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John E. Tourtellotte

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John E. Tourtellotte
John Everett Tourtellotte

(1869-02-22)February 22, 1869
DiedMay 8, 1939(1939-05-08) (aged 70)
Spouse(s)Della Wallace Tourtellotte
PracticeJohn E. Tourtellotte & Company;
Tourtellotte & Hummel
BuildingsIdaho State Capitol,
U. of Idaho Administration Bldg.

John Everett Tourtellotte (February 22, 1869 – May 8, 1939) was a prominent western American architect, best known for his projects in Idaho. His work in Boise included the Idaho State Capitol, the Boise City National Bank, the Carnegie Library, and numerous other buildings for schools, universities, churches, and government institutions.[1] From 1922 to 1930, he worked in Portland, Oregon.

Idaho State Capitol, Boise
Carnegie Library, Boise (defunct)
St. John's Cathedral, Boise
University of Idaho Administration Building, Moscow

He was associated with partnerships John E. Tourtellotte & Company and Tourtellotte & Hummel, based in Boise. Works by these firms were covered in a 1982 study and many of the buildings were immediately or later listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2][3]

Early years


Tourtellotte was born in East Thompson, Connecticut, to a well-respected French Huguenot family. His father, Charles W. Tourtellotte, was a prosperous farmer and grist-mill owner. At age 17, he enrolled as an apprentice to the architectural firm of Cutting & Bishop, based in Webster, Massachusetts, where he studied architectural drawing for two years. During this time, he supervised roof construction for the Butler Insane Asylum in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Anne & Hope factory in Lonsdale, the largest factory in the United States.

Following his apprenticeship, Tourtellotte travelled westward, working on construction projects in Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, and Pueblo, Colorado, before arriving in Boise in 1890, months after Idaho achieved statehood.

Idaho and Oregon


His architectural and construction business thrived in Boise, and by 1894, Tourtellotte devoted his business entirely to architecture. In 1903, he formed a partnership with German immigrant Charles Hummel (1857–1939), a university-trained architect who had previously worked for Tourtellotte's architecture and construction business.[4] "Charles Hummel, born in Germany in 1857, became the unspecified but probably indispensable second partner in the firm Tourtellotte & Company in 1900. He became a named partner in 1910, and was left fully responsible for the Boise operation when Tourtellotte went to Portland in 1913."[5]

"After 1900 it becomes increasingly difficult to attribute designs specifically to Tourtellotte, given that most of his energies were devoted to promotion. Hummel was probably the chief designer of the greater share of the key works between 1900 and 1920."[5]

"The community development hotels, a major accomplishment of Tourtellotte's little-documented Oregon years, were a direct reflection of [his persuasive business] skills. They were so valued that, when he and Charles Hummel severed most of the connections between their Portland and Boise offices in 1922. Tourtellotte retained ten percent of the gross receipts from the Idaho operation in return for "getting out quantities of plates, booklets, etc. for advertising purposes and also letters for direct solicitation of business. ... The two offices, though maintaining a common name, joint advertising, and a periodic association on particular projects, were hencefoth functionally separate."[5]

Tourtellotte then partnered with one of Charles Hummel's sons, fellow architect Frank K. Hummel (1892–1961). The two shared a Portland office from 1922 until Tourtellotte's retirement in 1930, and Frank Hummel worked there until its closure around 1934, when he returned to Boise. *Tourtellotte continued to work as he designed a proposed Portland City Hall in 1933 with architect Truman E. Phillips as well as a completed project, Linn County Courthouse in Albany, OR, which was in the building stages at the time of his death, also with Mr. PHillips, according to "Architect and Engineer", Vols. 136-139, page 55.[6]

After retiring, Tourtellotte continued to live in Portland,[6] where he died on May 8, 1939.[7] He and his wife Della (1869–1946) are buried in Idaho at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise.

Tourtellotte was known for combining architectural motifs from disparate styles and eras, and the domed Idaho State Capitol is celebrated for its use of natural light. To celebrate the opening of the state capitol, Tourtellotte wrote an essay where he compared the architectural styles of various eras to the state of spiritual and moral development of civilization evident during those times, with the use of illumination and light signifying the increasing spiritual enlightenment of humanity.[8] The state capitol underwent an extensive restoration which was completed in 2010.[9]

Tourtellotte also designed the replacement Administration Building at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Construction of the Tudor Gothic-style structure began in 1907 and the main building was completed in 1909; its wings in 1912 and 1916. Based on the Hampton Court Palace in England, the UI Administration Building is a campus icon and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, at age 69.[10]

Tourtellotte fraternal affiliations were with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Freemasons, and the Kiwanis.[11]



John E. Tourtellotte, 1894-1901


John E. Tourtellotte & Company, 1901-1910


Tourtellotte & Hummel, 1910-1930


John E. Tourtellotte, 1930-1937

  • Portland City Hall, Portland, Oregon (1933) - Not built.

Tourtellotte & Phillips (1937-1939)



  1. ^ "Capitol of Light".
  2. ^ Patricia Wright (September 22, 1982). "Tourtellotte and Hummel Architecture Thematic Resources". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  4. ^ History of Idaho. French, Hiriam T. The Lewis Publishing Company, 1914.
  5. ^ a b c Wright, Patricia (1987). Tourtellotte & Hummel of Idaho : the standard practice of architecture. Lisa B. Reitzes, Idaho State Historical Society. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press with Idaho State Historical Society. ISBN 0-87421-125-5. OCLC 15018496.
  6. ^ a b George T. Murphy (May 5, 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form: John Jacob Astor Hotel" (PDF). National Park Service. Item 8, p. 2. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  7. ^ "Death Summons Noted Architect" (May 10, 1939). The Oregonian, p. 11.
  8. ^ "John E Tourtellotte: A Western Visionary" (PDF). About the History of Idaho's Capitol. Idaho Capitol Commission. p. 2. Retrieved December 13, 2013. (Note: The full essay is also included in the same PDF document, near the end.)
  9. ^ "Capitol of Light".
  10. ^ University of Idaho - special collections - UI buildings - A - accessed 2010-03-23
  11. ^ "Multnomah County OR Archives Biographies". files.usgwarchives.net. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
  12. ^ "Guide to the Fletcher P. Homan papers 1902–1923 at the Mark O. Hatfield Library". Northwest Digital Archives. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  13. ^ Engineering News-Record 1939: 108.
  14. ^ Western Architect and Engineer 1939: 55.