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Male, US, born 1868-08-14, died 1959-09-22

Associated with the firms network

Howells and Albertson, Architects; Howells and Stokes, Architects

Professional History


Partner, Howells and Stokes, Architects, New York, NY, 1897-1917. Partner, Howells and [Abraham] Albertson, Architects, Seattle, WA, 1920-1928; In 1910, Howells and Stokes maintained the main office in the 13-story Woodbridge Building, 100 Williams Street, in New York City.and also opened a branch office in Seattle, WA. In 1911, Howells wrote in the Harvard College Class of 1891 Secretary's Report, No. V: "I am still practicing architecture in New York, in partnership with I.N. Phelps Stokes; the principal change from the former report being that, for the last few years, the volume of our work on the Pacific Coast has called for a supplementary office in Seattle. Meanwhile, we continue to distort the skyline of New York with skyscrapers and lesser buildings." (See "John Mead Howells," Harvard College Class of 1891 Secretary's Report, No. V, p. 117.) The Seattle branch oversaw the master plan, design and construction of the Metropolitan Tract, an office, commercial and entertainment complex on the site of the first campus of the University of Washington. Around 1910, this real estate endeavor for the University's proxy developer, the Metropolitan Building Company, was one of the largest planned ensembles of office buildings in the US.

Principal, John Mead Howells, Architect, New York, NY, 1913-c. 1940. During the 1920s, Howells associated with the younger architect, Raymond Hood (1881-1934), whom he had met at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts c. 1911, on two major projects. Howells and Hood collaborated on the winning design in the celebrated Chicago Tribune Tower Competition of 1922, probably the most important corporate skyscraper design competition of the decade. The Tribune Tower was completed in 1924. Ironically, Howells and Hood's Flamboyant Gothic tower exerted only a fraction of the influence exerted by the second-place entry, Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen's entry. Several buildings on the West Coast reflected the overall massing and form of the Saarinen design, including Timothy Pflueger's Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company Building (San Francisco, 1925), George Kelham's Russ Building (San Francisco, 1928) and Shell Oil Company Building (San Francisco, 1929), and Abraham Albertson and Associates' Northern Life Tower (Seattle, 1929). Interestingly, Howell's one-time partner in Seattle (1920-1928), Albertson, preferred the Saarinen model over his own. Howells also associated with Hood on the design of the iconic Modernist office tower, the New York Daily News Building (1929).

Professional Service

Just after World War I, Howells, at the behest of Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), then head of the Belgian relief organization C.R.B Educational Foundation, supervised the construction of buildings at the University of Brussels. President, Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, New York, NY; Member, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, (aka the National Fine Arts Commission), 1933-1937, Washington, DC. This body, formed in 1910, reviewed design, artistic and planning changes made to the City of Washington, DC.

Professional Awards

Member, American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Member, National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY.

Member, Société des Architectes Diplômés par le Gouvernement.

Chevalier, French Legion of Honor, Paris, France.

Officer of the Order of the Crown, Brussels, Belgium.

Associate Academician, National Academy of Design, New York, NY, 1944.

Howells wrote an article in the American Architect and Buildings News, entitled "Charles Bulfinch, Architect," vol. XCII, no. 1695, 06/17/1908, p. 195-200.



B.S., Architecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1891; he pursued subsequent coursework there until 1894. Dipl., Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, 1897.



Born in Cambridge, MA, John Mead Howells, remained in the Boston area until 1894, when he left for Paris, where he studied at the most important French art academy of the day, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Howells returned to the US c. 1896, settling in New York, NY. Howells also spent summers in ME. In 1902, John Mead Howells's father, William Dean Howells, purchased a summer residence in Kittery Point, ME, across the bay from Portsmouth, NH; after the death of his wife, William gave the property to his John, who visited and maintained it, passing it on to his son John Noyes Mead Howells. John Noyes bequeathed it to Harvard University in 1979. In 1911, Howells reported in a Harvard alumni periodical: "I have been married since out last report, and have a son. I have been a good deal in the West and abroad, and did some special study in Rome last summer." (See "John Mead Howells," Harvard College Class of 1891 Secretary's Report, No. V, p. 117.) John Mead Howells died at the summer house in Kittery Point on 09/22/1959, at the age of 91, and was buried, like his father, in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, MA.


His father was the American Realist writer, William Dean Howells (1837-1920). Beginning in 1860, Howell became integrated into the Transcendentalist's intellectual circle in Boston, MA, and wrote for the important political/literary periodicals of the time, the Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Monthly magazine. By 1866, he became an Assistant Editor at the Atlantic, and elevated to editor by 1871, a post he held for a decade; it was through the Atlantic that Howells promoted his realist literary perspective. Before taking on the Atlantic position, he gained favor with Republican politicians during the campaign of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, writing a flattering biography of the candidate. In gratitude, the Lincoln Administration appointed him to a plum post, a consulship in Venice, Italy. It was during his European foreign service that he married his wife, Elinor Gertrude Mead, on 12/24/1862. Elinor grew up in a comfortable, culturally-rich environment in Boston, her father, Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Sr., (1795-1869) being a successful lawyer and tavern owner. Elinor's mother Mary Noyes Mead, was the sister of John Humphrey Noyes (1811-1886), the founder of the Oneida Movement. One brother, Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Jr., (1835-1910) became a noted sculptor, and another sibling, William Rutherford Mead (1846-1928), co-founded the pivotal New York Beaux-Arts architectural firm, McKim, Mead and White. John Mead Howells had two siblings, sisters Winifred and Mildred.


