Questions with Dan Fowler of Cromwell

Old State House Museum - Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Join us this Thursday, December 3 at noon as our Brown Bag Lunch Series continues with Dan Fowler, Chief Operating Officer of Cromwell Architects Engineers. 
Dan will talk about 150 years of Cromwell architecture and its legacy in Arkansas. 
The lecture is in support of the current exhibit "Lost + Found," co-presented by the Old State House Museum and Cromwell Architects Engineers.

We asked Dan a few questions about his talk. 

OSH: Can you give us a brief overview of the history of Charles Thompson and Cromwell Architects Engineers?

DF: Cromwell was established in 1885 by a nomadic architect named Benjamin Bartlett. He came to Arkansas to design a Blind and Deaf School located where the Governor's mansion sits today. Before leaving Little Rock in 1890, he designed several public health related institutions. He moved to Mississippi to pursue yet another set of public projects there and left the firm to a young Charles Thompson. For the next 50 years Thompson created a practice founded on 3 principles- design excellence, service to clients, and service to the community. Shortly after Thompson's retirement, his young son-in-law Ed Cromwell joined the firm as a full partner. During his 43 years with the firm, there was extraordinary growth and prosperity that mirrored the fortunes of post WWII United States. In this era the firm established an engineering presence and added two aspects of the firm that Mr. Cromwell believed deeply in: Historic Preservation and Visionary Planning. In the years since Ed Cromwell's retirement in 1984, the firm has continued to build on the foundation set by Thompson and Cromwell and expanding the way we serve our community and clients here and abroad.
OSH: What has Cromwell's significance been for Arkansas history?

DF: Cromwell has been shaped by Arkansas history as much or more than we have shaped it. Through wars, depressions, industrial booms, and growth and expansion, the firm has been a constant leader in its commitment to this community- through service to its clients, commitment to design excellence, and community service. Cromwell has been at the center of some of the most important projects that our state has seen. As or more importantly, it has been involved in shaping people's attitudes toward preserving the past and place making that has shaped the way our communities have grown over several generations.

OSH: What are some of the projects that Cromwell has been a part of that you think are most interesting? 

DF: There have been so many projects- big and small-that make up the complete story of our firm. In our 130 year history, there are nearly 12,000 commissions for projects. In the Thompson era, important projects include Little Rock City Hall and Main Fire Station, Marlsgate Plantation in Scott, Hotze House in Little Rock, Federal Reserve Building (Now eStem), and supervision of the State Capitol. During Cromwell's tenure, the projects became more varied- Governor's Mansion, original buildings at UALR, Arkansas Arts Center, Federal Building, Little Rock National Airport, Winrock Farm, & Jacuzzi Headquarters. Restorations of various Quapaw Quarter houses, Villa Marie, and Capital Hotel, and Maumelle New Town reflect Mr. Cromwell's personal passion for planning and preservation. Today, projects include Arkansas Children's Hospital, UAMS Cancer Center, various overseas commissions, and our new headquarters at 6th and Shall and surrounding neighborhood.

OSH: How does Cromwell continue to build on this rich history of architecture in Arkansas? Are there challenges to carrying on such a legacy? 

DF: As the firm that started in 1885 and continues today as Cromwell Architects Engineers, we continue to build on the foundation established by our founders and champions. Our legacy is not built on the individual buildings we design but on the vision for our clients and communities we practice in. Our biggest challenge is continuing the leadership and high standards that were established by Thompson, Cromwell, and countless others. There are future challenges in the way buildings are used, built, and repurposed- and challenges in the way our community grows. For our firm to continue for the next 130 years we must be immersed in how those challenges affect our community and become opportunities for our clients.