William Bowman: The architect Behind the Building

by Rachel Ehnert, Communications Specialist for Weld County

When Commissioners W.C. Levis, T.E. Rowe, and George A. Hodgson made up their minds to construct a new courthouse for Weld County, they knew they would require the service of a seasoned architect. They planned for this new structure to be the “jewel of the plains” - an ornate and towering image of the prosperity and beauty of Weld County. No ordinary architect could be trusted with this lofty goal; the commissioner’s required someone with a lengthy resume, a fantastic artistic eye, and the ability to transfer the commissioner’s hopes for the structure into blueprints.

William Bowman was just the man for the job. A widely-known architect in the West, the majority of his work can been found scattered across Wyoming and Colorado. In fact, some of the most famous structures in these states can be attributed to the design of Bowman, including:

  • Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, Denver (1910)–English Gothic Revival style
  • Jackson County Courthouse, Walden (1913)–Neoclassical style
  • State Office Building, Denver (1921)–Classical Revival style
  • Montrose County Courthouse, Montrose (1923)–Neoclassical style
  • Norman Apartments, Denver (1924)–Spanish Colonial Revival style
  • Greeley Masonic Temple, Greeley (1927)–Georgian Revival style
  • President’s House, UNC, Greeley (1928)–Tudor Revival style
  • Moffat County Courthouse, Victory, Wyoming (1917)–Classic Revival Style

A native of Carthage, New York, Bowman dropped out of school at the age of eleven to work in a woolen mill—as the eldest brother, he was responsible for supporting his family after his father suffered a serious injury whilst working at a sawmill. However, despite this tremendous responsibility and long days of work, Bowman was a studious child. He would return from the mill in the evenings and continue his studies of mathematics and drawing with a tutor three nights a week.

Soon, Bowman had enough of an education to qualify for employment in an architect’s office in Jackson, Michigan. So, as a young man, he moved from New York to Michigan and became a carpenter’s apprentice (at the suggestion of a prominent Detroit architect, Elijah E. Myers, who designed the Colorado State Capitol.) At this position, he learned the basics of construction—knowledge he would later use in his work as an architect.

In 1927, after working for a number of architecture firms across Michigan and Ohio, Bowman was appointed to the State Board of Architectural Examiners by the then Colorado Governor Alva Adams.

During this time, Bowman also served on the Mountain Division of the Architect’s Small House Bureau and was one of 39 architects who constituted the Allied Architects Association, which designed the Denver City and County Building. Bowman was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic Lodge, and the Knights Templar.

After the death of his wife, Bowman moved into his Norman Apartment complex, which he designed, in 1924. He lived out the remainder of his life here, and died in 1944—27 years after the completion of the “jewel of the plains,” the Weld County Courthouse.