HARRIS, PAUL WESLEY (1902–1958).
One of Oklahoma's most prominent architects, Paul Harris designed among other buildings the iconic, Modern-style National Guard Armory in Lawton. Constructed in 1954–55, the main armory building featured a concrete dome roof with the two support buildings, each having highly distinctive concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roofs. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR07000519).
The son of Moses Emery and Ellen Hackler, Harris was born in Denton, Texas, on January 10, 1902. Harris had two sisters and one brother. His brother, M. E. (Pat) Harris, also was an architect, primarily in Utah. Harris's parents founded the Cornish Orphans' Home in Jefferson County, Oklahoma, in 1903 and continued to operate it until their retirement in the mid-1940s. While Moses Harris remained as manager of the orphans' home throughout the period, the family relocated to Chickasha after 1910. Graduating from Chickasha High School in 1919, Paul Harris obtained a bachelor of science degree in architecture from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater in 1925. He married Kitten Hayes in 1928, and from this union came two sons, Bill Paul and Hayes Harris.
Beginning his career in the Chickasha offices of E. H. Eads and Company in the late 1920s, by the early 1930s Harris was operating his own architectural firm in Chickasha. During the 1930s his use of architectural concrete in the design of the Chickasha City Hall merited his inclusion in the WPA's Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner State. Also identified as an unusual yet practical example of concrete construction was the Harris-designed barn at Cameron Agricultural College in Lawton. He relocated to Lawton in 1952 and opened a second office in Oklahoma City.
Harris was a member of the American Society of Professional Engineers and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1951 the Harris-designed Comanche County Hospital was selected as "Hospital of the Year" by The Modern Hospital, the industry's leading magazine. In March 1953 he won recognition for the design of an addition to the Cameron State College (now University) library, the elementary school at Fort Sill, the Comanche County Hospital, and a residence in Chickasha. Harris's other notable designs include McMahon Auditorium and the Hotel Lawtonian in Lawton, as well as Fort Sill's Snow Hall and Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) Open Mess, the last building being completed posthumously with Pat Harris's assistance. Paul Wesley Harris suffered a fatal heart attack in his Lawton home on November 20, 1958.
Lawton (Oklahoma) Constitution. 21 November 1958.
Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner State [The WPA Guide to 1930s Oklahoma] (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1941).
Cynthia Savage, "Lawton National Guard Armory," National Register of Historic Places Nomination, State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Cynthia Savage, "A Modern Response to the Cold War: Paul Harris and the Lawton National Guard Armory," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 86 (Winter 2008–09).
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Cynthia Savage, “Harris, Paul Wesley,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=HA062.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.