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James Wright Hammond (1918-1986)

Dates of Interview:

September 23, 1983

Location of Interview:

Hammond's home in Glencoe, Illinois


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

60 pages
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Biographical Summary

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1918, Hammond began his study of architecture at the University of Michigan in 1936. He soon transfered to the Illinois Institute of Technology to study under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1942. Imbued with the Miesian aesthetic, in 1946 he joined the Chicago office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, a firm devoted to building modern buildings using the most current technology. He stayed at SOM until 1961 when he joined Peter Roesch in an independent pratice that continued for a decade. In 1971 Hammond and Tom Beeby organized Hammond, Beeby & Babka, a firm that has designed numerous award-winning buildings. Hammond was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1974. He died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1986.

Interview Highlights

Hammond speaks about his family background; his education; Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933-34; the Saarinens; SOM; Mies and the Illinois Institute of Technology; World War II; prefabricated housing; working with Harry Weese at the University of Maryland; partnership; Episcopal Church Center; successful projects.

Episcopal Church Center, St. James Cathedral; Chicago, IL, 1969.
Photograph by David Skidmore, courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

First National Bank of Ripon; Ripon, Wisconsin, 1975.

Interview Excerpt

"I knew that I would differ with [Mies van der Rohe] because I had more interest in other facets of the Modern Movement than he allowed or than people around him felt that he allowed. Mies was a lot more catholic in his interests and a lot more interested in traditional things than his students thought. I was fortunate in having some Beaux-Arts background as I sort of instinctively understood that his thinking was rooted very heavily in traditional values and that it wasn't just a new thing that came up, as he said, 'the new architecture of the morning.' His wasn't a 'new morning' architecture because his was so heavily rooted, which almost everybody clearly realizes now." (p. 21)

Additional Resources

Finding Aid to James Wright Hammond papers, 1951-c.1985
James Wright Hammond images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.