Harry Wild Jones

Harry Wild Jones

Harry Wild Jones (June 9, 1859September 25, 1935) was a popular Minneapolis, Minnesota-based architect who designed throughout the country and the world. Born two years before the start of the Civil War, Jones, a twelfth generation New Englander, took his place on the American architectural stage in the late 1800s. His life spanned seventy-six dynamic years, during a period of U.S. history that matched his exuberant, spirited personality. Known as an architect adept at any design technique, Jones is credited with introducing Shingle Style architecture to Minneapolis. He created an impressive portfolio from neoclassic to eclectic, reflecting his unique brand of versatility and creativity.

Early life

Jones was born in Schoolcraft, Michigan, while his father was minister to a small Baptist congregation. He was the only child of Reverend Howard Malcom and Mary White Smith Jones. Jones’ middle name was chosen as a tribute to his great-great aunt, Rebecca Wild, who lovingly cared for Reverend Jones after the death of his mother when he was a toddler. The Joneses and the Smiths traced their New England roots back to the arrival of the first permanent European settlers to the eastern seaboard. The Joneses are direct descendants of Mayflower passengers William Bradford,John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins. The Smith relations arrived in North America a few years later as the Great Migration, from England across the Atlantic Ocean, continued.

With his father’s pastorate changing often, by age ten young Harry had lived in Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, and New York. His family finally settled in the seaside town of Bristol, Rhode Island where he completed his childhood as the only child of the town’s only Baptist minister. Jones’ secondary education was focused on preparation to enter Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, an institution with strong family ties. In addition to being his father’s alma mater, Brown was founded with assistance from Jones’ great-great grandfather, Reverend Hezekiah Smith (1737-1805). Reverend Smith, born in New York, showed particular support toward Rhode Island for its advocacy of religious tolerance. During the Revolutionary War, he provided religious guidance as General George Washington’s chaplain. Brown University, a college deeply rooted in religion, maintained a strong emphasis toward preparing its all male students for a life in the ministry. As the progeny of generations of religious clerics, Jones would have to work hard to show his family his interest in architecture.

In 1878, Jones entered Brown University and remained there for two years. Following his dream to become an architect, he transferred to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1880, and graduated from the two-year Short Course Architecture Program in 1882. Immediately after graduation, Jones was hired as a draftsman in the Boston architectural firm of Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson “recognized talent . . . his draftsman were considered the best available.” (Devlin 1989)

After a year working for Richardson, Jones, with his bride Bertha Juliet Tucker, moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in September 1883. As the newest, and youngest, architect in the Mill City, Jones went to work for architects James C. Plant and William Channing Whitney. When their partnership dissolved the following year, Jones went to Europe to study architecture for six months before founding his own Minneapolis practice in 1885.

Professional career

Jones set up his practice in the newly completed Lumber Exchange Building in downtown Minneapolis, where he remained from 1886 to 1921. His work included designs for commercial, residential, and church customers with a roster of clients including businessmen Emery Mapes (founder of the Cream of Wheat Company), Will Savage (whose name is synonymous with the winning racehorse Dan Patch), meatpacking mogul George A. Hormel, and philanthropist T. B. Walker.

During his work in HH Richardson’s office, Jones was introduced to Shingle Style architecture, a design gaining country-wide popularity through Richardson’s work and influence on the eastern seaboard. Jones is credited with introducing Shingle Style architecture to Minneapolis soon after he arrived in the area. He is widely admired for his use of shingle coverage in a clubhouse design for the Minnetonka Yacht Club (1890-1943). With its multi-level rooflines resembling full sails on the water, the clubhouse design was said to appear to “possess the same puffy charm of a filling spinnaker sail.” (Wyer 2001)

