William J. Dodd, Architect [1862-1930]
William J. Dodd [†] began his career as apprentice to Chicago architect William LeBaron Jenney. Dodd then joined the office of Solon S. Beman, also of Chicago. He moved to Louisville, Kentucky in the mid-1880s and worked in association with several architects on many significant buildings in the area. In 1913 Dodd relocated to Los Angeles, California where he continued his career until his death in 1930. Dodd's work includes a broad range of styles and types of buildings, including hotels, libraries, office buildings, churches, and fine homes. Architectural historian Samuel W. Thomas describes Dodd as Louisville's preeminent architect of the last century. In 1979 the Director of Research for the Louisville Landmarks Commission, Marty Poynter Hedgepeth, wrote "Dodd can be considered one of the most important architects in Louisville and the southeast region of the United States from 1890 to 1913."
Dodd trained in the cradle of the Chicago School of architecture. He served an apprenticeship in architecture with Major William LeBaron Jenney, designer of the first steel-frame skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. In the 1870s Jenney trained several men who became architectural leaders, including Daniel Hudson Burnham and Louis Henry Sullivan. Dodd later joined the Chicago office of Solon S. Beman, the designer of the nation's first planned company town, Pullman. According to Thomas, Dodd worked two years with the New York firm of McKim, Mead & White before moving to Louisville, probably early in 1886.
Dodd practiced with four partners in Louisville: Oscar C. Wehle 1887-1889; Mason Maury 1889-1896; Arthur Cobb 1896-1904; and Kenneth McDonald 1905-1913. McDonald and Dodd was described as the leading architectural firm in the city in the period 1905-1913.
Dodd's work in Kentucky in the 1880s was primarily in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of Victorian architecture. With Oscar Wehle, he designed the Louis Seelbach house in the Limerick neighborhood, the Standard Club (a downtown social club for Louisville's Jewish community, this building has been demolished), and the Jacob S. Bockee house.
In 1889 Dodd began his partnership with Mason Maury. Hedgepeth writes "Maury and Dodd designed some of the finest Victorian townhouses as well as several outstanding commercial structures in the Richardsonian Romanesque style." In 1889 Maury and Dodd won a design competition for the new Louisville Trust Building, a seven story Romanesque Revival building which was the first fireproof structure of more than one story erected in Louisville. Maury and Dodd's house for George Newman (Old Louisville Historic District) designed in the Chateauesque style.
Maury and Dodd were busy in and around St. James Court. In 1892 Dodd built a turreted Victorian home for himself at 1467 St. James Court, where he lived from 1893 through 1910. Maury and Dodd designed St. Paul's Episcopal Church by the north end of the court and the J. C. Hughes residence, two doors north of the first Dodd residence. The firm also designed three residences in the 1400 block of neighboring Fourth Street.
Dodd turned away from the Richardsonian Romanesque style during the end of his partnership with Maury. In 1893 Dodd was responsible for the design of the Kentucky Building for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This building was an elaborate and ornate structure utilizing classical motifs. The exposition was the major influence in the return to classical styles in the U.S. in the 1890s and beyond. This was the style in which Dodd worked primarily from 1893 until he left Louisville in 1913.
After dissolving his partnership with Maury in 1896, Dodd, in joint partnership with Arthur Cobb, erected numerous buildings in Louisville which nourished themselves on the eclectic classical style revived by the Columbian Exposition.
Dodd and Cobb contributed excellent examples of Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture to Louisville. Both the Fourth Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Of the seminary, the Louisville Times reported Lewis Pilcher, noted New York architect and professor of architecture, remarked "... the building had no parallel in its magnificent architectural style in all the west."
Dodd and Cobb completed the George Berry mansion in Frankfort, Kentucky in the Colonial Revival Style and shortly thereafter ended their partnership. In 1905 Dodd worked with Frank Mills Andrews of Dayton, Ohio on the design of the "new" Seelbach Hotel. Mills also designed the Kentucky State Capitol.
In 1905 Dodd joined architect Kenneth McDonald to form McDonald and Dodd. This firm designed the Lincoln Bank Building, a fourteen-floor glazed-enamel brick and stone structure which was the largest in the city at the time, and the Stewart's Dry Goods Building, a seven-story structure of buff colored brick and terra cotta.
McDonald and Dodd designed the Western Colored Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, a Beaux-Arts design. It was endowed by Carnegie and is said to be the first library in the country built for African-Americans.
Between 1908 and 1911 McDonald and Dodd showed an interest in the Mediterranean influence within the Beaux Arts framework, making use of stucco, terra cotta, and tile roofs. During this period McDonald built his own home at 1428 St. James Court and Dodd built his house five doors south of his partner at 1448 St. James Court.
Between 1910 and 1913 the firm designed mansions for prominent Louisville figures including Alfred Brandeis (brother of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis), Louis Seelbach, and William R. Belknap. In the same period McDonald and Dodd worked with Daniel H. Burnham of Chicago as associate architects in the design of the Starks Building.
Dodd moved to Los Angeles in 1913 and, with J. Martyn Haenke, assisted architect Julia Morgan with the exotic Herald Examiner Building in the Spanish Mission Revival style. He then joined William S. Richards in the firm Dodd and Richards. They designed several public and commercial buildings in Los Angeles, including libraries, office buildings, residences, and department stores. In 1930 Dodd became ill while on a vacation to Europe. He returned to Los Angeles and expired.
† Portions of the text on this page were adapted from William J. Dodd Residence, Jefferson County, KY, nomination document, 2010, prepared by John E. Crum, owner, for the National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C. Adaptation copyright © 2015, The Gombach Group.