Written by Shannon Butler, Local History Staff
Poughkeepsie has an excellent collection of buildings from different eras and various forms of Architecture. Several prominent architects have made their marks here but it’s always nice to focus on someone who was born and raised in Poughkeepsie. Edward C. Smith was born on March 14, 1880 the son of George T. Smith and Mrs. Clara Buys Smith. After he studied at local schools he went on to study architecture under the chief architect for the City of Poughkeepsie, Percival Lloyd. By 1910, Smith had opened up his own office at #39 Market Street and began taking on projects. It’s amazing just how many of his buildings dot the city landscape as well as Dutchess County and while most blend in with the crowd, there are a few standouts.
Some of the standard two-family homes around town represent his early works, for example #35 Corlies Avenue which he designed in 1911. That year he also added a large addition to the Poughkeepsie Foundry and Machine Co. But what really stands out is his masterpiece at 93 Hooker Avenue, which he built that same year for clothing store owner Ely Elting. This lovely Spanish Colonial has stucco walls, clay tile roofs and a fabulous front porch with bold colors that really helps it to pop out as you’re driving by.
Here in the Local history room we have several of Edward C. Smith’s personal papers and the bids from local contractors and plumbers who wished to do the work on Smith’s designs. I decided to take a drive through the peaceful neighborhoods of the south side of Poughkeepsie where many of Smith’s projects can be seen. I was fortunate enough to be invited into one of the houses that I had seen the paperwork for which is a beautiful Dutch Colonial located on Whitehouse Avenue. Ellen Gartland who bought the house exactly 100 years after its construction, was very kind to give me a tour of her family’s home. She clearly loves not just the history of the house but also of the neighborhood. The home was originally built for Mr. George J. Lumb for about $12,000 in 1916. She said she and her husband admire Smith’s eye for detail, such as the Dutch door, the staircase railing, the woodwork in the living room and the various curved windows throughout. While the house has had a few alterations, such as a Sedgewick elevator that was added in the 1950s, and a more modern and expanded kitchen, the Gartland family has endeavored to keep the home’s historic character.
Besides building several of the private residences in the south side, Smith also built several public buildings during the course of his career. He made the additions to #31-37 Market Street (which is part of the Bardavon building) in 1912. That year he also designed the first Ebenezer Baptist Church on Winnikee Avenue, which has since been demolished, and a new church has been constructed. In 1916 he designed the Samuel Bowne Memorial Hospital and Preventorium which is now part of Dutchess County Community College. In 1917 he designed the main section of the Charles B. Warring School on Mansion Street. One of his biggest projects was the additions he made to the corner of Main Street and the Luckey, Platt and Co. store in 1923. Sadly the credit for this project seems to go to Smith’s first boss Percival Lloyd (at least that’s what it says on Wikipedia) however, Lloyd died in 1915 and it is clearly Smith’s name on the company’s specifications for the project.
While working on several projects for the PWA (Public Works Administration) during the 1930s, he picked up several contracts to design schools in Arlington, Pleasant Valley, and Highland. In 1939, while working on the designs for the Rhinebeck Town Hall, Smith became very ill. He returned to his home at 126 Academy Street and several doctors were called in. On January 2nd, 1939 Smith died from complications from pneumonia at age 58, he is buried in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. You can find several of his houses within a few blocks from each other in the south side of Poughkeepsie on roads like Hooker, Whitehouse, Adriance, and Crescent. Check your house’s history, you never know, it might be an Edward C. Smith creation.
– I want to thank Ellen Gartland (fellow History nerd) for the tour of her home and for allowing me to use her personal copy of the older photograph you see here of her home when it was first constructed.