Architects & Artisans

Graham, Architect of Chicago, Illinois

1873–74, 1880–85
Solomon E. White, African-American Artisan born in Kentucky

1880 – Dec 21 — He is frescoing St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Parnell, Michigan

Sol. E. White was an artist, scenic painter, and fresco painter.

Powers’ Opera House (1873–1892)

Fresco painter who had just finished the Music Center in Chicago. He painted the elaborate fresco painting on the walls and ceiling of the original Powers’ Opera House.

Centennial Celebration 4th of July 1876

Screenshot 2018-01-21 15.01.28

1876 Centennial Arch, Campau Place, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library, Archives & Special Collections, George E. Fitch Collection 18-3-1.219.1922

During the Centennial Celebration Sol. E. White painted the four large eight foot by twelve foot panels that flanked the outer arches of the Centennial Arch at the foot of Monroe in Campau Place.

… On the left (east) side of this (north) face of the arch, in the panel over the side arch, is “The Declaration of American Independence the Baptismal Vow of a Republic born of Eternal Right, and for whom Heroes were Sponsors.” Under this is an oil painting, 8 by 12 feet in size, of Washington crossing the Delaware; a beautiful and artistic scene. Beneath is “Their Glorious Record is the Imperishable Heritage of the Forever.” In the west panel of this face of the arch, at the top, is “On Every Sea and Every Land Known to Men the Sacred Honor of the Sires has been upheld by the Sons.” Below this is a painting, 8 by 12 feet in size, representing Columbia standing in the foreground, on a high ledge, pointing over a vast and shadowy expanse, allegorically presenting the greatness and achievements of our country. In the background of the scene is the main building of the Exposition. Nearer is the National Capitol and other public structures. Still nearer is the farmer reaping grain in a broad field with a reaper. Still nearer is a river with a steamboat, a suspension railroad bridge, a second railway track and a train of cars, and a telegraph line. All can understand what they represent. Beneath this beautiful oil painting is: “Of all Nations, and Peoples, and Tongues, she Gathers the Freemen who Bless her Centennial Birthday.”

178044.754 Centennial Arch 1876

Monroe Ave. looking northwest toward Campau Place July 1876. Photo courtesy Grand Rapids Public Museum, Archives Collection, 178044.754

… In the left or western panel is an oil painting representing Washington at Valley Forge, uniform in size with those above mentioned. Beneath this is “Their Heroic Devotion Inflamed the World and made Liberty the Watchword of Mankind.” In the other panel is an allegorical painting in water colors, explained by the motto underneath “America supported by Justice and Strength receives Tribute, Affection and Confidence from he Children and Drives Discord and Fraud from her Domain.”

Excerpted from Centennial Anniversary of American Independence, Celebration at Grand Rapids, Mich., July 4, 1876: Loomis & Dillenback, Printers and Publishers, 1876.  — Information About Historical Scenic Art and Painting Techniques

Oscar Cobb & Son (William), Architects of Chicago

1883 & 1902
Col. James M. Wood, Architect of Chicago

more to come…

Alfred Fredrick Nygard, Danish Sculptor, Artisan of Grand Rapids & Detroit, Michigan

Alfred Fredrick, Alma Julia and son William Rudolf Nygard, Copenhagen, Denmark, circa 1886

Alfred Fredrick, Alma Julia and son William Rudolf Nygard, Copenhagen, Denmark, circa 1886

Danish born sculptor, Alfred Fredrick Nygard, wood carver, artisan is hired by Col. James M. Wood to design the thousands of filigree plasterworks in the French Style for the New Powers’ Theatre interior in 1902. Alfred began his life and career in America in the Grand Rapids Furniture Industry in 1887 a few months after arriving in New York from Denmark. A year later in June 1888 his wife Alma Julia and son, William Rudolf Nygard arrive in Grand Rapids.

more to come…

After a life of creating so many enduring sculptures made of wood, stone, and plaster, his final resting place, unassuming, beside his first wife and son, William in the far southwest corner of Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan. A simple granite family marker, “Nygard” and four individual headstones; Alfred F. (1861-1941), his wife Alma Julia (1858-1893), son William R. (1883-1964) and William’s wife Maribel (1883-1967).

Photos courtesy of the Alfred F. Nygard family photo collection, England.

George Leland Stone, Architect, Grand Rapids, Michigan

George Leland Stone

George Leland Stone

George Leland Stone was born in 1858. He was known as the oldest practicing architect in western Michigan at the time of death in 1942 at the age of 84. Entering the architectural field as an apprentice, Mr. Stone had designed many public and private buildings throughout the Grand Rapids and West Michigan area in the 60 years or so devoted to his profession. Some structures designed by him include the Powers’ Theatre Office Building renovation (1914), Manufacturer’s Exhibition Building (1905) now a part of Kendall College of Art & Design, Association of Commerce Building, the old Widdicomb Furniture building, the Grand Rapids Showcase plant, East Grand Rapids City Hall, and the naval armory. While associated with architect, Signey Eugene Osgood, Mr. Stone participated in the designing of a number of governmental buildings in West Michigan including the old Kent County building. Mr. Stone designed, built and lived in the house at 602 Windsor Terrace SE in 1905, located today in Heritage Hill.

Sources: Grand Rapids Herald 9-25-42; Grand Rapids Press 9-24-42.

1930s Renovations
Currently Unknown

Stage Fire Repair

1944, 1948, 1966 Renovations
Jack Loeks, Foto News & Midtown Theatre

more to come…

1 thought on “Architects & Artisans

  1. Pingback: Tales from a Scenic Artist and Scholar: Acquiring the Fort Scott Scenery Collection for the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Part 313 – Solomon E. White (1841-1912), Nineteenth-century African-American Scenic Artist –

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