Voorhees, Louis (1892-1974)
Adrian, Michigan, USA
- Greensboro, North Carolina
- High Point, North Carolina
- Kernersville, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
Art Deco; Colonial Revival; International style
Louis Francis Voorhees (November 14, 1892-May 21, 1974) was one of High Point’s principal architects during the middle of the 20th century. Influenced by his mentor Fiske Kimball, during the 1920s he designed residences in Period Revival styles such as Tudor, Norman, and Colonial Revival, before venturing into Art Deco and Modern styles late in his career. He practiced within numerous associations and partnerships, including those with Herbert B. Hunter, (James B.?) Workman, George Connor, Howard Olive, and Eccles D. Everhart
Voorhees was born in Adrian, Michigan, the son of Ella M. Finch and William B. Voorhees. He was educated in the city schools of Toledo, Ohio, and later attended the University of Michigan where he studied under architectural historian Fiske Kimball and received a Bachelor of Architecture in 1916 and a Master of Science in Architecture in 1917. After serving with the Rainbow Division as sergeant in the Camouflage Corps during World War I—one of many artists and architects who applied their drawing and painting skills to the newly developed art of camouflage—Voorhees practiced architecture in San Francisco until 1921, when he moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. There he practiced and taught design at the University of Virginia with Fiske Kimball, and met his future wife, Elizabeth Peyton of High Point. Their marriage led him to move to High Point and establish his long and prolific practice there.
The couple moved to High Point in May of 1924. Voorhees first worked under architect Herbert Hunter, then practiced under his own name for a short time before forming a partnership with Eccles D. Everhart, another established High Point architect, in 1938. During World War II Voorhees was briefly employed as an engineer at the Oak Ridge Project in Tennessee. In 1959 Everhart and Voorhees took on a third partner, George C. Connor, Jr.
Most of Voorhees’s commissions were in High Point, a city experiencing rapid growth and wealth with the expansion of textile manufacturing. For his own family’s residence in the Emerywood suburb (Vorhees House), he planned and built about 1927 an irregularly massed Colonial Revival style house that incorporated New England motifs in imaginative fashion. For the ca. 1940 Wilber Jones House, he designed an original rendition of the Dutch Colonial style evocative of the Hudson River Valley, with sweeping, shingled rooflines, flared eaves, and stonework. Voorhees and his partners also designed several schools in High Point and Guilford County, plus large period residences in Sedgefield, Winston-Salem, Lexington, Reidsville, Greensboro, and High Point.
The Pearl M. and S. Colon Vuncannon House is among High Point’s best examples of the International style. The residence was designed around 1935 by Voorhees and Everhart, who had by then established a reputation for introducing nationally popular styles to the city. The house features a curving wall of glass brick, cleanly incised windows with metal casements wrapping around corners, and smooth stucco-covered walls. A contrasting, picturesque design appears in the small, single-classroom building Voorhees designed on the grounds of the Ray Street School for his schoolteacher wife to accommodate a growing population of students. Known as the “Little Red Schoolhouse”, the 1930 structure features a lattice-trimmed porch and red painted German siding.
During the Great Depression, Voorhees and his partners stayed in business in part through key government-sponsored projects. The partnership of Workman, Voorhees and Everhart was the local firm of record for the design of the United States Post Office in downtown High Point. Construction began on the Art Deco-style building in 1932; it is sheathed in Indiana limestone and features stylized human and animal reliefs, coupled with fluting and swags. Voorhees and Everhart also gained the commission to design the Guilford County Courthouse, rendered in red brick in Flemish bond. (High Point was a town of such importance that a second Guilford County Courthouse was erected there to complement the facility in Greensboro, the county seat.) As at the nearby Post Office, the firm chose the Art Deco style for the courthouse and incorporated stylized details such as three figures on the frieze, each portraying one of three major industries of the city: furniture, textiles, and agriculture.
