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Campus Life

Architect Website Hits Milestone

The Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company building in Raleigh was designed by G. Milton Small Jr.

The biographies of more than two dozen architects and builders, including Raleigh modernist G. Milton Small Jr., Victorian-era designer Harriet Morrison Irwin of Charlotte and German-born carpenter John Deitrick Tavis of antebellum Germanton, have been added to a superb collection in the NC State library system.

With these new postings, the popular website North Carolina Architects & Builders: A Biographical Dictionary hits a major benchmark, holding more than 300 biographies as well as data on more than 3,000 buildings.

Launched in 2009 with 170 entries, the biographical dictionary project was originally conceived as a companion print publication for the book, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (University of North Carolina Press, 1990), by Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury and Ernest H. Wood III. Ultimately, it was developed as a Web-based resource that can be easily searched and constantly expanded.

The State Agricultural Building was designed by the Raleigh architecture firm Nelson and Cooper.
The State Agricultural Building was designed by the Raleigh architecture firm Nelson and Cooper.

The free, user-friendly site contains essential information about the lives and works of the people who created the state’s architecture from the colonial period to the late 20th century.

“We believe it’s important to include not just the great architects of landmarks like Biltmore and the Dorton Arena, but also lesser-known artisans and builders, black and white, enslaved and free, who actually built most of our architectural legacy,” says Bishir, a content developer and architectural historian.

Aids Historical Research

A frequent user of the site, Andre’ D Vann, is coordinator of the university archives at North Carolina Central University. He uses the site to further his research on historic houses in Durham.

“I have found the North Carolina Architects & Builders website essential in uncovering the rich and unique stories behind many historical buildings and builders,” he says. “It has shed light on African-American architects and designers like Gaston Edwards who braved a new world and created a body of work worthy of emulation.”

Raleigh architect Frank Harmon appreciates the resource because it offers “insight into the lives of the men and women who have shaped the built environment of our state, a lineage that continues to inspire us today.”

Few states have achieved such a comprehensive biographical dictionary, says Harmon, and “none has a better website of architects and builders.”

The site has won prizes from Preservation North Carolina and the Vernacular Architecture Forum for its innovative and inclusive approach. Multiple authors have contributed to the biographies and accompanying building lists.