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  • Writer's pictureKatharine Korte Andrew

Lorin Andrews Rawson: The Story of a Mysterious Local Architect

Last month we received an inquiry from a homeowner. This isn’t so uncommon, however, this homeowner owns a house in Weaverville, North Carolina! Her home, known as “Rhododendron Hall,” was built by an architect who spent much of his career in Hinsdale.

 

While she knew the architect’s name, Lorin Andrews Rawson, there was a problem: “I’ve been trying to dig up more information on him, which is a challenge since he was apparently a private person and a lifelong bachelor who has faded into obscurity since his death in 1961.”

 

And thus started our interesting research into the mysterious, reclusive architect Lorin Andrews Rawson.

 

Lorin Andrews Rawson

Lorin Andrews Rawson was born on 17 August 1874 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to William L. Rawson and Clara Andrews.[1] By the time Lorin was six years old, the Rawson family had moved to Staunton, Virginia. Not much is known about Lorin Andrews Rawson’s childhood, except that he grew up with three older siblings and one younger brother.

 

Clara Elizabeth Andrews married William Levi Rawson in Knox County, Ohio on 28 November 1866.[2] Clara was born to Lorin Andrews and Sarah Rebecca Gates on 10 November 1845 in Ohio.[3]

 

Lorin Andrews, the grandfather of our subject, Lorin Andrews Rawson, as well as his namesake, was a teacher and, later, in 1853, became President of Kenyon College.[4] He earned a law degree, but never practiced as a lawyer, deciding that education was his priority.[5] A post-contemporary, but relevant source, remarks, “Lorin Andrews, LL. D., president of Kenyon College, and colonel of the 4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Militia, was no ordinary man. His decision, energy, and disinterestedness, with his piety, qualified him for any position.”[6]



Etching and signature of Lorin Andrews from Cyclopedia of National Biography, 1891.
Etching and signature of Lorin Andrews from Cyclopedia of National Biography, 1891.


He was allegedly the first man to volunteer to serve for the Union from Ohio in the early days leading up to the Civil War.[7] As the Civil War was just beginning, “and the call for volunteers having been made, the president of Kenyon College asked of the Faculty a leave of absence for one year, with a view of aiding his country in repelling the invading foe.”[8]He raised a company in Knox County, Ohio, and became their captain.

 

Lorin Andrews was promoted to colonel during his service in the Civil War. His life, however, was cut short, as he caught “camp fever” and was carried home, on a “bed” or a “mattress” to Gambier, Ohio, to die peacefully surrounded by his family at the age of 42.[9]


Ohio Historical Marker for Lorin Andrews, installed 2003.
Ohio Historical Marker for Lorin Andrews, installed 2003.

After the death of her husband, Lorin Andrews, his wife, our subject’s grandmother, Sarah was appointed postmistress at Gambier, Ohio by President Abraham Lincoln.[10]

By 1900, widowed Sarah and her newly divorced daughter, Clara, and her children, had followed Sarah’s half-brother, William Day Gates, to Hinsdale.


Sarah R. Gates Andrews headstone in Bronswood Cemetery, Oak Brook. From FindAGrave.
Sarah R. Gates Andrews headstone in Bronswood Cemetery, Oak Brook. From FindAGrave.

William Day Gates, of which there will be an entire other biography written, was the founder of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company. He was a well-known Hinsdalean who lived at 134 North Lincoln Street.

 

Perhaps through the influence of his great-uncle’s business or growing up in the ever-changing industrial and building age of America, in 1897, at the age of 22, Lorin Andrews Rawson went to school for architecture, receiving a “Special Certificate of Prof. in Architecture” from the University of Pennsylvania.[11]

 

In 1907, Lorin joined the Village League of Hinsdale,[12] an organization whose object was “to improve the material, social and civic conditions of the Village of Hinsdale.”[13]

 

By 1908, he had established himself in Hinsdale as an architect, designing the Charles G. Root house at 134 South Park Avenue.[14]


Photograph of the Charles G. Root House, circa 2005. Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.
Photograph of the Charles G. Root House, circa 2005. Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

Around this time, he was living with his mother, Clara A. Rawson on South Washington Street in Hinsdale.[15] The address of which, 55 South Washington Street, was of debate among the two archivists of the Hinsdale Historical Society, Katharine Korte Andrew and Justin Stauder, for the past few weeks until they kept digging and found a note from a previous archivist that said, “once facing Washington street, this house was moved to face Third Street.” Yet, the address did not switch between Third and Washington until the 1920s! Then, after Hinsdale renumbered most of its addresses in 1932, the address changed to 11 South Washington Street.


55 (later 11) South Washington Street. Hinsdale Historical Society Photo.
55 (later 11) South Washington Street. Hinsdale Historical Society Photo.

The home was previously the residence of Lorin Rawson’s grandmother, with whom Clara and Lorin lived with during the 1900 federal census. The residence was later demolished to make way for the ever-growing Hinsdale Middle School.


In 1909, Lorin was appointed the building commissioner for the village of Hinsdale.[16] However, just one year later, Lorin refused to accept the reappointment:

“President Wood introduced the question of revising the building ordinance, as Building Commissioner Rawson refuses to accept a reappointment under the present code, because of its imperfections and incompleteness.”[17]

The year after his appointment as Building Commissioner, Rawson designed the building of the new Hinsdale Trust and Savings Bank (later renamed First National Bank of Hinsdale).[18]


1910 photograph of Rawson's building for Hinsdale Trust & Savings, now 8 East Hinsdale Avenue, now the home of Coldwell Banker.
1910 photograph of Rawson's building for Hinsdale Trust & Savings, now 8 East Hinsdale Avenue, now the home of Coldwell Banker.

