William Drummond

William E. Drummond (1876 -1948), nine years younger than Wright, was born in Newark, NJ the son of a carpenter. When he was 10 years old his family moved to the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. He was admitted to the University of Illinois School of Architecture in 1899, where he met Walter Burley Griffin. Financial difficulties forced Drummond to leave after one year. He returned to Chicago and worked in the office of Louis Sullivan for several months before joining the studio of Frank Lloyd Wright in 1899. Drummond became the chief draftsman for several of Wright’s commissions including the Edwin Cheney, Isabel Roberts and Frederick Robie houses and the Larkin Company Administration Building.

Drummond obtained his architect’s license in 1901. He worked part-time for Wright during the time he was also working full time in the office of Richard E. Schmidt (1901-1902) and famous Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham (1903-1905). In 1905 he returned to full-time employment with Wright.

In 1909, at age 42, Wright left Mason City, where the construction of the City National Bank/Park Inn Hotel was about to begin. Wright went back to Illinois, deserted his wife, six children and left for Europe with a previous client’s wife, Mamah Cheney, who abandoned her husband and two children.

These scandalous events in Oak Park, IL left Wright’s associates to pick up the slack in Mason City. His chief draftsman, Drummond, at age 33, was sent to be the on-site supervisor for the construction of the bank/hotel. While Drummond was in town he also designed a spec house in 1910 for developer/contractor J.G. Melson in his new development Rock Crest. The house has come to be known as the Curtis Yelland House, the first owner.

The Yelland House Prairie Style design was inspired by both Walter Burley Griffin’s Peters House (1906), which had an L-shaped open floor plan around a central fireplace, and Wright’s Fireproof House for $5,000, which was published in the April 1907 issue of the Ladies Home Journal. Both Griffin and Wright designed dozens of homes with this floor plan, including the Stockman House (1908) in Mason City. Other Prairie School architects, including William Drummond and John Van Bergen, designed numerous variations of this popular plan, which was a more creative alternative to the classic American Foursquare House, which was popular from 1890-1930.

The wood-framed house at 37 River Heights Drive is a good example of the Prairie School motif called board-and-batten siding, wherein wide and narrow boards alternate between raised battens to accentuate the horizontal lines of the building. Drummond’s design possesses lightness that none of the other Prairie School buildings in Mason City have. While Wright’s Stockman House and Griffin’s houses used wooden muntins, Drummond used leaded clear glass with zinc muntins. The side entrance to the house makes the front porch more private as the porch's only entrance is from the living room. The Yelland house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Drummond subsequently left Wright when a dispute over pay caused him to leave permanently and go into private practice even though he had already undertaken his first commission while still working for Wright in 1908 (First Congregational Church of Austin). In 1912 he went into partnership with Louis Guenzel, a draftsman in the office of Adler and Sullivan. Their partnership was thought to be strictly one of convenience. Guenzel provided the money, connections and business skills, and Drummond the architectural insight and inspiration. The partnership began to unravel shortly after the start of World War I, when anti-German sentiment was at its’ highest and Drummond feared that his German partner would drive off clients. Their partnership was dissolved in 1915.

Drummond continued his independent practice designing primarily smaller churches and residences in the Prairie idiom along with a commission to design a new clubhouse for the Riverside Golf Club. In the 1920s he abandoned the Prairie Style for traditional English cottages. In 1922 he submitted an entry into the design competition for the new Chicago Tribune Building; however, the New York firm of Howells and Hood won with a Gothic design.

William Drummond played an active role in the planning commission of his hometown of River Forest throughout the 1920s and 1930s, while also providing remodeling services for several of Wright’s designs. Shortly before his death in 1946 he published a book detailing a plan to redesign the United States Capitol.

[adapted from articles on iagenweb.org and Wikipedia]




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