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The Architectural Legacy of Wallace A. Rayfield, The Architectural Legacy of Wallace A. Rayfield, 0817316833, 0-8173-1683-3, 978-0-8173-1683-9, 9780817316839,

The Architectural Legacy of Wallace A. Rayfield
Pioneer Black Architect of Birmingham, Alabama
by Allen R. Durough

Trade Cloth
2010. 176 pp.
978-0-8173-1683-9
Price:  $32.95 s

In the early 1990s, while cleaning out the barn on his property in Bessemer, Alabama, Allen Durough discovered the remnants of the lifework of African American architect Wallace A. Rayfield, including several hundred of Rayfield’s drawings, floor plans, business advertisements, family portraits, and graphic art pieces. This book gathers that priceless material legacy into a cohesive whole, reproducing 159 illustrations that document Rayfield’s life and work on two continents.
 
Born in Macon, Georgia, in 1873, Rayfield apprenticed as a young man with the noted architectural firm A. B. Mullet and Company in Washington, DC, before attending Howard University, Pratt Polytechnic Institute, and ultimately graduating with a bachelor of architecture degree from Columbia University. He returned south to teach at the Tuskegee Institute and then to establish W. A. Rayfield & Co., Architects, in Birmingham, Alabama. From there he designed buildings for construction across the south (many by mail order) and even in Africa. Rayfield specialized in church architecture, and many of his designs were for black congregations within the state, most notably the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. But he also designed schools, office buildings, and private homes. After falling into bankruptcy during the Great Depression, he died in obscurity.
 
Durough includes catalog-style descriptive entries and illustrations of Rayfield’s designs for six types of structures: residences, churches, schools, commercial buildings, fraternal buildings, and barns. These entries contain location, commissioning data, and brief structural notes, providing a useful resource for architectural historians and preservationists. A listing of the 359 known Rayfield structures detail their locations in 19 states, plan date, building type, and name. Also included is a biographical sketch of Rayfield, an overview of his publications, and a survey of his professional artwork and advertisements.

 
Allen R. Durough, a Baptist minister, is a retired insurance executive.

 
“Rayfield’s Romanesque architectural style, which incorporated thick walls, rounded arches, large towers, and decorative arcading, defied the more popular Gothic trend [at the time] throughout the south. This signature style is evident in his many designs, including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the site of the infamous bombing on Sept. 15, 1963, and also Tuscaloosa’s first African American church, Hunter’s Chapel AME Zion, and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Chicago.”
—Ashley Boyd, The Tuscaloosa News

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