Respected by colleagues for his design versatility, Jones was also masterful at understanding structural engineering. Described as possessing both an artist’s eye and engineer’s intellect, he set both aptitudes to work in winning combination. Among the three hundred structures Jones designed, from whimsical park buildings to octagonal log houses, and humble church chapels, he is best remembered in Minnesota for the second Lake Harriet Pavilion (1891-1903)—“a Chinese timber-framed pagoda form in a shingle-clad exterior”(LHHSG 2001), the monumental Butler Brothers Warehouse (1908)--“a sternly poetic mass of wine-colored brick that conveys the commercial might of Minneapolis at the dawn of the twentieth century” (Millett 2007:50), the exquisite Lakewood Cemetery Chapel (1910)--“an elaborate example of Byzantine Mosaic art and one of the finest of its type to be found anywhere in the United States”(NRHP 1983), the Northfield Bank (1910)--whose entire roof structure is designed like spokes around its domed top causing its architect to proclaim at its completion “another building just like it cannot be found in this country” (Northfield News 1910), and the Washburn Park Water Tower (1932)—“linking function and artistic splendor with 16-foot medieval knights and eight-foot eagles”(Balcom 1984).

Jones had resolute confidence in his architectural skills, designing not only in the Midwest, but throughout the United States and as far away as Hawaii, China, and Burma. He earned his Asian commissions after a 1907 world cruise, embarked upon to recover following a near fatal car accident that resulted in a skull fracture. Choosing to spend the bulk of his trip in Burma with his missionary cousins, Jones made valuable contacts that led to his future designs for a Moulmein congregation of two thousand, a boys’ school dormitory and chapel, a Shanghai college chapel, and a Canton mission building.

In addition to Jones’ private practice, in 1890, at one of the busiest periods in his career, he furthered the Midwest’s burgeoning profession of structural design by reorganizing the architecture curriculum at the University of Minnesota. Following the introduction of the new classes, he became the school’s first formally trained professor.

During that same time, Jones juggled his practice and academic instruction by beginning a twelve-year stint as an elected commissioner for the Minneapolis Park Board. Known as an ardent outdoor enthusiast, Commissioner Harry Jones was dedicated toward naturalism and the preservation of the Mill City’s natural beauty. He was well known for his many proposals on behalf of the city’s cyclist, even petitioning for a race in 1887. In addition to his civic duties on the Park Board, Jones designed thirteen recreation buildings between 1889 and 1930.

With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Jones, though past retirement age, continued to seek commissions to supplement his family’s income. In 1932, he began one of his last Minneapolis designs—the water tower built in his Washburn Park neighborhood. Still standing today as a city landmark, the tower was placed on the National Historic Register in 1983.

Harry Wild Jones was married to Bertha Juliet Tucker on September 3, 1883. The service was held in the First Baptist Church of Boston, Massachusetts, (a Henry Hobson Richardson design) and officiated by Reverend Howard Malcom Jones, the groom’s father. Jones and Bertha had three children, Howard Malcom (1886-1940), Mary White Smith (1887-1981), and Arthur Leo (1891-1964). Jones died in Minneapolis, on September 25, 1935, at Elmwood, his home in Washburn Park (a neighborhood often referred to as Tangletown).



