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Towers of St. Joseph: The Local Architecture of Harvey Ellis

Created by Jennifer Sanders-Tutt on November 14th 2020, 7:48:52 pm.

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Harvey Ellis was born in Rochester, New York to Dewitt and Eliza Haseltine Ellis on October 17, 1852. He was the eldest of four brothers, the youngest passing away in infancy. He attended West Point, but was discharged due to failing grades in 1872. Harvey was artistic throughout his youth and after leaving West Point joined a group of artists in Rochester creating and teaching art. They formed the Rochester Art Club, one of the oldest continuing clubs, in 1877. The year of the club's founding, Harvey joined the architectural firm of his brother, Charles. Harvey's art gained national attention and his architectural stylings came to define Rochester. The firm of H. & C.S. Ellis operated in Rochester from 1877-1885, constructing civic and residential buildings throughout their hometown. The brothers consistently made the news, Harvey as a renowned artist and Charles as a member of the school board. Their mother, Eliza, passed away on September 13, 1884 and by the beginning of 1885, the firm became embroiled in a bribery case. Charles was indicted on January 29 on charges of bribing a public official to secure the contract to build the county jail. The trial was messy and heavily publicized and by March, Harvey had left Rochester for Minnesota. After spending some time in St. Paul, Harvey joined the firm of Leroy Buffington in Minneapolis in 1887. Buffington became famous for inventing the skyscraper and was the premiere architect in the Midwest through the 1880s. As Ellis was an award winning architect and artist at the time, it is likely Buffington sought him out for his work. Their styles worked well together and Buffington provided a shining reference for Ellis when he and his wife adopted a Swedish orphan they named Charlie. Harvey Ellis came to St. Joseph in 1889, hired by Eckel and Mann to draft plans for the St. Louis City Hall. Ellis was the highest paid employee at Eckel and Mann from 1889-1891, splitting his time between St. Joseph and St. Louis as construction on the City Hall commenced. Mann and Ellis moved permanently to St. Louis in 1891, creating numerous works for the city until 1893 when Ellis returned to Rochester and restarted the firm with his brother as Charles S. and Harvey Ellis, Architects. Harvey passed away January 2, 1904 leaving a legacy of art and architecture.