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Solomon A. Layton. The architects who drew the plans and have supervised the construction of the two million dollar state capitol of Oklahoma are Layton & Wemyss-Smith, whose offices are in the Majestic Building in Oklahoma City. That is the culminating achievement in the career of one of the ablest architects in the West, a man who began life as office boy in an architect’s office back in his native State of Iowa, and whose work has since been done in some half a dozen states and who probably has more distinctive buildings to his credit than any man in the profession in the Southwest.
Solomon A. Layton was born in Lucas County, Iowa, in 1864, a son of Andrew and Jennette (Miller) Layton. His father, a native of Ohio, was a carpenter and builder, and spent most of his life in Iowa. Inheriting from his father the constructive talent, Solomon A. Layton allowed no time to be lost after leaving the public schools of his native state before entering upon a course of training that would fit him for his profession. In the office of an architect at Red Oak, Iowa, he made himself generally useful and picked up much practical knowledge, and at the age of nineteen, in 1883, found larger opportunities while employed in an architect’s office in Omaha, where he remained three years.
In 1886 Mr. Layton began business for himself at Denver, and practiced there with growing reputation until 1893. At the opening of the Cherokee Strip he came to Oklahoma, and has been identified with this section of the country most of the past twenty years. He spent two years at Perry, and another year at Temple, Texas, and from 1896 to 1900 again had his headquarters in Colorado. Since then his home has been in Oklahoma. While El Reno has been his place of residence, he moved his business to Oklahoma City in 1905, and in 1907 formed a partnership with S. Wemyss-Smith under the firm name above mentioned.
While practicing as an individual, Mr. Layton’s record of professional service includes, besides many residences, a large number of business and public structures in Oklahoma and Texas, not to mention his work in Colorado and elsewhere. He was architect of several buildings of the Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas, and of the following in Oklahoma: El Reno courthouse, Mangum courthouse, Norman courthouse, Mangum schoolhouse, four schools at El Reno, Science Building of the Alva Normal School, the Normal School Building at Edmond, Wilkins Hall at the preparatory school at Tonkawa, and Morrell Hall of the Agricultural and Mechanical College at Stillwater.
The firm of Layton & Wemyss-Smith, in the seven years of its existence, have been architects for the following conspicuous business blocks in Oklahoma City: Oklahoman Building, Insurance Building, Skirvan Hotel, Patterson Building, Mercantile Building, Baum Building, Owen & Welch Building and the Clarence Bennett Building. Also the following public structures: Oklahoma City High School; numerous ward schools in the same city; two schools at Mangum; the high school buildings at Weatherford, Erick, Fairfax, Tonkawa, Norman, and a ward school in the same place; Stillwater; Houston, Texas, and El Reno; two buildings for the Tonkawa Preparatory School; Normal School at Durant; courthouses at Sayre, Cordell, Ardmore and Sapulpa; the Law School Building of the State University at Norman; the State Penitentiary Building at McAlester; the State Reformatory at Granite; the State Deaf and Dumb School at Sapulpa; the State Asylum Building at Fort Supply; and the girls’ dormitory of the Girls’ Industrial School at Chikasha. With such an imposing record, which puts them in a class by themselves as architects, it was on the basis of unmistakable fitness that Layton & Wemyss-Smith should be selected as architects for the magnificent capitol, the erection of which will cost the state about $2,000,000, and will give Oklahoma the finest statehouse in the West.
Mr. Layton is known professionally and socially throughout the Southwest. His fraternal connections are with El Reno Lodge No. 1, A. F. & A. M.; the Royal Arch Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery and Indian Temple of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Oklahoma City, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. a member of the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. In 1884 he married Miss Alice J. Wood, daughter of W. M. and Anna Wood, of Ringgold, Iowa. Of their two daughters, .Fern is deceased, while Agnes is the wife of Thomas Esco of El Reno.