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Paul McCurry (1903-1991)

Dates of Interview:

January 23, 24, 25, 1987

Location of Interview:

McCurry's home in Lake Forest, Illinois


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

162 pages
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Biographical Summary

Paul D. McCurry was born in 1903 in Chicago. He studied architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology, where he earned his B.S., and at the University of Chicago, where he received his master's degree in education. In 1926 he took a job in the Chicago architectural office of Tallmadge & Watson, where he worked for two years. From 1929 until 1934 McCurry worked for several architectural offices, including Rebori, Dewey, Wentworth & Smith (1929-30), Holabird & Root (1930), and the office of the Architect of the State of Illinois in Springfield, Illinois. In 1934 he left the field of architecture to work as a high school teacher in the Chicago school system. In 1946 McCurry returned to architecture when he took a position at Schmidt, Garden & Erikson, where he worked for thirty years. When he left that firm in 1976, McCurry opened his own private practice. McCurry was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 1968. He died in Lake Forest, Illinois, in 1991.

Interview Highlights

McCurry speaks about his study at Armour Institute of Technology; working for Thomas Tallmadge; contact with Louis Sullivan; Andrew Rebori; Century of Progress International Exhibition, 1933-34; the Saugatuck artists colony; Mies's welcoming ceremony; Schmidt, Garden & Erikson; the American Institute of Architects; the Cliff Dwellers Club.

Student project, Armour Institute of Technology: A Memorial Tablet for John Wellborn Root, 1922. Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Dorcas Chapel, Marian College; Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, 1966.
Photo by Bill Engdahl for Hedrich-Blessing, Chicago Historical Society, HB-30912G; courtesy of Margaret McCurry.

Interview Excerpt

"I decided to go up to Saugatuck and enroll in the school of painting and at least spend the summer brushing up on my drawing and painting capabilities....The Oxbow Inn at Saugatuck is based on the geographical fact that some years ago the Kalamazoo River changed its course with a slight amount of help from the government engineers. It made a long sweeping curve as it approached Lake Michigan and created a shape similar to an oxbow,...The lagoon was clear water surrounded by sand dunes and heavy vegetation and seemed to be an ideal place, for a number of painters, many of them teachers at the Art Institute [of Chicago], who wanted a place to spend their summers, who wanted to establish a school of painting so that they would have some income during the summer....[They] set up an operation which might be somewhat parallel to the many schools of painting that had been established in Provincetown. " (p. 70)

Additional Resources

Paul D. McCurry images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives

Funding for this oral history was provided by Stanley Tigerman.
Publication of this oral history in web-accessible form was made possible by the generous support of The Vernon and Marcia Wagner Access Fund at The Art Institute of Chicago, The James & Catherine Haveman Foundation, The Reva and David Logan Family Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Daniel Logan and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.