Clarence Johnston

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Clarence Johnston
Personal information
Name Clarence Howard Johnston
Nationality United States
Born August 26, 1859; Okaman, Waseca County, Minnesota, United States
Died December 29, 1936; Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Work
Practice name Wilcox and Johnston, Clarence H. Johnston
Significant buildings Chapel, St.Paul Seminary, Condgon House, Duluth, State Historical Society Building


Although born in rural Minnesota, Johnston spent the bulk of his life and career in St.Paul. He was educated in the city's public schools and began his career in the office of local architect, Abraham M. Radcliffe, in 1874 while still a student at St. Paul High School. There he met and befriended fellow-apprentice Cass Gilbert. In 1878 the friends both entered the new MIT Department of Architecture, led by the prominent American architect William Robert Ware. There they joined James Knox Taylor, another St. Paul native. All three began a two year course intended for students who could not afford the full four-year program. Johnston excelled in his course work, but financial circumstances forced him to withdraw before graduation.

He returned to St.Paul and begin working with the firm of E. P. Bassford. In 1880 he left town once more, this time to take a position with Herter Brothers in New York, on the recommendation of his former MIT professor,Robert Ware. The Herter's were nationally known interior decorators and Johnsten spent the next two years working in the center of Gilded Age culture for such clients as the Morgan and Vanderbilt families. This experience served him will when he returned to St.Paul in 1882 to begin his own firm.

With good local connections through James Power, an associate of Railroad magnate James J. Hill, Johnston soon gained a number of prominent commissions to build homes for prominent Minnesotans, including Power, William R. Merriam, Chaucey Griggs, and Addison Foster. In 1883 he Johnston began working with fellow MIT student, James Knox Taylor working on a number of larger projects including a proposal for Macalester College.

In 1883 Johnston was well enough established to take a long-anticipated tour of Europe, Italy and the Mediterranean. On his return he continued to design many prominent homes, influenced by the romanticism of classical european architecture. In 1885 he married May Thurston, daughter of C.B. Thurston

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