* Balcom, Thomas W. “A Tale of Two Towers, Washburn Park and Its Water Supply,” Minnesota History, Spring 1984: 19-28.
* Devlin, Harry (1989), "Portraits of American Architecture, Monuments To A Romantic Mood, 1830-1900". Boston, David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc., 94-97. ISBN 0-87923-793-7
* Jones, Harry Wild. “Twenty-first Annual Report,” Board of Park Commissioners, Minneapolis, Minn., 1903, 46-48.
* Kunz, Virginia Brainerd (2002), "Minnetonka Yacht Club, Centennial 1882-1982". The Minnetonka Yacht Club Sailing School. ISBN 0-9609030-0-3
* Linden Hills History Study Group (LHHSG) (2001), "Down At The Lake, A Historical Portrait of Linden Hills and the Lake Harriet District". ISBN 0-615-11882-8
* Millett, Larry (1992), "Lost Twin Cities". Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-273-1
* Millett, Larry (1996), "Twin Cities, Then and Now". Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-317-4
* Millett, Larry (2007), "AIA Guide to the Twin Cities". Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-540-4
* Shutter, Marion Daniel (1923), "History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northwest". Volumes I, II, III. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
* Shutter, Marion and McLain, J. (1897). "Progressive Men of Minnesota, Biographical Sketches and Portraits of the Leaders in Business, Politics and Professions; Together With a Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the State", 120. The Minneapolis Journal.
* “State Bank Moves.” Northfield News, 27 August 1910.
* Thorndike, Joseph J., Jr. (1981), "Three Centuries of Notable American Architects", American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., New York. ISBN 0-8281-1157-X
* Torbert, Donald R. “Significant Architecture In The History of Minneapolis.” The Minneapolis Planning Commission and the Minneapolis Chapter, American Institute of Architecture, 1969.
* Vandam, Elizabeth A. (2002), "The Doors of Tangletown: A Historical Reflection of Washburn Park". Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sponte Valere Books. ISBN 0-9721919-0-9
* Vandam, Elizabeth A. (2008), "Harry Wild Jones, American Architect", China, Nodin Press. ISBN 978-1-932472-66-0
* Wirth, Theodore (1946, 2006), "Minneapolis Park System, 1883-1944". The Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society, Minneapolis, Minn. ISBN 978-1-4243-1074-6
* Wyer, Jim. “What’s Never Told About M.Y.C.” Minnetonka Yacht Club, Excelsior, Minn., 30 August 2001.
* Yeager, Pine & Mundale (1992), "Haven in the Heart of the City: The History of Lakewood Cemetery". Yeager, Pine & Mundale, Minneapolis Minn. ISBN 0-9635227-0-1

Further reading

* Balcom, Thomas W. “The Miracle on 41st Street, A 75 Year History of Judson Church 1909-1984.” Presented at the Diamond Anniversary Celebration, Minneapolis, Minn. 13 December 1984
* “Judson Follows in Calvary’s Footsteps,” Minneapolis, Minn. 16 November 2003.
* Blodgett, Geoffrey (2001), "Cass Gilbert, The Early Years", Minnesota Historical Press. ISBN 0-87351-410-6
* Christopherson, Alfred. “Reminiscences,” 1 April 1962. Freeborn County Historical Society, Albert Lea, Minn.
* The Citizens American Bank. A History of Banking at Merrill, Wisconsin, undated. Merrill, Wis. Historical Society.
* Ervin, Jean Adams (1976), "The Twin Cities Perceived". University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. ISBN 0-8166-0786-9
* “Health Guardians Stand Watch Over Water Supply In New Washburn Water Tower,” Minneapolis Journal, 1 June 1932.
* Hormel, George A. “Three Men and a Business,” autobiographical narrative, undated. (Hormel Historic House, Austin, Minn.)
* Kimball, Judith A. "The History of the Kimball Family in America". The Kimball Family Association, 1988.
* Lathrop, Alan. “Liebenberg and Kaplan,” Architecture Minnesota, November/December 1992, 46-47.
* Pfahning, Darlene Christensen (2004). "Odd Fellows Home for Elderly and Children", Northfield, Minnesota, Northfield, Minn.
* “Pioneer Recalls Early Washburn Park Days,” The Herald, 26 October 1932, Vol. XVIII, No. 5, 1:1 & 2:3, 4.
* Simpson, Richard V. (2002)," Bristol, Montaup to Poppasquash". Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 0-7385-2356-9
* Turke, Conne and Wascoe, Dan, November 1982. “Just Wild About Harry.” Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, 141-143.
* Watts William Pye (1933). “Personal Memoirs.” (Northfield, Minn. Historical Society.)

External links

* [http://www.hennepinhistory.org Hennepin History Museum]
* [http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/P1979.html Minnesota Historical Society]
* [http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/naa159.xml Northwest Architectural Archives] www.spontevalerebooks.com

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