Maxwell, Allen J., Jr. (1904-1963)

Birthplace:

Kinston, North Carolina, NC

Residences:

  • Goldsboro, North Carolina

Trades:

  • Architect

Styles & Forms:

Art Deco; Neoclassical

Allen J. (Jay) Maxwell, Jr. (September 29, 1904-August 27, 1963) was a native of Kinston who grew up in Raleigh and practiced architecture from his office in Goldsboro, designing public and private buildings in much of eastern and central North Carolina. His best-known building is the Highway Building of 1950-1952, in which he combined elements of classicism and modernism as part of the ensemble of state buildings surrounding the North Carolina State Capitol.

He was born to Della May and Allen J. Maxwell, Sr. His father was a politically prominent and powerful figure who served as state commissioner of revenue and ran for governor. Raleigh City Directories show that for a time (ca. 1913-1921, at least) the family lived at 123 West Park Drive in the new Cameron Park suburb. Allen Jr. graduated from present North Carolina State University, where he studied architecture, and he also studied at Yale University and in Europe.

During the 1920s the family moved to 908 Cowper Drive in Raleigh’s prestigious new suburb, Hayes Barton. Possibly aided by his father’s connections, Allen, Jr., found employment in major firms. In 1928, Allen, Jr., was living at home and working as a draftsman in the office of leading Raleigh architect William Henley Deitrick. In 1929 he was a draftsman with the H. A. Underwood Construction Co.; by 1932 he was a vice president of that firm; and in 1933 the firm was called Underwood and Maxwell. In 1933 Allen married Louise Mumford, a native of Burke County, and they had one son, Allen Jay Maxwell III. In the 1934 city directory, Allen and Louise Maxwell were noted as residing with his parents on Cowper Drive, and he was working as a draftsman in the engineering and architectural firm of William C. Olsen. By the 1935 directory, he and Louise were at 709 Aycock Street, and he was an architect with William C. Olsen. The 1936 directory did not show Maxwell, Jr., in Raleigh, though his parents were still on Cowper Drive. By that time, he had evidently moved to Goldsboro.

Maxwell’s projects during the early years of the Great Depression are not identified, though much of his work was likely for Olsen’s firm. In Goldsboro, he took over an office that had belonged to John David Gullett, a Louisiana-born architect who practiced architecture in Goldsboro from 1920 until his death of a heart attack in 1935. Gullett was especially active in public school construction in the 1920s and later (See Penne B.Smith [Sandbeck], Mount Olive High School National Register nomination, 1998.) Maxwell, often described as a protégé of Gullett, completed some of Gullett’s unfinished commissions and went on to plan additional schools. The United States Census of 1940 listed Maxwell and his wife and son as residing in Goldsboro. Maxwell later formed an association with architect James Griffith, Jr., who in 1940 was an architect aged 30 in Goldsboro.

As the economy improved, Maxwell’s work encompassed residential and civic buildings, but along with many other architects of his time, he kept busy with public schools in the period 1937-1940, at least some of which, such as the S. L. Sheep School in Elizabeth City, were assisted by Federal funds. When he completed a Federal form in 1940 on the eve of World War II, Maxwell listed as his recent works the following: Wayne County School Building Program (1937-1940); Pitt County School Building Program (1938-1940); Goldsboro Fire Department, Goldsboro (1938); the WGBR Radio Station Building (1939); Goldsboro Apartments, Goldsboro (1939); Asheboro Apartments, Asheboro (1940); and S. L. Sheep School, Elizabeth City (1940). When more details are learned about these buildings, they will be added to the building list.

When Maxwell registered for the draft for World War II in 1942, he noted that he was an architect “in business for self,” with his office in Goldsboro’s prominent Borden Building. According to a report on the nationally known architect Edward Durell Stone, in 1942 North Carolina architects John J. Rowland and Allen J. Maxwell, Jr., were associate architects on Stone’s project for “U. S. Public Housing, Cherry Point Homes, Cherry Point, NC,” an Army Air Force base (http://edwarddurellstone.org/edward-durell-stone-work-1940s.html). Stone was involved in planning several facilities for the U. S. Army Air Force and would later design the North Carolina State Legislative Building.

After World War II, Maxwell was one of the many architects ready to meet the demand for new buildings. Among his post-World War II projects were a high school gym in Statesville (Statesville Daily Record, April 1, 1949) and a proposed Alumni Memorial Building at present NCSU near Holladay Hall on the site of the old infirmary (Asheville Citizen-Times, September 22, 1946). In 1950, he provided plans for the Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, for which Charles F. Gillette was the landscape architect in 1955 (see http://www.lva.virginia.gov/findaid/gillette/clientresults.asp?client=874).

