As I’ve come across a lot of William Allen’s work in my exploring I decided to make this page to organize and link to it.
Architecture of William Allen
The architectural significance of the First National Bank of Layton is in its association with the architect builder, William Allen. William Allen was the most prolific designer and builder in Davis County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Five residences and one commercial building designed by William Allen were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the late 1970s. William Robert Allen was born in London, England on January 1, 1849. When he was twelve years old, his family immigrated to Utah and settled in Kaysville. As a young man, he worked as a farmhand, but was listed as a brick mason by the 1870 census, a trade he learned from his father. At the age of sixteen, he joined the Kaysville Brass Band playing cornet. He also played the violin. He married Mary Simms (1847-1925) in 1876. The couple had seven children. William Allen designed a home for his family at 8 North 300 East in Kaysville.*
In the 1880s, William Allen took up drafting in addition to his work as a mason and contractor. By the 1890s, Allen was listing himself as an architect in the local commercial directories. His advertisements included large photograph or pen & ink drawings of his most prominent works, usually the Davis County Courthouse in Farmington (built in 1891, demolished). Not much is known of his work prior to 1890, but during that decade he designed substantial brick homes for several affluent families in Layton and Kaysville. In the 1895, he enrolled in the International Correspondence School’s curriculum in architecture. He finished nineteen out of twenty-five courses, but did not receive a diploma. A largely self-taught architecture, his eclectic designs resulted from his own experience in masonry and a reliance on published materials. In an article in the Davis County Clipper dated July 4, 1895, a visitor to William Allen’s office noted the architect had between $300 and $500 worth of books on the subject of architecture.
William Allen received his license in architecture from the State of Utah on June 21,1911. By this time, he had numerous residences and several civic and commercial buildings (e.g. Farmers Union Building in Layton; Presbyterian Church in Kaysville). Several other important commissions followed in the 1910s (e.g. Barnes Bank Building, Kaysville LDS Tabernacle, and several schools). In a 1919, letter to his daughter Minnie, Allen boasted he was the only licensed architect in Davis County. He also designed buildings outside of Utah (e.g. schools in Arizona and Idaho, and the Oakley, Idaho, LDS Tabernacle.) Allen is remembered in the community for his temper as well as his buildings. While supervising masons on the Kaysville Elementary School (1918), he was enraged by the inferior work and began hurling bricks at the workers. He monopolized the architectural profession in Davis County and was often upset when he learned of buildings erected without his assistance. Semi-retired in the 1920s, William Allen’s occupation was listed as “architectural drawing” by the 1920 census enumerator. William R. Allen died on October 11, 1928. His obituary ended with the following tribute: [William Allen] left his constructive mark in Davis and other parts of Utah and Idaho. His buildings were designed and built with a strength and honesty which was symbolic of his character.”
The commission for the First National Bank of Layton came at the apex of Allen’s career. In his various designs for the bank building, not only his architectural, but also his engineering skills presented a particular challenge. His first version of the building, completed in 1905, was destroyed in October 1906 by a particularly strong east wind in Davis County. The rebuilt bank, begun in late 1906 and completed in 1907, was similar in design, but featured major enhancements, such as a stronger parapet, thicker masonry, and anchors. In 1915, when William Allen was asked to expand the building, he created a nearly identical bay to the east and made former corner entrance into a grander south facing entrance. While essentially Victorian in style, the expanded bank has more classical elements and represents Allen’s maturing, definitively twentieth-century style. Across the street from the nearly neo-classical bank building is the Farmers Union Building, which was built by William Allen in 1896, a far more elaborate Victorian-style commercial block.
William Allen’s career spanned four decades. The numerous brick masonry residences, churches, civic and commercial buildings are scattered throughout Davis County and other parts of Utah and Idaho. Very few of his works have been demolished and many have been lovingly maintained and restored over the years. His architectural legacy is an undeniable part of the landscape of Davis County, Utah.
Born January 1, 1870 in London England, Allen left England in 1862 at the age of 12 and arrived in Utah in 1863. He moved to Kaysville where he remained until his death on October 11, 1928. Allen worked as a farmhand then followed the trade of his father as a brick mason. He studied architecture and drafting by correspondence; and became Davis County’s most prominent architect. In addition to the Henry H. Blood house, he designed the Kaysville Presbyterian Church, (1888) Davis County Courthouse (1889-90), Barnes Brick Building (1910), Kaysville Tabernacle (1912), Kaysville Elementary School (1918) and homes for John R. Barnes, John G.M. Barnes, Hyurum Stewart, James Smith, John Barton and his own home. Davis County, with its emphasis on agriculture was not a highly prosperous area of the state and the Henry H. Blood home, along with the John G.M. Barnes home is one of the largest and most elaborate homes in Kaysville.