I. Vernon Hill

Hill was born March 9, 1872 in Stanton under Board in Leicestershire, England and immigrated to the United States in 1888.  In 1892 Hill moved from Detroit to Duluth to take the position of company bookkeeper and clerk for the Lakeside Land Co., which was developing the streetcar suburbs of Lakeside and Lester Park.  By 1894 Hill was elevated to draftsman.  In 1895 he struck out as an architect in partnership with Wallace Welbanks, which was noted in the local press:

“A new firm has appeared among the architects—that of Hill & Co., No. 16 Burrows’ Block.  The members of this firm are a couple of young men, Isaac Hill and Wallace P. Welbanks.  Although they are young they are also hustlers and have turned out work that older men might well envy.  Mr. Welbanks is outside man, while Mr. Hill attends to the details of office work.  For three years and a half he was architect for the Lakeside Land company, which is no small recommendation.  This firm is out for business and asks a chance to figure all architectural work.”

Then in 1899 Hill formed another partnership, with Gearhart Tenbusch, and designed the Turle House at 2216 East Superior Street.  That partnership was short-lived and Hill worked on his own in 1901 and 1902 before partnering with W. T. Bray in 1903.

James Scott identified Hill as the last of Duluth architects to work in a “picturesque” style, referring to the house he designed for himself 2220 East Superior Street and the Patrick House at 2306 East Superior. “In the spring of 1901, once again alone, Hill began work on one of his masterpieces, the Frederick A. Patrick home at 2306 E Superior St.  Two towering gables, one split like an inverted “W,” cut across each other to form a two-story transept fixed on a native stone first-story foundation.  The steep roofs swept past broad gabled surfaces over which carpenters and plasterers spread out their half-timbering talents.”

Hill designed several remarkable and well-known houses in Duluth—the Arthur P. Cook house on Skyline Parkway, and the Crosby House, located at the intersection of East Superior Street and 21st Avenue East in the East End.  Another significant structure in which Hill had a hand in designing is the Endion Passenger Station, originally located at 15th Avenue East and South Street before being relocated to Canal Park as a result of the Interstate-35 extension.  He was in partnership with Gerhard Tenbusch when it was designed and constructed.

Hill’s promising career was cut short when he died of pneumonia at the age of 31.  He was buried at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery.  His obituary, with some errors, expresses the tragic circumstance of his death:

“I.V. HILL DEAD.  Duluth Architect Passes Away Near Los Angeles, Cal.  Word has just been received in this city of the death, near Los Angeles, Cal., on Feb. 25, of I. V. Hill, a member of the firm of Hill & Bray, architects, of Duluth.  Mr. Hill’s family is now in the West and the body will be buried there.  Mr. Hill came to the head of the lakes ten years ago, as architect for the Lakeside Land company and he made his home in Lakeside.  A short time afterward he formed a partnership with W. T. Bray, which was in force at the time of his death, although the latter had been conducting the business alone for the past nine months.  Early last year, on account of failing health, Mr. Hill found it necessary to go West and for a time it was thought that he was improving.  Later reports, received shortly after the first of the year, indicated that his ailment was consumption and he sank rapidly until his death, one week ago.  Besides his widow he leaves two children.  He also has a brother in the West.”

James Scott credits Hill with designing two other homes while in partnership with Bray: the Frank E. House home at 2210 East Superior and the William Burgess home at 2019 East Second Street.  Both the House and Burgess residences were completed after Hill’s death and both building permits list W. T. Bray as the architect.

Sources:

  • Larson, Jill. Intensive Survey of Historic Resources in Duluth’s East End (Part 1). City of Duluth, Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission, Duluth, Minn.: August 2007.
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