Minnesota Historical Society

Cap Wigington: An Architectural Legacy in Ice and Stone

$ 22.95

A biography and architectural assessment of a pioneering African American architect.


Clarence W. ("Cap") Wigington was a man of firsts--the first registered African American architect in Minnesota and the first African American municipal architect in the nation. The public buildings that he designed for the city of St. Paul are a continuing legacy, helping to define the city's character. And his achievements, both as an architect and as a leader in the state's African American community, are all the more significant given the limitations of the times in which he lived.

Between 1915 and 1947, in the Office of the City Architect of St. Paul, he designed an array of schools, fire stations, park structures, and municipal buildings that continue to define the city's landscape. Three of his buildings--the Highland Park Water Tower (1928), the Holman Airfield Administration Building (1939), and the Harriet Island Pavilion (1941, renamed the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion in 1998)--are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wigington's nearly sixty St. Paul buildings now constitute one of the most extensive collections of works by an early African American architect.

Wigington's most ephemeral work, however, may have been his most creative. From 1937 to 1947, he designed six ice palaces and a number of secondary structures for St. Paul's famous Winter Carnival. These stunningly fanciful designs are Wigington's most imaginative and exuberant.

Alternating chapters by Taylor and Larson examine the man, his times, his leadership in the African American community, and his architectural work. Richly illustrated with photos of Wigington's buildings and his drawings, the book also contains a list of works attributed to Wigington. His life story shows the struggles and the achievements of a talented individual facing and conquering long odds.


  • By: David Vassar Taylor
    with Paul Clifford Larson
  • Format: Cloth; 156 pp., 6 color & 79 b&w illus., notes, building list, index
  • Publisher: MNHS Press
  • Product ##: 9780873514156



DAVID VASSAR TAYLOR, dean of the General College at the University of Minnesota, is a scholar of the African diaspora. He writes and lectures on the history of African Americans in Minnesota.

PAUL CLIFFORD LARSON is an architectural historian and author of several books, including Minnesota Architect: The Life & Work of Clarence H. Johnston and The Spirit of H. H. Richardson on the Midland Prairies.



Praise for Cap Wigington:

"An excellent portrait of a talented and long-overlooked architect who made a substantial contribution to St. Paul architecture. This well written book adds significantly to the literature of the architectural history of Minnesota." -- Alan Lathrop, Professor and Curator, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota

"The contributions of Clarence ('Cap') Wigington have for years been overshadowed by such celebrated names as Paul Williams, Julian Abele, John Lankford, William Sidney Pittman, and Hilyard Robinson. David Taylor and Paul Larson's detailed and highly readable illustrated account of Wigington's thirty-year career finally brings to light the life and work of this gifted and resourceful practitioner." -- Stephen A. Kliment, FAIA, author of America's Black Architects and Builders

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