Architect Angelo Powell

Few today know the name Angelo Powell or recognize his impact as one of St. Joseph's greatest architects. New research is just beginning to bring to light Angelo Powell's important works on the east coast before arriving in St. Joseph just after the Civil War.

Powell's Beginning 

Powell arrived in St. Joseph in 1866. By this time, he was a veteran architect and civil engineer by formal training, something that was extremely rare at the time. His training began in New York City as a draftsman for architect Minard Lafevre. Lafevre was influential through publication of architectural pattern books which were used by carpenters all over the country.

Powell would years later say that when he began his career, there were only a dozen professionally trained architects in the country, and he knew all of them. Powell later went to Baltimore where he studied civil engineering. He would take part in plans for a segment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Continuing His Knowledge

Moving to Washington, D.C., Powell served on the staff of Robert Mills, the chief Federal architect. Mills is considered this country's first American-born, trained architect. Mills and Powell worked together from 1847 to 1853, during which time the firm prepared designs for the Washington Monument, Treasury Building, and expansion of the U.S. Capitol. Among other projects, Powell himself is credited with designing the National Theater and President Zachary Taylor's funeral car.

Eventually, Angelo Powell went west to Cincinnati where he organized a large practice employing twenty draftsmen. The Civil War ruined his business, but during that conflict he served for the Union as chief engineer of the Eighth Army Corps. His maps and plans are considered some of the best produced for the war effort. Following the war, Powell, worked as an engineer for various railroads.

Success in St. Joseph

In September 1866, Powell relocated to St. Joseph, Missouri and opened an architectural business. After years of moving about, Angelo Powell had finally found his home. He continued his architectural practice in St. Joseph for more than 40 years and died here in 1911.

Powell's Influence

From building lists now being discovered by Carol Almanza, we are beginning to comprehend how important Angelo Powell was in shaping not only this city but many others as well. In the 1860s and 1870s, Powell designed 30 to 40 buildings a year, including residences, schools, churches, stores, parks, and cemeteries.

Among his works in St. Joseph, Powell designed the Tootle Opera House, Mount Mora Cemetery, and the entryway to Krug Park. He designed several hundred residences in St. Joseph, including the Harris-Hamilton Residence at 1423 Francis and the Shireman Residence at 120 S. 15th Street. Powell also designed buildings elsewhere across northern Missouri, as well as in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Dakota Territory, and Colorado. Simply put, Angelo Powell played a considerable part in making St. Joseph one of American's architectural treasures.

Article by Robert Myers, reprinted from mph quarterly.