The Historic Living Project
The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund

Early Uuniversity of Wyoming Buildings, Laramie Wyoming

 

Ann Mullens Boelter discusses the life of architect Wilbur A. Hitchcock, her grandfather. Hitchcock's legacy is represented in the hundreds of historic homes that he designed in the early 1900s in Laramie, as well as numerous buildings on the campus of the University of Wyoming. He was known as a Renaissance man with a deep appreciation of the arts and literature. He was also a family man and his two sons Eliot and Clinton followed in their father's footsteps opening their own architectural firm in Laramie, Hitchcock & Hitchcock. Also featured in this video is the home of Wilbur Hitchcock, 262 9th St., that he designed for his family, a 1925 Tudor Revival.

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By Ann Mullens Boelter

Wilbur HitchcockWilbur A. Hitchcock was born in 1886 in Springfield, South Dakota.  He learned carpentry from his father, attended schools in Springfield, and moved to Laramie in 1908 to find relief from hay fever and enter the University of Wyoming.   Early on he earned his living as a carpenter.  He had always been interested in architecture, constantly studying its principles and problems.  He began designing houses while still an undergraduate in 1909, including homes for several UW faculty members.

Wilbur graduated from UW in 1912 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering.  During the next two years he carried on graduate work and taught classes at UW.  He was on leave of absence from 1915-1916 when he did graduate work at Colorado University in Boulder where he took a Professional Degree in C.E.  In 1917 he was assistant professor of civil engineering at UW, and made associate professor in 1921.  In 1922 he resigned his teaching position to enter private practice in architecture .  Wilbur’s parents, 3 brothers and a sister followed him to Laramie in 1918 and his father worked in carpentry and the repair shop at the university until he was 80 years old.

A renaissance man, Wilbur loved literature, theater, and music, having grown up with all 4 siblings playing musical instruments.  Wilbur played piano, organ, and clarinet and had a nice singing voice.  During travels around the U.S. he always attended operas, symphonies and theater performances in the cities he visited.  At UW Wilbur started the university band in 1913 and was active in ATO fraternity.  He served twice as president of the UW Alumni Association, was active in Lions Club and the Albany Mutual Building Association, and was one of the founders of The Jesters, a men’s theater group.

To learn about university campus design and buildings, Wilbur took at least two extended trips to the Midwest and eastern U.S.  In 1922 and 1924 he visited campuses in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas,  Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

a 1925 Tudor RevivalIn 1922 he won a competition for library design and was the architect for the UW Library, now the Aven Nelson building.  Before designing the Men’s Residence Hall (now McWhinnie Hall), Wilbur went to Chicago and studied with Raymond Hood, designer of the Chicago Tribune Tower, the American Radiator Building, and others.  While designing the Half-Acre Gymnasium with William Dubois of Cheyenne, Wilbur visited numerous locations including Denver and Colorado Springs to look at gymnasiums.   For his design of the Cooper House on Grand Avenue, he traveled to southern California to study Spanish eclectic homes.

This video is a brief summary of the The Historical Living Project, a video-based journalism initiative that provides residents and visitors with a historical narrative of the people and historic homes of Laramie, from its beginnings as a railroad town, to a thriving community that values its sustainable architecture and historic heritage. This project includes many of the houses in the National Historic District, the University Neighborhood of Laramie.

Ann Mullens Boelter, Grand-Daughter of Wilbur A. Hitchcook

Judy Knight, Local Historian, Docent

Chamois Anderson, Producer

Keith Perschino, Film Assistant

Ted Haskell, Project Assistant

Sponsors

The Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund

UW Environment and Natural Resources Program

American Heritage Center

Partners

Albany County Tourism Board

Albany County Historic Preservation Board

Laramie Plains Museum at the Historic Ivinson Mansion