Cap Wigington: An Architectural Legacy in Ice and Stone

Overview

Clarence W. ("Cap") Wigington was a man of firsts -- the first registered African American architect in Minnesota and the first African American municipal architect in the nation. The public buildings and ice palaces that he designed for the city of St. Paul are a continuing legacy, helping to define the city's character. And his achievements, both as an architect and as a leader in the city's black community, are all the more significant given the limitations of the times in which he lived. After apprenticing in...
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Overview

Clarence W. ("Cap") Wigington was a man of firsts -- the first registered African American architect in Minnesota and the first African American municipal architect in the nation. The public buildings and ice palaces that he designed for the city of St. Paul are a continuing legacy, helping to define the city's character. And his achievements, both as an architect and as a leader in the city's black community, are all the more significant given the limitations of the times in which he lived. After apprenticing in Nebraska under Thomas R. Kimball (later president of the American Institute of Architects), Wigington moved to St. Paul in 1914 and soon found work in the Office of the City Architect. Between 1915 and 1947, he designed an array of schools, fire stations, park structures, and municipal buildings that continue to define the city's landscape. Three of his buildings -- the Highland Park Water Tower (1928), the Holman Airfield Administration Building (1939), and the Harriet Island Pavilion (1941, renamed the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion in 1998) -- are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wigington's nearly sixty St. Paul buildings now constitute one of the most extensive collections of works by an early African American architect.

Wigington's most ephemeral work, however, may have been his most creative. From 1937 to 1947, he designed six ice palaces and a number of secondary structures for St. Paul's famous Winter Carnival. He designed more ice palaces than any other architect in the history of the Winter Carnival. These stunningly fanciful designs are Wigington's most imaginative and exuberant. As a leader in the African American community, Wingington also worked to advance opportunities for all African Americans. During World War I, when blacks were excluded from Minnesota's National Guard, he successfully petitioned the governor to allow the black community to enlist in the state's defense. He earned the nickname "Cap" for his service as a captain in the new African American battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard. He also served as the executive secretary of the St. Paul Urban League and later as the president of its board. His life story shows the struggles and the achievements of a talented individual facing and conquering long odds. Cap Wigington: An Architectural Legacy in Ice and Stone provides a fascinating picture of a man, his buildings, and his times.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780873514156
  • Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Pages: 136
  • Sales rank: 1,446,317
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Preface xi
1 To Be Young, Gifted, and Black 3
2 Among Equals 15
3 A Stronger Soul within a Finer Frame 51
4 Architectural Legacy 71
5 Who Will Speak for Me 99
Examples of Wigington's Works in St. Paul 104
Appendix Wigington's Buildings 107
Notes 121
Index 133
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