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Male, US, born 1863-11-10, died 1940-03-14

Associated with the firms network

United States Government, Department of the Treasury, Office of the Acting Supervising Architect, Wetmore, James A.; Wetmore, James A., Architect

Professional History


Courtroom Stenographer, US Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, 1885; Wetmore transferred from the Interior Department to the Treasury Department in 1893.

Head, US Department of the Treasury, Law and Records Division, Washington, DC. 1896-1911.

Executive Officer to the Supervising Architect, US Department of the Treasury, Office of the Supervising Architect, Washington, DC; 1911-1915.

Acting Supervising Architect, US Department of the Treasury, Office of the Supervising Architect, Washington, DC, 1915-1934; Wetmore was a long-time civil servant in the Department of the Treasury, and was not an architect. He began his career in the US Treasury Department at age 22 as a stenographer. He later transferred to the Office of the Supervising Architect under James Knox Taylor (1857-1929), who held this position from 1897-1912. Wetmore also served during the brief tenure (1912-1915) of Knox's successor, Oscar Wenderoth (1871-1938), Following Wenderoth's departure, Wetmore took over as the Acting Supervising Architect. His office employed many trained architects and it was they who routinely collaborated with local architects to design at least 2,000 federal government buildings, many of which were post offices.


High School/College

Wetmore had a high school education in NY, and later matriculated to earn a law degree from George Washington University (GWU) Law School, taking night school courses. He obtained his degree in 1896.



Wetmore was born in Bath, NY, and spent his formative years residing briefly in Iowa (c. 1874) and in Hornellsville, NY, by at least 1877. The US Census of 1880 located the Wetmores in Hornellsville, where it recorded that Alphonso was a "law student," perhaps working with his father. (See, Source Citation Year: 1880; Census Place: Hornellsville, Steuben, New York; Roll: 933; Page: 349D; Enumeration District: 179, accessed 03/16/2020.)

He worked abroad in the Netherlands and Scotland, before accepting a position as a courtroom stenographer at the US Treasury Department; he rose through Treasury's ranks and retired from his supervisory position in 1934.

James Wetmore lived in Takoma Park, MD, a suburb of Washington, DC, in 1900, with his extended family that consisted of his wife and two children, his widowed mother-in-law, Harriet A. Blye (born 07/1823 in NY), a widowed sister-in-law, Estelle Wetmore (born 06/1862 in WI), a dressmaker, Estelle's son, Burton F. Wetmore (born 10/1884 in WI), and a servant, Rosie L. Brown (born 11/1881 in VA).

According to US Federal Censuses of 1910 and 1920, he resided at 1336 Oak Street in Washington, DC, in the earlier year with his wife and son only. In 1920, he lived with his wife, daughter, Viola, her husband Lee M. Corrick (born c. 1887 in MD), a clerk who worked in the US Railroad Administration (USRA, a wartime agency that operated from 1917-1920), and the Corricks' daughter, Aline (born c. 1901). (See, Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Precinct 10, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T624_155; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0206; FHL microfilm: 1374168, accessed 03/16/2020 and, Source Citation Year: 1920; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_213; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 311, accessed 03/16/2020.)

By 1930, Wetmore lived with his son, William (born c. 1888 in Washington, DC), his wife, Carrie, (born c. 1889 in MD), and their two children, Dorothy (born c. 1920 in Washington, DC) and William (born c. 1922 in Washington, DC) at 5506 13th Street NW. Wetmore was a widower at this time. An aunt of William's, Jennie Aldrich, (born c. 1861 in NY), also a widow, resided in the same house. (See, Source Citation,Year: 1930; Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0366; FHL microfilm: 2340038, accessed 03/16/2020.)

He moved to Coral Gables, FL, in 1934. A year later, he lived at 1433 Mendavia Avenue, Coral Gables, Miami County, FL. He died in Coral Gables in 1940 at the age of 76.


He was the son of Justus and Cornelia O. Brownell Wetmore, both of whom had been born in NY.

Justus Ford Wetmore (born 1824 in NY-d. 1909), was a lawyer. His mother Cornelia (born c. 1841 in NY) managed the household that contained four children, James the eldest, Elouise (born c. 1870 in NY), William (born c. 1874 in IA) and Jennie (born c. 1877 in NY).


James A. Wetmore married twice; he wed his first wife, Hattie Viola Blye (born 09/26/1861 or 1862 in Syracuse, NY-d. 03/31/1922 in Washington, DC), c. 1883. Hattie was one of six children (four of whom survived).

Later in life, he married Anna Polk Wetmore (born c. 1864 in GA) between 1930-1935. They resided in the State of FL together after his retirement.


With Hattie, he had two children, Viola M. Wetmore Corrick (born 09/1884 in NY) and William (born 02/1886 in Washington, DC); in 1930, William worked as a conductor for the Pullman Company.

Biographical Notes

In her book on the Supervising Architects of the Treasury, Antoinette Lee wrote of Wetmore: " When [Oscar] Wenderoth resigned, Wetmore became acting supervising architects, a position he relished, but he never presumed to be named 'permanent' supervising architect because of his respect for the work of architects. His hold on the position for a long period of time can be ascribed to what was later said of him: 'His knowledge of the workings of his organization and his shrewd understanding of the mental processes of the gentlemen before whom he talked made his testimonies masterpieces of clarity and tact. The legislators admired and respected him.'" (See Antoinette J. Lee, Architects to the Nation, [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000], p. 222.)

Wetmore had a genuine interest in architecture and worked well with architects, under his employ. He provided them some creative latitude, but also standardized governmental building work to a great extent. The scale, materials and finishes of a government building bore a direct reflection of its location, prominence and income, a system that he worked out with Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo, Jr., (1863-1941), a son-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924).

Wetmore became a 33rd-degree Mason, and was active as an officer in the Masonic organization.

A Liberty Ship constructed during World War II, operated by William J. Rountree, was named in Wetmore’s honor. (See Greg H. Williams, The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes with a History of the Jeremiah O’Brien, [Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Incorporated, Publishers], p. 119.)

Associated Locations

  • Bath, NY (Architect's Birth)
    Bath, NY

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  • Coral Gables, FL (Architect's Death)
    Coral Gables, FL 33146

PCAD id: 2001