Images of the past: W.R. Parsons & Son, Architects

For this week’s column, I set out to learn about the architectural firm responsible for the design of a familiar Bloomfield landmark—the “old elementary school,” which dates to 1903 and once housed  both the high school and all of the lower grades (above).

The firm was W.R. Parsons & Son of Des Moines. William R. Parsons and his son, C. Howard, began their architectural business in Quincy, Ill., but soon relocated to Topeka, Kan. The firm’s projects stretched from Kansas to Arkansas, Colorado and Montana. By 1891, the firm moved once again, this time to Des Moines. Over the years, the father-son team designed at least a dozen county courthouses including ones in Arkansas, Colorado and Missouri, three in Kansas, five in South Dakota and two in Iowa—the Tama County Courthouse in Toledo (below, upper left) and the Wright County Courthouse in Clarion (below, upper right).

By far the bulk of their architectural practice was designing schools—from small two-, three- and four-room rural schools, to much larger urban buildings, such as East High School in Des Moines. The Parsons firm designed dozens of others scattered throughout Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa. Besides the building that educated generations of children in Bloomfield, the Parsons firm also designed schools in Eldon (below, lower left) and Russell (below, lower right).

William R. Parsons died in July 1904 not long after the Bloomfield project and is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines. Howard Parsons moved the firm to Minnesota around 1912. He died there in April 1938.

—Rudy Evans  |  revans1953@gmail.com