Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD)

Architects

Fisher, Elmer

ID: 1565
Full Name: Elmer H. Fisher
Occupation: Architect
Gender: M
Nationality: Scotland/US
Birth Date: 1844-08
Death Date: 1905
Family: Spouse: It appears that Fisher had many involvements with women, some of which were honorable. An Elmer H. Fisher living in Worcester County, MA, perhaps the architect, married in 1873. The bride had the surname Corey or Covey, although her first name was spelled in records variously as "Hala," "Hain" and "Kata." According to one record, they married in 07/1873 in Keene, NH. (An intention to marry was registered in Athol, MA, where they both lived, on 06/30/1873.) Some records have indicated that Elmer H. Fisher was born in 1844 or 1845, while the Elmer H. Fisher who married Corey, was supposedly born in 1851. Records for the 1851-born Fisher noted his place of birth to have been Royalston, MA, in Worcester County. The Washington State Census of 07/1889 indicated that Fisher was married at that time. (Three yearsl later, the 1892 WA State Census indicated him to have been single.) He married, apparently again, to "Charlotte M. Willey" of Seattle on 02/14/1893, Valentine's Day, in the house of her mother, Margaret Burns Harmon (d. 1893), in Seattle. (See "King County Marriage Records, 1855-1990 - Elmer H Fisher - Charlotte M Willey," <http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/506D72478581F5191D2663ABBDDA0BA3> Accessed 04/21/2014 and "Washington, Marriage Records, 1865-2004 about Elmer H Fisher," Ancestry.com, accessed 04/21/2014.) Prior to Fisher, Mary Charlotte "Lottie" Harmon (c. 1869-1914) married Samuel Willey, 11/19/1883 in Seattle. As per the 1900 US Census, her name was again Charlotte M. Willey, and she lived with one of her two children in Olympia, WA. This census indicated her to be living on her own and divorced. Her daughter, Lydia Willey, age 8, had been born in 01/1892. It appears that when Fisher left for Los Angeles in 1894, he did not take Lottie, who between 1894-1900 was granted a divorce. (See "1900 United States Federal Census for Mary C Willey," Ancestry.com, Accessed 04/21/2014.) By 1910, she had moved back to Seattle, and, like many single women of the period, she operated a rooming house. (Divorce brought shame for women of that time, and Lottie may have left Seattle for Olympia for that reason. She returned on or before 1910 when people had long forgotten her failed nuptials with Elmer H. Fisher.) (See "1910 United States Federal Census about Mary C Willey," [Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Seattle Ward 5, King, Washington; Roll: T624_1659; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0112; FHL microfilm: 1375672.] Accessed 04/21/2014.) She later married a man named Calvert, and died with his last name. She was buried in the Harmon Family plot of Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.
Parents: The nationality of Fisher's parents is unclear. When asked by census representatives in 1900 and CA voting officials about his parent's heritage, Elmer indicated that his parents were Scottish. The CA Voter's Record of 1896 noted that Fisher had been born in Scotland of "American parents." This may or may not have been true. If Elmer Fisher had been born c. 1851, his parents could have been Horace Fisher (1820-1890) and his wife Lucy J. Fisher, who lived in Royalston, MA, during the 1850s-1880s. Some records indicated that his parents were Scottish and that he was born in Royalston, and others state that he and his father had been born in Scotland. (See Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 about Horace Fisher, Ancestry.com. Accessed 04/21/2014.) Currently, no documentation has been found that indicated Elmer Fisher emigrated from Scotland; neither transit records nor naturalization papers have been located.
Children: So far as is known, Fisher had no children.
