, Virginia's Treasure". The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 2006, p. 64.
  37. ^ Louisville Courier-Journal, Thursday Dec. 26, 1913 POINTS ABOUT PEOPLE - "Mr. and Mrs. William James Dodd left last night for Los Angeles where they will make their home..."
  38. ^ At the time of his death, William J. and Ione had their residence on Delgany Avenue in Playa del Rey, CA where they had lived since May 1928. The Dodd residence was subsequently purchased by Ivan Miller, President of the Civic Union of Playa del Rey. As of this writing the Dodd home is maintained to the highest standards of architectural accuracy.
  39. ^ Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer Vol. 11, October 25, 1913 p. 12 "PERSONAL NOTES AND TRADE NEWS - Archts. J. Martyn Haenke and W. J. Dodd have dissolved partnership. Mr. Haenke to continue the business at the present offices...Mr. Dodd has not announced his plans but will continue in practice."
  40. ^ Sanders, J.R. Oak Glen and Los Rios Rancho. Arcadia Publishing: 2006, p. 26
  41. ^ Lloyd Wright papers, 1920-1978. Unpublished correspondence. Box 20 "W.J. Dodd - Landscaping". UC Los Angeles: Special Collections, Young Research Library.
  42. ^ McClelland, Linda Flint. Presenting Nature: The Historic Landscape Design of the National Park Service - 1916 to 1942. National Register of Historic Places Interagency Resources Division of the National Park Service: 1993 Chp. IV, p. 1.
  43. ^ A.I.A. professional listing for Adrian Wilson: 1962
  44. ^ Wilson, Mark A. Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty. Gibbs Smith Publishers: 2007, p. 200. Wilson quotes architect Cynthia Ripley saying: "she was accepted and respected in an all-male field as the only independent woman architect at that time."
  45. ^ Los Angeles Examiner, June 28, 1914, pt IV, p. 3: "Architects for the Examiner Bldg." Microfiche - Los Angeles Central Library
  46. ^ Hedgepeth, p. 96
  47. ^ LA Times: Aug. 3, 1919, p. V16 "Office Building for Pacific Mutual Life"
  48. ^ a b http://www.tecopottery.info/catalog.pdf
  49. ^ Brush & Pencil: An Illustrated Magazine of the Arts of Today. 1902, Vol. 9, p. 292. Chicago
  50. ^ With "granular roughenings embellished by representations of chrysanthemum vines". United States Patent Office. Design No. 17,420: June 28, 1887. From same decade in which Louis Comfort Tiffany popularized the chrysanthemum pattern.
  51. ^ Scott, Mary McNeill. "Yako - The Sickness the Fox Send" published in The Southern Magazine, Louisville KY: Vol. 5, No. 28, January 1895, pp. 361-372. Illustrations for story by W.J. Dodd. Basil W. Duke, editor.
  52. ^ Casto, Marilyn Dee. Actors, audiences, and historic theaters of Kentucky. University of Kentucky Press: 2000, p. 76. Also, see Hedgepeth, p. 107
  53. ^ Hedgepeth, p. 103
  54. ^ Kleber, p. 250

External links[edit]