In 1912, Lorin was still living at 55 S. Washington St./227 Third St. and working as an architect in the Steinway building in downtown Chicago.[19] By 1917, Lorin was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons (F. & A.M.), likely the local Hinsdale group. He was working as a manager in toilet preparations for the C. H. & Company in Chicago.[20] What he did with toilets is yet to be discovered.


By the time Lorin registered for the draft for World War I, a year later, on 12 September 1918, he was living at 227 Third Street in Hinsdale and working as a manufacturer for the C. H. Strong & Company,[21] potentially the same C. H. & Company in 1917.

 

In 1920, in the federal census, Lorin was enumerated at 227 Third Street in Hinsdale, living with his mother, Clara, and a maid, Anna Anderson.[22]

 

Besides being briefly involved in Hinsdale’s village government and the Village League, Lorin was also involved local clubs. In 1923, he was elected as Vice President of the Ruth Lake Golf Club, which he had been a member of for many years.[23] He was also a member of the Economic League in the early 1900s,[24]

 

In the 1940 federal census, Loren A. Rawson is enumerated as a lodger in the household of Geo. (George) A. and Elizabeth Plenderleith at 205 West Ayres Street and was reportedly a manufacturer of homes working on his own account.[25] By this time, his mother had moved with one of his other siblings to California and passed away.

 

By 1950-1951, Lorin Andrews Rawson moved to Weaverville, Buncombe County, North Carolina by 1951.[26] He designed and built “Rhododendron Hall,” but he unfortunately was not able to live there long. He died on 27 February 1961 at the Mountain Sanitarium & Hospital in Fletcher, Henderson County, North Carolina.[27] His death certificate indicates that he was a retired builder. In his will, he requested to not be buried, but cremated and "cremate my body and scatter my ashes to the wind."

 

Unfortunately, there are no known photographs of Lorin Andrews Rawson in the Hinsdale Historical Society Archives. Perhaps our neighbors in the east of North Carolina have one?


References

[1] “North Carolina, U. S., Death Certificates, 1909-1976,” database with images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 February 2024), certificate image, Lorin Andrew Rawson, 27 February 1961, no. 4736; citing “North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.”

[2] “Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records,” database with images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed on 19 February 2024), marriage record image, William L. Rawson and Clara E. Andrews, 28 November 1866; citing Knox County Courthouse, Ohio.

[3] Alfred Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, Who Settled in Farmington, Conn., 1640. (Chicago: A. H. Andrews & Co., 1872), 523.

[4] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 522.

[5] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 522.

[6] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 522.

[7] Perry C. Lentz, “The LIfe of Lorin Andrews,” Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin (Gambier, Ohio: Kenyon College, n.d.).

[8] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 522.

[9] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 523.

[10] Andrews, Genealogical History of John and Mary Andrews, 522.

[11] University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), General Alumni Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania (N.p.: n.p., 1917), 166, “Lorin Andrews Rawson.”; “U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935,” database with images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 February 2024); citing “Educational Institutions,” American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

[12] “The Village League,” The Hinsdale Doings, 14 September 1907, p. 1, col. 1.

[13] “Village League of Hinsdale,” by-laws, ephemera artifact, 1909; accessed as “Village League By Laws and Members,” Village League, Community Service, Ephemera Files, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives, Hinsdale, Illinois.

[14] “134 South Park.” Accessed in “House Files” collection, Hinsdale Historical Society Archives.

[15] 1910 U.S. census, DuPage County, Illinois, population schedule, Hinsdale, p. 20A, dwelling 240, family 253, Clara A. and Lorin Rawson; image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 February 2024); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 285.

[16] “Board Favors Low Priced Pump,” The Hinsdale Doings, 22 May 1909, p. 1, col. 2.

[17] “Village Board Meeting,” The Hinsdale Doings, 18 June 1910, p. 1, col. 1.

[18] “New Bank Building Progressing,” The Hinsdale Doings, 2 July 1910, p. 3, col. 2.

[19] Chicago Telephone Company, publisher, “Hinsdale Directory 1912,” Box 123, Hinsdale City and Telephone Directories, 1912, (Hinsdale, Illinois: Hinsdale Historical Society Archives), 52, “Lorin A. Rawson.”

[20] University of Pennsylvania, General Alumni Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania (1917), 166, “Lorin Andrews Rawson.”

[21] “U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 February 2024) card for Lorin Andrews Rawson, serial no. 3493, Local Draft Board for DuPage County, Illinois; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509.

[22] 1920 U.S. census, Downers Grove Township, DuPage County, Illinois, population schedule, Hinsdale, enumeration district (ED) 9, sheet 5-A, household 109, Clara A. Rawson, A. Loren Rawson, and Anna Anderson; accessed via Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : 2024); citing NARA microfilm publication T625.

[23] “Ruth Lake Golf Club Annual Meeting Tonight,” The Hinsdale Doings, 3 November 1923, p. 1, col. 2.

[24] “Business Men to Study Economics,” The Hinsdale Doings, 9 February 1901, p. 3, col. 2.

[25] 1940 U.S. census, DuPage County, Illinois, population schedule, Hinsdale, p. 12B, dwelling 379, Loren A. Rawson; image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 February 2024); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 797.

[26] “Real Estate Transfers” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 25 September 1951, p. 13, col. 4.

[27] “North Carolina, U. S., Death Certificates, 1909-1976,” Ancestry, certificate image, Lorin Andrew Rawson, 1961, no. 4736.


Research Compilers

Katharine Korte Andrew

Justin Stauder

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