Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Human Sciences

Major Professor

Robbie G. Blakemore

Committee Members

Mary Frances Drake, Jacquelyn DeJonge, James Spencer


The purpose of this study was to historically document the life and residential designs of Charles I. Barber, senior partner in the architectural firm of Barber and McMurry in Knoxville, Tennessee from 1915 to 1962. Charles I. Barber planned and designed many residences throughout East Tennessee. More than 350 residential structures were documented as being built, altered, or added to during these forty-seven years. Much of Barber's architectural philosophy stemmed from his training at the University of Pennsylvania (1909-1911) which was one of the leading Beaux-Arts architectural schools in the United States. At the same time Barber was a student, architects in the Northeast were designing homes in a variety of styles based on American and European prototypes and referred to in primary sources as American Country houses. The hypothesis that Barber brought his Beaux-Arts influence from his training in the northeastern United States and became a regional force in designing the American Country house in East Tennessee was established in this research. The traditional method of historic research was employed. Source material contemporary to the period was examined to reconstruct the life and works of Charles I. Barber (1887-1962). Documentary evidence in the possession of Barber's widow, Blanche McKinney Barber, and the Barber and McMurry architectural firm was analyzed in relation to stylistic developments used by Barber in his residential designs including exterior, interior and plan analysis. Since few current architectural historians have included this period of eclecticism regarding the American Country house in their analysis, research on the Beaux-Arts academic principles as they applied to domestic architecture (1910-1930) was complicated. Interpretations were based on primary sources from Barber's clipping files and the Main Library, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After examining the sources it was determined that Charles I. Barber like his northeastern contemporaries designed American Country houses based on a variety of styles adapted from American and European prototypes in an original manner with modern features. This research centered on the influence of Barber's early childhood on his later professional life; his educational background which formed the basis for his approach to design and stylistic characteristics; his philosophy of design, his adaptation of historical styles and a comparative analysis between the historical style, contemporary architects of the period and Barber's American Country house designs in East Tennessee; his involvement in low cost housing and the Tennessee Valley Authority; and his stylistic developments throughout his years as a practicing architect.

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