W.H. Merritt: Moorhead General Contractor and National Register of Historic Places Architect

Moorhead Historic Preservation Tour

W.H. Merritt: Moorhead General Contractor and National Register of Historic Places Architect

Moorhead, Minnesota 56560, United States

Created By: North Dakota State University

Point of Interest Details

William Henry Merritt was born in September of 1854 in Hustings, Michigan to Alexander “Alex” D. Merritt and Betsey Merritt (Davis). It appears that W.H. Merritt spent his adolescent years in Goodhue, Minnesota after moving to the area in about 1857 with his family. There is little information available regarding Merritt’s adolescent years in Minnesota. Later, however, the record indicates that in 1882 William married Harriet (Hattie) Elizabeth Syron. Harriet gave birth to three daughters over the next few years, Edna, Frances, and Lillian. Before the Merritt’s lived in Moorhead, the family had lived in various places including Helena, Montana, Anacortes and Olympia, Washington. After moving to Moorhead, Minnesota from Olympia in about 1890, Merritt would begin his influence on the early architecture of the Red River Valley. The Merritt family lived for many years thereafter in a home on 429 Ninth Street (North) in Moorhead which remains today.

While in Moorhead, Merritt belonged to the architectural firm of Bayer, J.M. and W.H. Merritt. Merritt designed many buildings in Moorhead after 1890 and was heavily involved in private and municipal construction. Some of his notable projects while in Moorhead include the Burnham building, Kassenborg Block (1898), Moorhead Post Office, Moorhead County Courthouse and jail improvements, and the Moorhead Carnegie Public Library. Further, Merritt would remodel and rebuild Moorhead’s First National Bank Block in 1914. Merritt’s influence in construction and architectural design was not just confined to buildings in Moorhead, as he influenced many regional architectural projects in the late 19th and early 20th century in the Red River Valley. Many of his buildings that are still in existence in Minnesota and North Dakota are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Merritt family were influential community members in Moorhead, and participated in the Moorhead Lodge of Masons, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Builders’ and Traders’ Exchange, and quite a few other civic organizations.

In 1920, the Merritt family relocated to Puyallup, Washington and then were living in Medford, Oregon by 1930. W.H. Merritt and family continued to be influential members of those communities, and he would have a tremendous impact on regional architectural design and building construction in the Northwest. Merritt, at this later point in his career, served generally in the capacity of General Contractor and builder, constructing several homes, buildings and developed commercial areas. In Anacortes, Washington, many of his buildings still remain today and are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Some of his associated works, with partner T.A. Long in this area, includes the Anacortes Hotel, Wilson Hotel Block, Anacortes Post Office, Goodwin-Benedict-Havekost building and Columbian School. Interestingly, some of the structures in Anacortes were built or designed by Merritt before he lived in Moorhead, Minnesota.

In Medford, Oregon, Merritt constructed or designed several buildings that are also listed on the NRHP. Some of these historic sites include the Merritt Bellinger House, Merritt Apartments, and the Patton, Hamilton and Edith House. Additionally, Merritt had helped design and construct the Merrick Block and Emerick Building in Medford and served as Superintendent of Construction on Medford’s Masonic Temple (Lodge No. 103) and managed the erection of Medford’s Pre-Cooling and Storage or the Pinnacle Packing warehouse. The Pinnacle Packing warehouse was one of the largest facilities of its kind in America at the time of its construction.

Merritt would be a lifelong member of the Builders’ and Traders’ Exchange Member, and further became a noted speaker and officer in that organization. His significant impact upon architectural history and civic contributions in Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington State, Oregon, and California demand further study and investigation. Merritt’s architectural contribution on the National Register of Historic Places is noteworthy and undervalued. On July 24, 1936, in Medford, Oregon W.H. Merritt passed quietly into reminiscence. While his memory has somewhat departed the national consciousness, his handiwork is ever present on the minds of strangers who reside in his constructions and also pass them by, never knowing their creator.


  1. http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/nrhp/NRDetails.cfm-NPSNum=80002013.html
  2. http://www.douglashistory.co.uk/history/Places/james_douglas_house.htm
  3. John Turner & C. K. Semling eds., I History of Clay and Norman Counties, Minnesota 74-5, 81-5 (B. F. Bowen & Co., 1918).
  4. Improvement Bulletin. 1900. Minneapolis: Chapin Pub. Co. p. 10.
  5. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=60592231
  6. Minnesota News. Duluth Evening Herald, Duluth, Minnesota. June 1, 1914.
  7. http://www.placeography.org/index.php/Moorhead_Public_Library,_102_6th_Street_South,_Moorhead,_Minnesota_(Razed)
  8. Medford. Medford Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon. January 5, 1922.
  9. http://anacortes.pastperfectonline.com/bysearchterm?keyword=A.+F.+of+L.+Cannery+Workers+local#sthash.z92Ncbi2.dpuf
  10. http://focus.nps.gov/GetAsset?assetID=5fc5def7-836e-479c-9497-c273e0ef97b7
  11. http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/buildingnotes.html
  12. Medford. Medford Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon. December 10, 1926.
  13. https://www.newspapers.com/image/136092310/?terms=W.H.%2BMerritt
  14. http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/buildingnotes.html
  15. Obituary. “Harriett Merritt” Medford Mail Tribune, Medford, Oregon. November 02, 1952.
  16. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2LK-JNZ: accessed 21 November 2016), William H Merritt, Moorhead Ward 4, Clay, Minnesota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 61, sheet 9A, family 164, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 693; FHL microfilm 1,374,706.
  17. "Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV2C-4F5L: 13 December 2015), William H Merritt, 1936; Burial, Medford, Jackson, Oregon, United States of America, Siskiyou Memorial Park; citing record ID 59799233, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.
  18. "Minnesota Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FDSC-WY6: 4 December 2014), W. H. Merritt in entry for Lillian Wells, 20 Apr 1915; citing Moorhead, Clay, Minnesota, reference cn2472; FHL microfilm 2,138,920.
  19. https://archive.org/stream/improvementbulle4716unse/improvementbulle4716unse_djvu.txt
  20. http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/nrhp/NRDetails.cfm-NPSNum=80002187.html
  21. "Minnesota State Census, 1905," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SPSJ-7W5: 15 November 2014), William Henry Merritt, Moorhead, Ward Number: 04, Clay, Minnesota; citing p. 43, line 18, State Library and Records Service, St.Paul; FHL microfilm 928,773. Minnesota State Census, 1905.
  22. Ancestry.com. Washington State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
  23. Original data: Washington. Washington Territorial Census Rolls, 1857-1892. Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls.

For more information on buildings designed by W.H. Merritt, visit sites 14, 17, and 19.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Moorhead Historic Preservation Tour


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