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William Edward Parsons papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Parsons

Scope and Content of the Collection

The professional and personal papers, photographs, and volumes surrounding William Edward Parsons’s work as an architect, academic and professional connections to Yale, and his private life with family, particularly immediate family, 1873-1992.

Professional materials mainly document his work as an architect and city planner but also cover his architectural education and training. Items include articles, a list of his reference works, postcards, calling cards, certificates, clippings, correspondence, date books, drawings, financial statements for projects, a filled-out form with Parsons’s qualifications, materials from a scrapbook, and an announcement of the partnership between Parsons and Edward Bennett. Design work represents a large portion of the professional documents, with an emphasis on plans and blueprints and including some of his work from the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Two volumes from Bennett, Parsons & Frost also contain plans and images from architectural and city-planning projects. The posthumous items that form part of the collection are most likely research done by descendants on Parsons.

Correspondence forms the bulk of the personal papers, with a majority of the letters between Parsons and his wife, Myra. Other materials include biographical information, miscellaneous clippings (including posthumous ones from World War II), documentation of Parsons’s estate, financial documents, obituaries and papers regarding memorials for Parsons, and travel memorabilia from Europe (mainly France).

Photographs span both professional and personal subjects, such as architecture, portraits of Parsons, and family members. The photo albums cover Parsons’s work in the Philippines.


  • Creation: 1873-1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1873 - 1939



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The William Edward Parsons papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The William Edward Parsons papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of William Edward Parsons

Chicago architect who specialized in city planning.

William Edward Parsons was born June 19, 1872 in Akron, Ohio to William Cheney Parsons and Sarah Day (Seymour) Parsons. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale College in 1895 and subsequently completed a B.S. in architecture at Columbia University in 1898. From 1898 to 1901, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, including one year during which he received the McKim Travelling Fellowship from Columbia University.

Upon his return to the States in 1901, Parsons began work at the office of John Galen Howard in New York City. In 1905, he became the Consulting Architect to the United States government in the Philippines. His work covered multiple cities, such as Manila and Baguio, and many different kinds of public and semi-public buildings, from court houses to prisons. Examples of these buildings include the Manila Hotel, Manila Club, and the University of the Philippines. His introduction of reinforced concrete was modern in the Philippines, as well as in the United States.

In 1914, Parsons resigned his position in the Philippines and began working with Edward H. Bennett, a notable city planner in Chicago. He and Bennett worked on plans for such cities as Ottawa, Detroit, and Denver. City plans they created after they formed a business partnership in 1919 include those for St. Paul (1920-1922), Phoenix (1921), and Milwaukee (1922). In 1922, Harry T. Frost and Cyrus W. Thomas joined the firm, which then became known as Bennett, Parsons, Frost, and Thomas, Architects. Thomas left the firm around 1923, and the name changed to Bennett, Parsons and Frost. These partners played an important role in designing public buildings and monuments from Chicago (1923-1925) to Palm Beach (1926) and suggesting improvements for Northwestern University (1927-1930). Parsons also became the Consulting Architect to Puerto Rico from 1924 to 1926 and helped design the enlargement of Washington’s Capitol grounds in 1929.

In 1938, he left his architectural practice in Chicago to become Associate Professor of Architecture at the Yale University College of Fine Arts.

In his personal life, Parsons married Myra Louise Matthews in 1911. He and Myra had two children, Louise Kellogg Parsons (later, Louise Stanton) and Seymour Parsons. Parsons passed away on December 19, 1939 in New Haven, Connecticut.


9.8 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 1 oversize box, and 2 volumes)


Professional and personal materials and photographs of Chicago architect and city planner William Edward Parsons.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Professional, 1898-1992, bulk 1898-1939
Boxes 1-5, Volumes 1-2, Box + 1
Series 2: Personal, 1881-1944, bulk 1898-1938
Boxes 5-8
Series 3: Photographs, 1873-1937
Boxes 8-12

Collection Stack Location

1 38 1-2, 1 43 8


Gift of Barbara Schilling Stanton, 2015.

Processed by

Ikumi Crocoll, 2015.

Inventory of the William Edward Parsons papers, 1873-1992, bulk 1873-1939
Ikumi Crocoll
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States