Relocation: Architect Elmer H. Fisher lived a restless, peripatetic existence, a lifetime filled with rapid arrivals and abrupt departures, new professions, and financial and marital instability. Living in nineteenth-century America, a milieu of massive, East-to-West, urban settlement, social upheaval and enhanced mobility (both social and physical), enabled Fisher to reshape his public persona periodically, and to change professions when necessary. Biographical details for Fisher are not consistent, due, most likely, to a combination of factors. These may have included faulty record keeping, Fisher's mistaken recollections or his lies told to suit new purposes. According to the U.S. Census of 1880, Fisher was 36 years old, lived at 404 Larimer Street, Denver, CO, and was married, although he was not living with a woman at this time. His neighbors on either side of him at this address were all in the building trades, most were about his age, and may have worked together or assisted one another in some way; they included Stephen H. Lashert (age 41, a carpenter), Charles A. Bohny, (age 24, a wood turner), Joseph L. Middlebrooke (age 44, a builder), and Charles Dolmer (age 36, a builder). The 1880 census indicated that Fisher worked as a band sawyer and that he had been born in MA, while both of his parents were Scottish. Between 1880-1886, Ochsner and Anderson have stated that Fisher lived in the cities of Denver, Butte, MT and Minneapolis, MN, "...and worked in businesses associated with hardware, farm implements, construction and mining." They indicated that Fisher moved to Victoria, BC, by 02/1886 and by 1887 was working the town of Port Townsend, WA. (See "Jeffrey Karl Ochsner and Dennis A. Andersen, "Elmer H. Fisher," in Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed., Shaping Seattle Architecture, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994], p. 22.) The Washington State Census of 07/1889, indicated that Fisher lived in the 2nd Ward of Seattle, WA, and worked as an architect; his age was said to be 48 in 1889, giving him a birth date of 1841. According to the U.S. Census of 1900, Fisher was 56 years old and born in 08/1844. He indicated to the census taker that he had emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland in 1845; this may or not be true. Fisher worked in Seattle, WA, from 1887-1891 as an architect, and served as the proprietor of the Abbott Hotel, thereafter, until moving to Los Angeles, CA, in 1894. He spent three years in Los Angeles, and then, opportunistically, moved to Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay, Southern Alaska Territory, in 1897. (Miners had scoured the Canadian Yukon and Alaskan Territory for gold since the mid-19th century. Smaller strikes caused mini-rushes on the Kenai Peninsula's Cooper Creek [1884] and on Resurrection Creek [1888]. Strikes in the Klondike triggered a large Gold Rush to northwestern Canada, after 08/16/1896. Some of these miners returned to AK by 1898.) The US Census of 1900 (taken on 03/09/1900) indicated that Fisher lived in the "Sunrise Mining District," and came to the Alaskan Territory in 08/1897; as noted in this census, he retained a permanent address in Los Angeles; his CA occupation was architect, but he mined in AK. The form indicated that he immigrated to the US in 1845, making him a very young child when he arrived. (See "1900 United States Federal Census Record for Elmer H Fisher," Ancestry.com, accessed 11/21/2011.)
Biographical Information: Work History: Mechanic, Athol, MA, c. 1873; Cabinet Maker, Minneapolis, MN, 1873, (See Minneapolis City Directory, 1873, p. 162.) Sash Maker, R.P. Russell and Company, Minneapolis, MN, 1875; Roswell P. Russell, Sr., operated a company at 100 6th Avenue South in Minneapolis, that advertised itself as "sash, doors, blinds and mouldings, planing mill, scroll sawing and box mnfrs." (See Minneapolis City Directory, 1875, p. 389.) Band Sawyer, Denver, CO, c. 1880; Principal, Elmer H. Fisher, Architect, Victoria, BC, 02/1886-1887; Principal, Elmer H. Fisher, Architect, Port Townsend, WA, c. 1887, Principal, Elmer H. Fisher, Architect, Seattle, WA, 11/1887-1891; Partner, Fisher and Clark, Architects, Seattle, WA, c. 1888-1889. Principal, Elmer H. Fisher, Architect, Seattle, WA, c. 1890; according to the 1890 Seattle City Directory, Fisher occupied Office #8 in the Haller Block. The following year, he continued leasing the same office in the Haller Building, but lived in the Abbott Hotel, a building of his own design. The 1892 City Directory indicated that he was an architect and superintendent of the Abbott, on the southeast corner of Pike Street and 3rd Avenue. This building was also referred to as "The Fisher Building" in the same source. Fisher moved to Los Angeles, CA, in 1894, and worked as an architect and carpenter there. Partner, Brown and Fisher, Architects, Los Angeles, CA, c. 10/1894-03/1895; advertisements in the Los Angeles Times for the firm of Brown and Fisher can be found from 10/16/1894-03/07/1895. The two men also attended the same architect's meeting in 05/1895 in Los Angeles. Miner, Sunrise Mining District, AK, 05/1897- ; most new miners that came to AK during the Klondike Gold Rush arrived in the territory in the months of April through July, with most coming in May. Office Superintendent, John Parkinson, Architect, Los Angeles, CA, 1903; at this time he lived at 125 East 32nd Street. (See Los Angeles City Directory, 1903, p. 443.)
