William J Dodd (1861-1930) ~American Architect and Designer~


Welcome to the William James Dodd home page. (Current update January 9, 2007.)

This site, first published on the web in December of 2001, has been developed to stimulate interest in, and research about, the life and work of the distinguished American architect William J. Dodd; three pages follow this home page.

Dodd rises from the Chicago School of architecture and design innovations during the late 19th -and early 20th- centuries. His best documented work remains the very distinctive commercial, ecclesiastical and residential buildings in Louisville, Kentucky designed there between years 1887 and 1913, a significant number of which are intact and in use today. It is generally agreed by scholars that Dodd's designs set the architectural tone of Louisville's commercial district between 1892 & 1912. Elsewhere in Kentucky his work is found in Greenville, Frankfort, Glenview, Anchorage, Hopkinsville and Bardstown. Out in the region Dodd's work is found in Memphis & Nashville TN, New Albany IN & Chicago IL. Research suggests Dodd work in Ohio [mis]attributed exclusively to Frank Andrews.

Around 1905, as a member of the Chicago Architectural Sketching Club, WJ Dodd also designed, like his contemporary and fellow Club associate Frank Lloyd Wright, imaginative small-scale art objects for interior decoration and function; highly desired by collectors are Dodd-designed Teco ceramic pieces for (Chicago area) Gates Potteries. Dodd designed furniture for some of his residences, examples of which can be found in the Ferguson Mansion in Louisville KY now the home of The Filson Club. (See links on page 2 of this site.)

Dodd enjoyed a second career in the greater Los Angeles area from early 1913 until his death there in 1930. Besides the old downtown financial district around Pacific Center are still found Dodd structures: around Hollywood in Laughlin & Hancock Parks; to the west in Rustic Canyon, Playa Del Rey and Long Beach; southeast to San Gabriel, and possibly northeast in Altadena. His contribution to LA, in terms of architecture alone, is no less significant than that found in Louisville yet it is barely documented and researched and is mostly unacknowledged in the dynamic and rebuilt modern environment of that great California city. A lover of music and theatre, an amateur performer in both media, W.J. Dodd was an important presence in the cultural life and associations of LA in the years between the first World War and the Depression of the 30's. He was well-connected socially, professionally and financially with all of the better-remembered names of the growing metropolis of Los Angeles. The list is long and deep and includes: capitalists W. Randolph Hearst, Harry Chandler, Harry Haldeman, Marco Hellman; film & music figures Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie & Mildred Chaplin, Carrie Jacobs Bond, L. Frank Baum, Hal Roach; landscapers Lloyd Wright Jr. and Thomas Chalmers Vint; architects Greene & Greene, Frank L. Wright (Sr.) and Lloyd Wright Jr., Julia Morgan, W. E. Kleinpell, William Richards, and J. Martyn Haenke. He belonged to the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and served on the California State Board of Architectural Examiners, by appointment of successive governors, from 1917 until his death. In early 1930, Dodd held an honorary office on a board of world luminaries for the International Desert Conservation League, a habitat preservation organization.

That Dodd appears insufficiently or inaccurately represented in the history of Los Angeles is a puzzle. Evidence suggests that Dodd had made himself a millionaire by the time of his death but that he was over-extended in real estate holdings and risky oil speculations on the eve of the stock market crash. Tracking his widow's attempts to liquidate assets and handle outstanding debts, foreclosures and liens, as well as her involvement in a decade of legal fallout from Los Angeles oil well scams, a researcher might infer a sad, last chapter to the brilliant Dodd legacy adrift into obscurity.

This website attempts to convene the dispersed historical records surrounding William James Dodd, and moor his legacy firmly again in the port of critical review and scholarship as well as popular appreciation.

Dodd biographical data is scarce and, so far, difficult to verify. Recently it has been established by the author of this website that Dodd, born in Canada of English and Irish parents, married Ione Estes of Memphis TN in 1889. The marriage produced no surviving children. Two of Ione's widowed sisters and a spinster niece lived with the Dodds at different periods: Kate Estes Paton (Mrs. Wm H. Paton), both in Louisville and LA. Sister Sallie Johnston Estes Bell joined Kate and Ione in Los Angeles after William's death, and niece and author Katherin Bell was introduced to Los Angeles society by the Dodds during the 1920s. The Estes sisters belonged to a large family of some historical and political importance both in Memphis and the surrounding midsouth region.

Mr. William J. and Mrs. Ione (Estes) Dodd (ca 1898) in Memphis TN

The web images that follow below and on successive pages were fabricated on a Macintosh system with a stretched screen and an Internet Explorer browser; some distortion of layout and horizontal compression of images may be noticed when viewed within other display types and browsers.

Input and corrections from visitors to this site are needed and welcome. As is indicated the site is regularly updated. Please visit again. Page 2 of this site is accessed by clicking on "WJDodd, page 2>>>goto>>>" found below among the last links at the bottom of this homepage.

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Historical Chicago

LA Public Library


S. Grabfelder House in 2001. 1400 block S. 3rd St. Old Louisville Historic District. Designed 1897; Dodd & Cobb Partnership. Photo ©2002 CTWhite. CLIK-ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG!

JW Stark House in 2001. St. James Court. Old Louisville Historic Dist. Designed 1898 Dodd & Cobb Partnership. Photo ©2002 CTWhite. CLIK-ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG!


Dodd-designed Teco vase (1905) Gates Potteries (Chicago) LA County Museum of Art, Gift of Max Palevsky. Photo ©2002 MuseumAssociates

Winner 2003 LA-TOBY Award for Historic Property

Pacific Center, formerly Pacific Mutual Bldg. Pershing Square, Los Angeles CA. Designed 1921 Dodd & Richards Partners. CLIK-ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG!

Western Branch: Louisville Free Public Library. 604 S.10th St. Nation's first library for African-Americans; designed 1908 Dodd & McDonald for Carnegie Foundation. Photo ©2002 CWhite. CLIK- ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG!

Weissinger-Gaulbert Apts:
3rd & Broadway (foreground)
& YMCA Bldg (background);
1910 design, Louisville;
Dodd & McDonald.
Photo ©2002 CTWhite.

Edmund Trabue House in 2001.
St. James Court, Old Louisville
Historic District. One of Dodd's
early Court designs from 1896.
Photo: Ralph Raby.

W.J. Dodd House in 2001. St. James Ct, Old Louisville Historic District. Last Dodd- design on the Court, 1911, for Dodd & wife, Ione (Estes). Photo © 2002 CTWhite CLIK-ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG!

THoyt Gamble House

Thos. Hoyt Gamble House in 2002. 100 blk W Ormsby Ave. Old Louisville Historic District, Dodd-designed, 1912 for T.H.Gamble and wife, Annie(Jones). CLIK-ON-PIC-MAKES-BIG! Photo by Daniel White




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