Maxwell’s most prominent surviving building is the Highway Building, which was built in 1950-1952 and received a high priority for funding in the postwar era of stiff competition for funding for state building projects. Described in the Burlington Daily Times-News of March 30, 1950, the highway building joined the series of large state office buildings erected in the 20th century to frame Union Square and complement the State Capitol—in their materials (stone), scale, and classically influenced pilasters and other elements—a precedent set by Beaux-Arts architect P. Thornton Marye’s Court of Appeals Building and continued by Atwood and Nash and Northup and O’Brien.

The newspaper reported that the highway building would have a 210-foot frontage and stand five stories tall with granite facades “to conform to the classic design of other newer state buildings in the Capitol Square area.” (It was attached to the pre-existing Highway Building on Morgan Street.) Its classicism was expressed in its proportions and pilasters, while the sleek detailing represented the era’s mid-century modernism. Most of the other state buildings facing Union Square were by larger architectural firms; Maxwell evidently gained the prestigious and highly sought-after commission at least in part because of his father’s and his own political connections with Governor Kerr Scott and others (see Allen J. Maxwell, Jr., file, Charlotte Vestal Brown [Wainwright] Papers).

As noted in his obituary (High Point Enterprise, August 28, 1963), Allen Jr. was active in the architectural profession as a member of the American Institute of Architects and the State Board of Architectural Examiners. He was a member of St. Paul Methodist Church and the Goldsboro Elks Lodge. He was survived by his wife, Louise Mumford Maxwell (1910-1990), their son, two siblings, and two grandchildren. He was buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro.

  • Allen J. Maxwell, Jr., file, Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Penne Smith [Sandbeck], “Mount Olive High School,” National Register of Historic Places nomination (1998).
Sort Building List by:
  • Alumni Memorial Building

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1947

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Unbuilt

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    Maxwell’s 1947 drawings for the Alumni Memorial Building, a symmetrical, classically detailed composition, survive at NCSU. Evidently his design went unbuilt or was greatly altered. The old infirmary (designed in a late Victorian style by Henry E. Bonitz, of which a portion still stands at the rear) was extensively remodeled as Alumni Memorial Hall ca. 1959 in a Georgian Revival style and has only slight similarities to Maxwell’s 1947 plans.


  • Goldsboro Fire Department

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1939

    Location:
    Goldsboro, Wayne County
    Street Address:

    109 E. Ash St., Goldsboro, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Note:

    One of many civic buildings built as WPA projects, the brick fire station features a white stuccoed façade and Art Deco-Art Moderne details.


  • Harry Fitzhugh Lee House

    Contributors:
    John David Gullett, architect (1922); Allen J. Maxwell, Jr., architect (1939)
    Dates:

    1922; 1939

    Location:
    Goldsboro, Wayne County
    Street Address:

    310 W. Walnut St., Goldsboro, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Note:

    One of Goldsboro’s major houses of the 1920s, the large, brick residence features a Dutch Colonial gambrel roof covered with Ludowici tiles, complemented by robust classical details. The main house was planned by Gullett, and an addition and a garage by Allen J. Maxwell, who took over Gullett’s firm after Gullett’s death. Gullett’s plans were in the hands of the owner of the house as of 1982. See Tom Butchko, Harry Fitzhugh Lee House National Register of Historic Places nomination (1983).


  • Highway Building

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1951

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    1 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Note:

    The large building combines classical and modern elements and contains an impressive lobby in terrazzo and green marble.


  • S. L. Sheep School

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1940

    Location:
    Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County
    Street Address:

    Elizabeth City, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Images Puslished In:

    Thomas R. Butchko, On the Shores of the Pasquotank: The Architectural Heritage of Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County, North Carolina (1989).

    Note:

    Typifying Mawell’s blend of traditional form and moderne and Art Deco details, the brick grade school was built with WPA assistance. It is probably representative of other public schools he designed.


  • Williams Hall

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1947

    Location:
    Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County
    Street Address:

    Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Images Puslished In:

    Thomas R. Butchko, On the Shores of the Pasquotank: The Architectural Heritage of Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County, North Carolina (1989).

    Note:

    One of the most prominent and architecturally imposing buildings on the campus, the brick edifice features contrasting Colonial Revival and classical details typical of state collegiate campus architecture of the era. The institution was founded as the State Colored Normal School and moved to this location in about 1910.


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