DUBOIS WILLIAM (1879-1953)
William Robert Dubois was the most prolific designer of public, commercial, and residential buildings in Wyoming during the first half of the twentieth century. His architectural legacy is still evident throughout the Cowboy State. Dubois also designed buildings in Nebraska, Colorado, and South Dakota.
Born in Chicago on November 15, 1879, Dubois received his formal training there and subsequently worked for an architectural firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He came to the Great Plains in 1901 as the supervising architect responsible for the construction of the Carnegie Library in Cheyenne. Dubois decided to remain in Cheyenne and establish an architectural practice.
Although his clientele varied, he is best known for his public buildings–federal, state, county, and city. The architect's most memorable Wyoming state government buildings include the Supreme Court Building (1935– 36), the east and west wings of the state capitol (1915–17), and several structures on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie, including Hoyt Hall (1921), the Student Union, and women's and men's residence halls (1927). The state also selected Dubois to design numerous institutional structures: the City- County (1918) and Federal Office (1932) Buildings in Cheyenne and the Albany County Courthouse (1931.32) still function as governmental structures.
Dubois's compositions reflect a keen awareness of architectural trends. He was a proficient designer who utilized architectural styles from Romanesque Revival (Wyoming State Penitentiary Guard Quarters/Powerplant) to neoclassical (City-County Building, Cheyenne) to Restrained Classicism (Albany County Courthouse) to Moderne (Laramie Municipal Building). Generally, his public buildings are characterized by formalism and symmetry and are rectilinear in form. While his earliest designs illustrate a commitment to neoclassicism, they also reflect familiarity with popular commercial design. Although the exterior of Cheyenne's Plains Hotel is a straightforward symmetrical terra cotta clad structure embellished by a heavy neoclassical cornice typical for 1910, the hotel's interior decor once revealed a remarkable interweaving of western and Native American motifs. Dubois's work also reveals a love of details and a skill in embellishing his designs, as exemplified by the Supreme Court Building's Art Deco. embossed metal ornaments. Clearly, Dubois chose designs that suited his clientele. They were popular, affordable, and well built. Over the years Dubois designed more than 100 residences, twenty-seven schools, four Carnegie Libraries, and six churches. He also designed numerous fraternal, commercial, hotel, and apartment buildings.
In addition to his flourishing architectural practice, Dubois served in the Wyoming legislature for ten years. In 1903 he was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives and served three sequential terms; six years later he was elected to the Wyoming Senate in 1909 for two terms. His leadership skills extended to the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations. As an accomplished organist, Dubois demonstrated his talents in churches and fraternal organizations and assisted religious institutions in purchasing organs. William Dubois died on May 31, 1953.
Eileen F. Starr National Park Service
William R. Dubois Architectural Collection, Wyoming State Archives, Cheyenne. Starr, Eileen. Architecture in the Cowboy State, 1849–1940: A Guide. Glendo WY: High Plains Press, 1992.