Arthur Addison Fisher (1878–1965) worked with his older brother William Ellsworth Fisher in one of the largest and most influential architectural firms in the Rocky Mountain region. Arthur brought to the firm an interest in Spanish and Mediterranean styles. In addition to designing elaborate houses for the wealthy, the Fishers also became notable for their office buildings and hospitals, and they were the first Denver firm to attract significant business from outside Colorado.
The almost universally high quality of the Fishers’ work continues to be recognized today, when some two-thirds of their surviving buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or in a National Historic District. After William’s death in 1937, Arthur continued the firm with William’s son, Alan Berney Fisher, who took their designs in a modernist direction.
Arthur Fisher was born in Canada in 1878, the youngest of seven children. The family moved from Clinton, Ontario, to Denver in 1885. Arthur attended Denver Public Schools and the Henry Read School of Art in Denver. Presumably influenced by his brother William, who started working as an architect in the 1890s, Arthur then trained at the Beaux-Arts Atelier Barber in New York before apprenticing with the New York firm of Don Barber and Benjamin Morris in 1905.
In 1906 Arthur married Florence Lillian Grover. A year later, he moved to Denver to join his older brother’s well-established firm. William Ellsworth and Brother, as they were first called, designed many fine residences in Denver’s Capitol Hill, Cheesman Park, City Park, and Country Club neighborhoods. In 1910 Arthur became a full partner in the firm, which was renamed William E. Fisher and Arthur A. Fisher Architects.
The Spanish Style
Arthur’s early twentieth-century travels in Spain, France, Italy, and Greece led him to favor the Mediterranean style, typically with white stucco walls; round-arch windows and doors; and low-pitched, red-tile roofs. The brothers contended that the Spanish style, in particular, was ideal for Colorado, with its thick masonry walls keeping buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That style influenced some of the Fishers’ finest works, such as B’nai B’rith Hospital (1925) and South High School (1926). Arthur even labeled the Country Club neighborhood, where both brothers lived, a “Spanish suburb.” The Fishers designed Spanish-style stucco gates for the neighborhood along East Fourth Avenue at Franklin, Gilpin, and High Streets. Many residences there were distinctly Mediterranean, including the houses the brothers designed for themselves.
Arthur served on the executive committee of the Denver Planning Commission after its creation in 1929 and helped prepare many of its publications. He pushed for tighter zoning and more green space to protect residential neighborhoods. His fondness for church architecture, probably reinforced by his Mediterranean travels, led him to form a Church Art Commission for the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, fostering distinctive, architect-designed ecclesiastical edifices. Art and his wife, Florence, were active in Ascension Church (1913), 600 Gilpin Street, which he designed. He was socially active as a horseman and member of the Cactus Club, Mile High Club, City Club, and American Institute of Architects, where he served as president of the Colorado chapter.
After William’s death in 1937, Arthur took in William’s son, Alan, as a partner. Arthur’s nephew steered the firm away from revival styles and toward modern architecture.
Later Life and Legacy
Arthur Fisher retired in 1959 and died in 1965 at his last residence, 3601 South Franklin Street in Cherry Hills, an affluent Denver suburb where he had designed houses. With his brother and nephew, he became a dominant force in Denver architecture in the first half of the twentieth century.