William Sidney Pittman

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William Sidney Pittman
Photo of Sidney Pittman
W. Sidney Pittman, ca 1916
Born (1875-04-21)April 21, 1875
Montgomery, Alabama
Died 14 March 1958(1958-03-14) (aged 82)
Occupation Architect

William Sidney Pittman (April 21, 1875 – March 14, 1958) was an African-American architect who designed several notable buildings, such as the Zion Baptist Church and the nearby Deanwood Chess House in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, DC.[1] He was the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington.


Pittman was born April 21, 1875, in Montgomery, Alabama, to an ex-slave laundress and a prominent white man of the city.[2][3] At the age of 17 Pittman attended Tuskegee Institute, where he completed programs in woodwork and architectural-mechanical drawing in 1897.[2] He was awarded a scholarship to attend the all-white Drexel Institute in Philadelphia,[3] where he completed the five-year architecture and mechanical drawing program in only three years, graduating in 1900,[2][4][unreliable source?] after which he returned to Tuskegee to teach for the next five years.[3]

Twelfth Street YMCA Building, 1816 Twelfth Street Northwest (Washington, District of Columbia)

Pittmann designed a number of buildings for the Tuskegee Institute, including Collis P. Huntington Memorial Building, Tuskegee, Alabama (1900–05). He then moved to Washington, DC, and developed his own successful architectural practice, receiving many important commissions.[3] He developed the Fairmount Heights housing development for blacks in the suburbs of Maryland. In 1907 he married Portia Washington (daughter of the celebrated head of Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington), and the family home that Pittman designed in Fairmount Heights is a notable landmark. Pittman won a federal commission for the Negro Building at the Tercentennial Exposition at Jamestown, Virginia in 1907.[5] He designed the Colored Carnegie Library of Houston, which was built in 1913 as the only library available to African Americans of that city.[6]

After having established a name for himself, Pittman made his way to Texas in 1913, in order to escape the influence of his famous father-in-law. Once in Texas, Pittman built the Pythian Temple (1915–16)[7] and the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church (1920) in Dallas, the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Fort Worth (1914);[8] the Joshua Chapel A.M.E. Church in (Waxahachie 1917) and the Wesley Chapel A.M.E. in Houston (1926).[5]

In 1928, after raising three children, Pittman and his wife separated. She returned to teach in Tuskegee. He quit the practice of architecture, working as a skilled carpenter. For most of the next two decades he published an opinionated and controversial weekly paper called The Brotherhood Eyes, a dissident voice in the African-American community that was an alternative to mainstream newspapers such as the Dallas Weekly or the Dallas Express.[3] In the paper he attacked what he saw as failures among the local preachers and other black leaders, gaining himself many enemies.

Pittman died March 14, 1958, in Dallas, where he is buried in Glen Oaks Cemetery.[3]


Further reading[edit]

Govenar, Alan; Brakefield, Jay (2013). "William Sidney Pittman". Deep Ellum: The Other Side of Dallas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. pp. 37–44. ISBN 978-1-60344-958-8. 

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