The Short Significant Career of Architect Rolph H. Miller

Rolph H. Miller
Source: Oregonian March 12, 1901

Numerous architects who once worked in the Portland, OR area have been forgotten or simply lost to the passage of time. One such architect was Rolph H. Miller, who died in 1901, just as his architectural career was hitting its stride. He was only 41 years old when he died – the result of complications from an appendicitis.

According to his obituary, Miller attended school at Washington University in St. Louis. He was then hired by the University of Toledo (OH) where he became an instructor and administrator for the Scott Manual Training School. Later he took courses in architecture in the Boston area, possibly at what is now the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It remains unknown how he became connected with them, but in the early 1890s, Miller came to Portland and was hired by the architectural firm of Whidden & Lewis to assist with their designs for the new Portland City Hall.

By 1895, Miller had joined the Portland Sketch Club and started his own architectural firm. From his offices in the Sherlock Building on Southwest Third Avenue,  he designed buildings for the Boys & Girls Aid Society and for Portland Public Schools. He also started designing homes.

Holladay School, designed by Miller, once stood on NE 9th Avenue, where the Lloyd Center is today.
Source: Oregonian May 12, 1900

In 1899, Miller designed a wonderful Classical Revival style home for Julius and Delia Durkheimer in northwest Portland. That home, with its fantastic interior woodwork, is one of the few projects completed by Miller that is still standing. On July 28th, the Durkheimer home will be featured on the Architectural Heritage Center’s third annual Heritage Home Tour.

The Durkheimer House in northwest Portland

Miller died on March 11, 1901, with several projects still in development. One of those was a home he designed for his own family, at NE 21st and Hancock, in the Irvington neighborhood. Miller’s widow never moved into the house, which was then sold later in 1901. It has since been demolished.

Another of  Miller’s incomplete projects was that of the Portland Crematorium in Sellwood. That project was taken over by architect Joesph Jacobberger, opening in September 1901. Miller actually became one of the first to be interred there.

Like Portland architect Warren H. Williams before him and A.E. Doyle  a few decades later, Miller’s career was sadly cut short. In Miller’s case however, he apparently had no business partners or family member to take over his business, so his projects were taken over by others within the local architecture community. This has led to a dearth of information about Miller. Thankfully, we still have a few places like the Durkheimer home, the Portland Crematorium (now Wilhelm’s), and City Hall to remind us all of the quality of his work.

About these ads

1 Comment

Filed under Events, Historic Preservation, Local History

One response to “The Short Significant Career of Architect Rolph H. Miller

  1. Joan Ivan

    One more unsung hero.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s