Howells married Abbie McDougal White (1880-1975) on 12/21/1907.


John Mead Howells and Abbie McDougal White had two sons: William White Howells (1908-2005), who worked for the American Museum of Natural History from c. 1934-1937, and later became a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, (1937-1954) and Harvard University (1954-1974), and John Noyes Mead Howells (1912-1982), who worked in the Education Department of the Boston Museum of Science from the late 1940s until the late 1960s.

Personal Notes

John Mead Howells was the author of three books: Lost Examples of Colonial Architecture, (New York: William Hellburn, Incorporated, 1931), the Architectural Heritage of Piscataqua, (New York, N.Y., Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1937) and The Architectural Heritage of the Merrimack, (New York, N.Y., Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1941).

Associated Locations

  • Cambridge, MA (Architect's Birth)
    Cambridge, MA

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  • Kittery Point, ME (Architect's Death)
    Kittery Point, ME

PCAD id: 2230

Metropolitan Building Company, Arena Building, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1915-1915SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Cobb, Charles H., Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA1909-1910SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, College Club #1, Metropolitan Tract, Seattle, WA1909-1910SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Henry Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1908-1909SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Master Plan #1, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA1907SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Metropolitan Theatre, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1910-1911SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Stimson Medical Building, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1923-1925SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, Stuart, Elbridge A., Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1914-1915
Metropolitan Building Company, University Place Gas Station, Metropolitan Tract, Seattle, WA 1924-1924
Metropolitan Building Company, White, Chester F., Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1908-1909
Metropolitan Building Company, White-Henry-Stuart Building Annex, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1922SeattleWA
Metropolitan Building Company, White-Henry-Stuart Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA 1908-1915SeattleWA
Rivoli Building, Seattle, WA1910SeattleWA
Royal Insurance Company, Limited, Headquarters Building #2, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1907-1909San FranciscoCA
Seattle Railroad and Marine Terminal Project, Seattle, WASeattleWA
State of Washington, Capitol Building #4, Howells and Stokes Project, Olympia, WA1911OlympiaWA
"A city within a city", Architect, 11: 1, 1916-01. Klaber, John J., "The Cobb building, Seattle, Wash.", Architectural Record, 39: 154-160, 2/1916. Croly, Herbert, "The Building of Seattle: A City of Great Architectural Promise", Architectural Record, 32: 1, 14-15, 07/1912. Howells, John Mead, "Nelson Goodyear, Architect and Inventor", Architectural Record, XLII: 3, 259-266, 1917-09. Croly, Herbert, "The Building of Seattle: A City of Great Architectural Promise", Architectural Record, 32: 166, 3-6, 07/1912. Sprague, Tyler, "The Stability of Interior Corners", Column 5, XX: 34-37, 2006. Hines, Neal O., Denny's Knoll: A History of the Metropolitan Tract of the University of Washington, 173, 1980. Hines, Neal O., Denny's Knoll: A History of the Metropolitan Tract of the University of Washington, 1980. Hines, Neal O., Denny's Knoll: A History of the Metropolitan Tract of the University of Washington, 130-139, 171-173, 06/27/1980. Hines, Neal O., Denny's Knoll: A History of the Metropolitan Tract of the University of Washington, 173, 1980. Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State, 126, 1980. Woodbridge, Sally, Montgomery, Roger, Guide to Architecture in Washington State, 126, 1980. Harvard College Class of 1891 Secretary's Report, No. V, 116-117, 1911. Howells and Albertson, A.H. Albertson, architects, Seattle: Successors to Howells and Stokes, "John Howells, Architect, Dies", New York Times, 35, 1959-09-23. Royal Insurance Company's Building in San Francisco, 1909. Seattle Architectural Club Yearbook 1910, np, 1910. "New Stimson Building Adds to Metropolitan Grouping", Seattle Daily Times, 20, 01/25/1925. "Plans for New Building for Fourth Avenue", Seattle Daily Times, 43, 1909-11-07. "Seattle Building Program Downtown Four Millions; Major Projects Under Way or Completed Show Uptrend", Seattle Sunday Times, 18, 10/23/1921. "Work Will Start Soon on New Cobb Building", Seattle Sunday Times, 7, 05/30/1909. Upchurch, Michael, "History set in stone", Seattle Times, C1-C2, 07/22/2008. Williams, David B., Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City, 68-69, 2017. Veith, Thomas, "Albertson, Wilson & Richardson", Shaping Seattle Architecture, 162, 1994. Veith, Thomas, "Albertson, Wilson & Richardson", Shaping Seattle Architecture, 162-163, 1994. University of Washington's Metropolitan Properties, n.p., c. 1951. Johnston, Norman J., Washington's Audacious State Capitol and Its Builders, 31-32, 1988.