Miscellaneous: All of the facts of Fisher's life are not clear; he was apparently born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 08/1844; as architectural historians Jeffrey Ochsner and Dennis A. Andersen have noted, he first immigrated to Massachusetts c. 1857, and thereafter, lived in Minneapolis, MN, Denver, CO, and Butte, MT, before coming to Victoria, BC, in February of 1886; in British Columbia, he designed houses and commercial buildings in the the cities of Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Goldstream; he crossed back into the United States in 1887, landing at Port Townsend, WA, where he designed several commercial buildings in the booming lumber town. Fisher came to Seattle, WA, later in 11/1887; his practice was greatly buoyed by the Great Fire of 06/06/1889, that destroyed 25 blocks of Seattle's Downtown; following this trauma, Fisher raked in more than fifty commissions for more fire-proof buildings in Seattle and other locations in the state; in 1891, Fisher faced financial problems, and turned over his practice to a partner; he then took over as manager of the Abbott Hotel, Seattle, a building of his design; in 1893, a former mistress, Mary Smith, took Fisher to court, seeking to recover $10,000 in a civil breach of promise suit; she contended that Fisher and her had lived as husband and wife in Denver and Victoria, and that Fisher promised to marry her and bring her to his new home in Seattle; apparently, Fisher broke this promise, but was acquitted of any financial liability by a jury; the ensuing scandal wrecked his reputation, and he was forced to move to that rogue's paradise, Los Angeles, CA, c. 1894; for a short time, at least, he appears to have been welcomed there, and became Vice-President of the Southern California Chapter of the AIA in 1895; thereafter, he apparently could not get work as an architect, and was forced to make a living as a carpenter and construction supervisor; few records about his life in Los Angeles exist to explain what happened to him there; it may be no coincidence that prominent Seattle architect, John Parkinson moved south to Los Angeles at about the same time; Parkinson had been a founding member of the AIA chapter in Washington; according to Woodbridge and Montgomery, (Guide to Architecture in Washington State, Seattle: 1980, p. 113), Fisher went to work for Parkinson after they both moved to Los Angeles; The moves by Fisher and Parkinson were probably also accelerated by the economic depression that occurred following a period of railroad bankruptcies and bank failures during 1893; at this time, the mighty Northern Pacific Railway, Union Pacific Railroad and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad all reorganized. During the period 1893-1898, the national U.S. unemployment rate averaged in double-digits. In 1896, at the age of 51, CA State Voter Records (1896) indicated that Fisher stood 5 feet 10 and a half, had blue eyes and brown hair.
Professional Awards: Post College: A record dated 05/03/1896, mentioned an "Elmer Fisher" who served as a witness to a will made at 40 Mile River Station, AK, by a miner named Charles Hill who left a fortune of $142,000. (A Charles H. Hill, a building contractor, lived in Seattle in 1890.) A month after apparently witnessing Hill's will in AK, Fisher registered to vote in Los Angeles on 06/13/1896. (It is unclear whether the AK miner witnessing the will was the architect.) He listed his 1896 Los Angeles residence as 1362 South Flower Street. The successful Los Angeles architect Abram Edelman (1863-1941) and his family lived on the same block across the street at 1343-1345 South Flower.
Archives: Plans of Fisher's Pioneer Building are held in the University of Washington (UW) Libraries, Department of Special Collections.
