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Warren Dennis Segraves was an architect who practiced in Fayetteville (Washington County). He was among the first designers in northwestern Arkansas to promote and utilize the International-style mode of modernism in his work.
Warren Segraves was born on November 7, 1924, in Oskaloosa, Kansas, to Samuel Patrick Segraves and Velma Dennis Segraves. The family moved to Fayetteville when he was a small child. At age eighteen, Segraves enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Serving as a bombardier in the European Theater during World War II, he earned the rank of captain.
In 1946, Segraves married Rhea Ash, his childhood friend and Fayetteville High School classmate. After his marriage, and while working for his father-in-law’s trucking company, he enrolled at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, where he became a part-time civil engineering student. In 1948, Segraves transferred to the university’s recently founded architecture program, studying under John G. Williams and attending alongside classmate and future world-renowned architect Fay Jones.
Graduating in 1953, Segraves moved with his wife and family, now including a son and daughter, to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he worked briefly for the Swaim and Allan architectural firm. After a subsequent work-related move to Madisonville, Kentucky, he returned again to Arkansas and worked for an architectural firm in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). In 1958, Segraves and his family returned to Fayetteville, where he opened his own architectural practice. Segraves’s early years of independent practice consisted primarily of small commissions in the community.
At about this time, he and his wife purchased a plot of land on the west side of Mount Sequoyah, overlooking the city of Fayetteville, on which to build a house for their family. The design was finalized, and construction began, in 1959. An unusual house—recognizable for its modern expanses of glass, use of exposed steel, and machine-like details—the Segraves home initially baffled neighbors, who suspected the intrusion of commercial construction in their midst. Nonetheless, the house garnered interest in Segraves as a designer. Having advantageous connections in the local business community, he received many subsequent commissions, designing houses for several local residents, as well as a number of commercial, public, and religious buildings.
In 1961, shortly after the completion of his house, he was commissioned to design the Roberta Fulbright Fayetteville Public Library (now renovated into commercial office space). The library building was notable for its open, glassy spaces, low-slung modern proportions, and use of black-painted exposed-steel framing. Other prominent buildings designed by Segraves include the University of Arkansas Wesley Chapel, the Southwestern Electric Power Company in Fayetteville (now a bank headquarters), the Fayetteville Federal Building (now the John Paul Hammerschmidt Federal Building), and the Center Plaza Building (now the E. J. Ball Plaza building) near the Fayetteville downtown square, nearly all utilizing his hallmark forms and materials.
Segraves’s designs reflected the work of several contemporary designers, including the California Modernism of Craig Ellwood, and especially the International-style designs of the German-American architect Mies van der Rohe. In addition to this strong influence, Segraves’s work retained its local sensibility by maintaining a structural simplicity endemic to the Ozarks. He employed and collaborated with several notable architects practicing in Fayetteville, including another architecture school classmate, Ernie Jacks, who was to develop a significant local practice of his own.
Segraves died on March 9, 1978, and is buried in Fayetteville National Cemetery.
For additional information:American Architects Directory. 3rd ed. New York: R. W. Booker Company, 1970.
Warren D. Segraves Papers. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Gregory HermanUniversity of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated 5/2/2017
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