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Black Architects Who Designed the Midwest

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, a nonprofit that helps establish state guidelines for exams and licensure, reported that as of 2022 there were 121,603 licensed architects working in the U.S., and, of those, only two percent are Black.


People of color have often been prevented from accessing the education, licensing, and networks to succeed in architecture. Despite these inequities, Black designers (some without licenses or degrees) have significantly contributed to the design and development of the Midwest over the last two centuries.


Here are some of the Black architects who have helped shape Midwest landscapes:


Walter T. Bailey

1882-1941

Bailey was an architect from Kewanee, IL, and he was the first licensed Black architect in the state of Illinois. His work included the First Church of Deliverance in Chicago, IL (1939).


First Church of Deliverance, Chicago, IL | Photo by Lee Bey



















Clarence Wesley 'Cap' Wigington 

1883-1967

The nation's first municipal architect, Wigington served 34 years as senior designer for the City of St. Paul, MN. Several of his buildings in St. Paul are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. His work included Highland Park Water Tower in St. Paul, MN (1928).


Highland Park Water Tower, St. Paul, MN | Photo by Andrew Krueger



















Earl Young

1889-1975

Over 52 years, Young designed and built 26 homes and four commercial properties in Charlevoix, MI, but was never a registered architect. He worked mostly in stone and used boulders he found throughout Northern Michigan. His homes are often referred to as "Mushroom Houses" or "Hobbit Homes."  


Mushroom House, Charlevoix, MI | Photo by Michael Seitz

















William Wilson Cooke 

1871-1949

Cooke was the first Black architect to receive a license in Indiana, in 1929. He designed many U.S. post offices in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. He also designed the John Stewart Settlement House in Gary, IN (1925).


John Stewart Settlement House, Gary, IN | Photo by Calumet Regional Archives

















Beverly Loraine Greene 

1915-1957

Greene registered as an architect in Illinois in 1942, and is believed to be the first Black woman licensed in the United States. Her Midwest projects included the Grosse Point Public Library in Grosse Point, MI (1951).


Grosse Point Public Library, Grosse Point, MI | Photo courtesy of Grosse Point Public Library


















John Warren Moutoussamy  

1922-1995

Moutoussamy is best known for designing the headquarters for the Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, which is still the only downtown Chicago high-rise building designed by a Black architect. He also designed several college buildings in the Chicago area, as well as his own family home just south of Chatham.


Moutoussamy family home, Chicago, IL | Photo by Lee Bey


















Robert P. Madison

1923-present

Madison is considered the first Black man to receive a bachelor's degree in architecture in Ohio, in 1948. He then started the first Black-owned architectural firm in the Midwest, in 1954 in Cleveland. In 1958, the firm's design of the Mount Pleasant Medical Center won best design by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.  Other Midwest projects include the State of Ohio Computer Center in Columbus, OH (1987).


State of Ohio Computer Center, Columbus, OH


















Wendell J. Campbell

1927-2008

In 1971, Campbell co-founded and served as first President of the National Organization of Minority Architects. For his contributions addressing racial inequity with the architecture field, he was awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). His work included the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, IN (1981).


Genesis Convention Center, Gary, IN | Photo by Joe Puchek


















Curtis Moody

1950-present

In 1982, designer Curtis Moody and engineer Howard Nolan founded the firm Moody Nolan with a dedication to diversity, inclusion, and representation. Based in Columbus, OH, it's now the largest Black-owned design firm in the United States. In 2021, Moody Nolan received the AIA Architecture Firm Award, making it the first Black-owned firm to receive this award. The firm's work includes the Moxy Columbus Short North, a Marriott hotel in Columbus, OH (2019).  


Moxy Columbus Short North, Columbus, OH | Photo by Sam Brown

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