This long-awaited monograph clarifies the biography of Harvey Ellis (1852-1904) and reveals the astonishing magnitude of his innate artistic gifts. His achievements as an architect, artist, and perspective renderer are explored as are his relationships with the American Arts and Crafts movement and Gustav Stickley. Broad historical context for each phase of his work is established. The book was completed with the financial assistance of the Vincent Scully Jr. Award given by the Architectural History Foundation. In 2006 it received the David Stanley Gebhard Award given by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians.  It was reviewed by Kathy l'Ecuyer in The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (vol. 88, no. 1, March 2007).

Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis
Beaver's Pond Press (Minneapolis, Minn.: 2004)
9x12 hard cover, 364 pages, 245 b/w and 45 color illustrations, $70
ISBN: 1-59298-085-6
Available from

Eilis's biography is verified by public records, bibliographic research, and archival material in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, the University of Rochester;  the Local History Division, Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County; the Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota; the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland; the archives of the Wallace Library, Rochester Institute of Technology; the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York; and the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, St. Joseph, Missouri. An accurate chronology is established and prevailing misconceptions about chronic alcoholism, family strife, avoiding recognition, aimless wandering from one midwestern city to another, and the circumstances of hie death are challenged and refuted.

Ellis's architectural designs, including his initial Queen Anne and later Arts and Crafts projects done while he was in business with his brother Charles in Rochester, New York, are addressed along with his more familiar Richardsonian, Chateauesque, Beaux-Arts and uniquely Ellisonian work for, sequentially, J. Walter Stevens, Leroy Sunderland Buffington, and G. W. and F. D. Orff in Minnesota; and Eckel and Mann, George Mann, and Randall, Ellis and Baker in Missouri. Along the way previously unpublished subjects, for example the importance of architectural clubs in late nineteenth century American architectural education, are examined. An appendix traces in detail the history of the design and construction of the present Rochester City Hall, a building often misattributed in recent decades to the Ellis brothers rather than, correctly, to the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury. A second appendix assembles a list of the designs produced in the Rochester office of the Ellis brothers from 1879-1903.

Ellis's perspective perspective renderings, whose publication in nationally circulated architectural magazines brought fame to him and his employers, are viewed as examples of the the art of drawing as well as documentation of specific designs. Included are previously overlooked renderings along with those now in the Northwest Architectural Archives that were published in American Architect and Building News, Inland Architect and News Record and Northwestern Architect. A survey of  late nineteenth-century American perspective rendering offers context for Ellis's drawings and positions him as a key figure in its history.

Ellis's drawings and paintings from childhood until his death are discussed individually and in historical context that spans timeless generic illusionism, the Dusseldorf School, Luminism, Tonalism, Japonism, Post Impressionism, and Arts and Crafts modes. Ellis is revealed to have been a well regarded artist and art teacher. Primary documentation was provided by drawings and paintings in the Rush Rheese Library; the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester; the Strong Museum, Rochester; and the Rsearch Center, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. Many of the paintings and drawing have not previously been published. Ellis's association with the Rochester Art Club as a co-founder, officer, exhibition organizer and participant, and teacher of its classes is discussed.

Ellis's work for Gustav Stickley and The Craftsman magazine is scrutinized with objectivity and placed in historical context. As a result, prevalent beliefs of the past few decades, particularly about his alleged role as a furniture designer for Stickley, are challenged and revised. Ellis's more general role in the American Arts and Crafts movement as a co-founder of the Rochester Arts and Crafts Society, the first such organization in the country, is discussed..

This reconfigured view of Ellis, who was renowned during his lifetime but slipped into historical obscurity shortly after his death, demonstrates that he merits rejoining mainstream American art and architectural history.

Contents of Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis
Preface and Acknowledgements
1   Rochester 1852-72
           Family and Early Years
2   Albany, New York, and Rochester 1872-77
          The Art Student
3   Rochester 1877-85
          The Young Painter and Teacher
4   Rochester 1877-85
           H. and C. S. Ellis
5   Europe (?), Utica, and St. Paul 1885-86
           In the Offices of Charles Mould and J. Walter Stevens
6   Minneapolis 1887-89
           In the Office of Leroy Sunderland Buffington and
           G. W. and F. D. Orff
7   Harvey Ellis and Late Nineteenth Century
           Perspective Rendering
8   St. Joseph 1889-90
           In the Office of Eckel and Mann
           [see 2010 modification of a part of
           this chapterc in the post "Mrs. Harvey Ellis" in
9   Minneapolis 1891
           Briefly Back with Buffington
10  St. Louis 1891-93
           In the Offices of George Mann and
           Randall, Ellis and Baker
11  Rochester 1893-1903
           Charles S. Ellis and Harvey Ellis, Architects and
            the Rochester Arts and Crafts Society
12  Rochester 1893-1903
            The Mature Painter
13  Syracuse 1903-04
             Architectural Designs for The Craftsman
14   Ellis and the Issue of Furniture Design for Gustav Stickley
15   Death
Appendix A
             Charles and Harvey Ellis, the Supervising Architect of the
             Treasury, and the United States Court House and Post Office
              in Rochester, New York
Appendix B
             Clients, Buildings and Projects of Harvey and Charles Ellis,
Illustration Credits

The author, Eileen Manning Michels, has been researching Harvey Ellis and writing about him for many years. The research that led to this first monograph about Harvey Ellis occurred in three separate stages. The first was for her 1953 master's thesis, The Architectural Designs of Harvey Ellis, The second was for her 1971 doctoral dissertation, written at the University of Minnesota, which was a pioneering examination of the drawings published in American architectural magazines between 1875 and 1895. The third round, delayed for many years because of other professional obligations, was for this book. After a decade of new research and writing, Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis was finally ready for publication  A brief professional biography of the author can be found at

Facts About Harvey Ellis
is a blog maintained by Dr. Michels. It summarizes selected subjects in the book. Each post compares a prevalent misconception about an aspect of Ellis's biography or work with researched facts about it. To date the following posts have appeared:
       Discharge from the USMA at West Point.
       Annulment of a Secret Marriage
       European Trip After West Point
       Family Strife
       Work for Henry Hobson Richardson
       Anonymous and Pseudonymous Perspective Renderings
        Furniture Design for Gustav Stickley
        Mrs. Harvey Ellis
        Preliminary Reflections About Gustav Stickley And The American
           Arts & Crafts Movement by Kevin w. tucker et al


Search engines briefly blocked all references to this website on September 3, 2011. On that same day another blog, http://eileenmanningmichels,blogspot,com/, which describes my professional qualifications as an art/architectural historian in general and as an Ellis scholar in particular, was also maliciously hacked. For several hours its URL produced a sexually explicit image and text. Alerted, Google removed this offensive material. There are two questions. Who did these venemous things? Why?
Eileen Manning Michels
September 8 2011

© Eileen Manning Michels 2010