Nairne Fisher

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Nairne Fisher
Personal information
Name Nairne W. Fisher
Nationality United States
Born Peoria, Illinois, United States
Died Florida, United States
Significant buildings Rice County MN Courthouse, Pope County MN Courthouse, Backus High School International Falls, Mundelein College, Chicago IL, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Cloud.
Awards and prizes National Register of Historic Places (4), Chicago Landmark

Fisher was a St. Cloud architect of some repute having opened an office in that city in 1922. Fisher had designed some other notable Minnesota buildings including the Rice (Faribault) [1] and Pope (Glenwood) county courthouses, which are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He gained a reputation for numerous public buildings. In addition to designing his own home in St. Cloud (which still stands), Fisher also designed St. Mary’s Church, Jefferson and Garfield Grade Schools, Cathedral High School, and St. Anthony’s Church and School. His reputation and success assured, by 1938 he opened offices in Chicago, St. Paul and Milwaukee. Soon after, he moved to Washington, D.C. where he opened another office. Many of Fisher’s buildings were constructed with the use of Public Works Administration funding during the 1930s. As an architect, Fisher apparently played an important role in the process of applying for funds. In 1935 he designed a new city hall and recreation building for International Falls only to have the bond issue lose by 19 votes. Funding for a new municipal building and a library was finally approved and the buildings were completed in 1939 with another architect in charge of the projects. By 1935 the school district was in dire need of an new building to house an expanding student population and overcrowding at the high school due to the closing of eighteen of the county’s thirty-nine schools. An application for PWA funds was approved, after being turned down the first time, and the voters approved the school bond by a margin of 601-35. Perhaps based on his earlier work for the city, the school board hired Fisher to design the new building. Fisher chose the Art Deco or Moderne Style, which was popular from 1925-1949, for the new junior high school which would be attached to the existing Alexander Baker School. The result was an outstanding building which used materials similar to his other buildings: metal grillwork, polished granite or marble, terrazzo, concrete, wood and tile. As with many of his school designs, an Art Deco auditorium was the focal point the building. Other schools and buildings designed by Nairne W. Fisher may still be found in Glenwood, Little Falls, Dubuque and Devil’s Lake. Perhaps his most outstanding work is in Chicago where he designed the Mundelin College skyscraper on the Campus of Loyola University. Fisher was only 28 when he began work on the project and this was his first major commission. The 15-story structure was also done in a “mature architectural Art Deco” style and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Built in 1929-1930, the building served as one of the first institutions of higher learning for women in the city. It is a striking example of “modernistic” style of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The building was just granted official “landmark” status by the city of Chicago in December 2006. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior National Register of Historic Places nomination form, Fisher also designed the Littlefork Junior High School, which was constructed with WPA funds. He also drew plans for PWA funded elementary schools in Ray and Loman in 1938. Fisher apparently declared bankruptcy in 1939 and moved to Minneapolis. Born in 1898, Fisher did most of his major work during the 1930’s. He died in 1980 in Deltona, Florida. Today, as a testament to his life’s work, five of his buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the E.W. Backus Junior High School.

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