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.
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.
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.