A different type of project for the firm came with the federally-funded housing complexes (1941) that were the first such complexes in Guilford County: using “modified colonial designs,” as noted in the High Point Enterprise of June 7, 1942, this firm designed the Clara Cox Homes of 250 units for white residents, and High Point architect Tyson Thaddeus Ferree planned the Daniel Brooks Homes with 200 units for black residents. Racially segregated complexes were the norm in the region at the time, as was the selection of a well-regarded local architect as designer for the sturdily constructed buildings and a layout that adhered to current ideals for housing. Rather than following High Point’s standard grid plan of streets, the architects created a gently curving road network with ample parking and landscaped lawns, exemplifying the garden city ideal of residences scattered casually amongst a garden setting popular at the time. The units at Daniel Brooks were designed to resemble English worker housing of the mid-19th century, while those at Clara Cox had a Colonial Revival appearance.
Among the last designs influenced by Voorhees was the Georgian Revival-style High Point Friends Meeting House. It was constructed in 1955-1956 from a design by congregation member Howard Olive, who was employed with the firm Voorhees and Everhart. The conservative treatment suggests early Georgian-style Friends meeting houses around Philadelphia and is comparable to other prominent contemporary meeting houses in the state.
Voorhees semi-retired from the Voorhees, Everhart and Connor in 1965 but remained a consultant for the firm. He was active in numerous civic organizations including St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the American Institute of Architects. In a profile of young builders written for the High Point Enterprise in the 1940s, Voorhees was described as “one of High Point’s ‘builders,’ and when it comes to spirit, this well-known architect is among the youngest of them all. He is constantly interested in those things which make for the progress and advancement of High Point.”
- Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina: A History and Guide to the City’s Houses, Churches and Public Buildings (2008).
- Benjamin Briggs, interviews with Heather Fearnbach by email, July 23, 2009; and Roy Briggs by telephone, July 1, 2009.
- “Louis Voorhees, Architect, Dies,” High Point Enterprise, May 21, 1974, Section B from the Louis Voorhees File, High Point Public Library, High Point, North Carolina.
- Dates:1938Location:Winston-Salem, Forsyth CountyStreet Address:409 N. Avalon Rd., Winston-Salem, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The International-style residence is unusual among the largely traditional architecture in the Buena Vista neighborhood.
- Dates:1940Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:600 E. Russell St., High Point, NCStatus:No longer standingType:ResidentialNote:Planned for white residents, the second and largest (250 units) of the public housing complexes designed by Voorhees and Everhart was located between Asheboro, Park and E. Russell Sts. and named for a noted Quaker minister. The complex was razed in 2006.
- Dates:1938Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:258 South Main St., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:PublicImages Puslished In:Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina: A History and Guide to the City's Houses, Churches and Public Buildings (2008).
- Dates:1955-1956Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:800 Quaker Lane, High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousImages Puslished In:Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina: A History and Guide to the City's Houses, Churches and Public Buildings (2008).Note:The building was designed by congregation member Howard Olive, who was employed with the firm of Voorhees and Everhart. The conservative treatment suggests early Georgian-style Friends meeting houses around Philadelphia and is comparable to other prominent contemporary meeting houses in the state. Landscape architect R. D. Tillson provided a greensward of pin oaks to frame the meeting house from nearby Quaker Lane.
- Dates:1930Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:2011 East Lexington Ave., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:EducationalImages Puslished In:Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina: A History and Guide to the City's Houses, Churches and Public Buildings (2008).Note:Although the Ray Street School at the corner of N. Hamilton and E. Ray St. burned in 1961, the Little Red Schoolhouse, as it became known, survived and was moved to land owned by the High Point Historical Museum around 1988.
- Dates:1935Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:1001 Ferndale Blvd., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:
- Dates:1927-1928Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:N. Main St., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousImages Puslished In:H. McKelden Smith, Architectural Resources: An Inventory of Historic Architecture, High Point, Jamestown, Gibsonville, Guilford County (1979).
- Dates:1932-1933Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:100 East Green St., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:PublicImages Puslished In:Note:Construction began on the $450,000 Art Deco-style building in 1932, and it was dedicated on the Fourth of July, 1933.
- Dates:1927Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:1132 Forest Hill Dr., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:
- Dates:1940Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:1030 Rockford Rd., High Point, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In: