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Edward Townsend Mix

Architect of Old Main, the original Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1869

From the 1881 History of Milwaukee

Edward Townsend Mix, architect, is a son of Edward A. and Emily M. (Townsend) Mix. He is the eldest of a family of six children, and was born in New Haven, Conn., May 13, 1831.

Both his father and grandfather followed the sea; and were distinguished navigators, as appear in the annals of the Connecticut Historical Society, wherein the exploits of both father and son are recounted. They were both successful ship commanders in the New York, China and East India trade. His grandfather, like Captain Cook, met his death at the hands of the barbarous inhabitants of one of the Pacific islands, while on one of his voyages in 1801. His father sailed for nearly sixty years, and was deemed one of the most skillful ship commanders of his time.

The home education of the family, in the long absences of the father, devolved on the mother, a woman of superior culture, great force of character and exalted virtue. The subject of this sketch came West with his father and family in 1836; they settled in Andover, Henry County, Illinois, on a large estate, which the father had purchased, where they remained till 1845. There young Mix spent his boyhood days, and acquired the rudiments of education and the physical health and development so essential to a successful carrier.

In 1845, the family returned to New York, the father took command of a ship, and Edward began his education in schools of the city. He early evinced a taste for sketching and drawing, but did not at first discover the vocation to which his native talents so directly pointed. He had a great desire to follow the calling of his ancestors, but was discouraged in this idea, by this father, who seeing the increasing inroads made by steam navigation, into the fields of adventure, in which his life had been spent, and the change in the character of the merchant service of both officers and men, under the great influx of foreign sailors, believed his son could do better for himself and the world in another calling. In the summer of 1848, he, by chance, fell into the path for which destiny had marked him.

On a visit to New Haven, Connecticut, he became acquainted with Major Stone, then one of the leading architects of New England. The visit resulted in an immediate decision, on the part of young Mix to become an architect, and he entered the office, where he remained as a student of architecture; and later as an assistant, seven years. At the end of this long term of study and practice, he had become master of his profession, and declining an offered copartnership with this old friend and teacher, came West and settled in Chicago in the Fall of 1855. Here he spent the following Winter as foreman in the office of Wm. W. Boyington, with whom, in the ensuing Spring, he formed a partnership under the firm name of Boyington & Mix.

He first visited Milwaukee in the Summer of 1856 to superintend the construction of some work after their design, and put out the sign of “Boyington & Mix, architects,” their rooms being in Ludington’s Block at the corner of East Water and Wisconsin streets. Milwaukee was a growing city, and a rival of Chicago, and the temporary visit of Mr. Mix decided him to make it his permanent home.

In 1857 the firm of Boyington & Mix was dissolved by mutual consent. Since which time Mr. Mix has followed his vocation in Milwaukee with growing success, and done a creditable life work in building up and beautifying the city of his choice. The monuments of artistic and technical skill are all over the beautiful city and State, and have placed him in reputation among the foremost architects of the country. He was appointed State Architect by Governor Fairchild in 1864, and had charge of the construction of the State buildings till 1867, when he resigned in favor of Colonel Shipman, who had returned from the war, maimed for life.

He furnished the designs and superintended the erection of the Soldiers’ Home Fair building free of charge, and, under the appointment of the National Board of Managers, designed and erected the Milwaukee National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Among the public and business structures in the city built from his designs are: The Plankinton House, The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance block, Mitchell’s Bank building, the Chamber of Commerce, and Immanuel Church. The last name is the finest church structure in the West.

The residences built after his designs are too numerous to mention but embrace the greater part of those built here, with any claim to architectural merit, during the past fifteen years. Milwaukee, which he has done so much to adorn and beautify, is a lasting monument to the aesthetic taste and architectural skill. Mr. Mix is a member of the State Historical Society and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Mix married Miss Mary B. Hayes, the descendant of an old New England family, of which ex-President Hayes is a distinguished member. Mrs. Mix is well known in Milwaukee society, in all its charitable, social, literary and artistic circles.

Mr. Mix died September 2, 1890.

History of Milwaukee. Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1881, page 1499-1500.

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