Countries: Scotland
United States
Structures: Abbott Hotel, Seattle, WA - 1889 - 1890 (4661)
Barnes Building, Seattle, WA - 1889 (5805)
Bell, Austin A., Building, Belltown, Seattle, WA - (3113)
Burke Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA - 1889-1891 (4656)
Byrnes, George, Building, Gastown, Vancouver, BC, Canada - 1886-1887 (12620)
Colman Building Project, Seattle, WA - 1887 - 1888 (4655)
Denny, William, Building, Victoria, BC, Canada - 1886 (12625)
Gilmore and Kirkman Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (4651)
Haller, Morris, Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (6177)
Hull Building, Belltown, Seattle, WA - 1890 (18182)
James and Hastings Building, Port Townsend, WA - (12623)
Korn Building #1, Seattle, WA - 1887-1889 (4636)
Korn Building #2, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (4647)
Lebanon Building, Seattle, WA - 1889-1891 (4650)
Lewis, Howard, House, Seattle, WA - 1889 (14627)
National Bank of Commerce, Headquarters Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1890-1891 (4659)
New England Hotel #2, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - (9713)
Pioneer Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1891 (4626)
Ranke, Otto, House, First Hill, Seattle, WA - 1890-1891 (4660)
Roth, Lottie, Building, Whatcom, WA - 1890-1891 (13473)
Schwabacher Brothers and Company, Building #5, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (4654)
Spencer's Arcade, Victoria, BC, Canada - 1886 (12624)
Starr-Boyd Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (4628)
State Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - (4662)
Sullivan Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - (4658)
Washington Building, Seattle, WA - 1889-1890 (6178)
White House, Victoria, BC, Canada - 1888 (19199)
Yesler Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA - 1889-1891 (4912)
Locations: Architect's Office:
Victoria, BC
Canada
Publications: Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis Alan, Distant Corner Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson, 147, 2003.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis Alan, Distant Corner Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson, 253, 2003.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis Alan, Distant Corner Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson, 146-147, 2003.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis Alan, Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson, 13,, 2003.
Kalman, Harold, Exploring Vancouver 2, 24, 1978.
"Buildings can be recycled too", Fortune, 91: 5, 192-199, 05/1975.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State, 141, 1980.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State An Environmental Perspective, 113, 1980.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, "Washington Children's Home, 1973", Guide to Architecture in Washington State An Environmental Perspective, 231, 1980.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State An Environmental Perspective, 68, 113, 1980.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State An Environmental Perspective, 115, 1980.
Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State An Environmental Perspective, 115, 1980.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, "The Problem of the Romanesque Revival", H.H. Richardson The Architect, His Peers and Their Era, 118, 1999.
"The Architects' Organization", Los Angeles Times, 7, 9/21/1895.
"City Briefs", Los Angeles Times, 8, 04/09/1896.
"New widow of Hill bobs up in court", Los Angeles Times, A2, 08/25/1903.
"Brown and Fisher Advertisement 10/16/1894", Los Angeles Times, 10, 10/16/1894.
Crowley, Walt, National Trust Guide Seattle, 124-125, 1998.
"The City of Seattle Pioneer Building", Northwest Miscellany, 1: 27, 292-303,
"Ranke, Otto, House, Seattle, WA", Pacific Magazine (1889-1892), 4: 08/1891.
"Bell, Austin A., Building drawing", Pacific Magazine (1889-1892), 13, 10/1889.
Steinbrueck, Victor, Seattle Architecture 1850-1953, 5, 1953.
Morgan, Roland, Seattle Then & Now, 7-8, 1979.
"New Seattle", Seattle Times, 1, 8, 8/10/1889.
"Old Seattle-Tacoma architectural drawings on display", Seattle Times, K7, col 1, 09/02/1979.
"New Seattle", Seattle Times, 1, 8, 08/10/1889.
"Old Seattle-Tacoma architectural drawings on display", Seattle Times, K7, col 1, 09/02/1979.
"New Seattle", Seattle Times, 1, 8, 08/10/1889.
Dale, Carolyn, "Renaissance in Pioneer Square", Seattle Times Sunday Magazine, 4-5, 01/30/1972.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 22, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 23, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 24, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 25, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 25, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 25, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 26, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 27, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 27, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 22, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, Andersen, Dennis A., "Elmer H. Fisher", Shaping Seattle Architecture A Historical Guide to the Architects, 22-27, 1994.

Portrait of Elmer H. Fisher (UW Libraries, Department of Special Collections)