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Who was Francis Cooper?

courtesy Maria Cocchiarelli

WALSENBURG — The Roof & Dick Building, which is home to the Museum of Friends, was designed by architect Francis W. Cooper and constructed circa 1907-1910.

Francis W. Cooper was born in New York in March 1849. He graduated from Cornell University in 1881, and after working in Ohio and Cheyenne, Wyoming, he moved to Pueblo where he established a successful architectural firm. As early as 1896, Cooper was working in Walsenburg on an addition to an unidentified schoolhouse.

In 1907 he was commissioned by Fred G. Roof and George Dick to design the imposing architectural gem on 6th and Main Street in Walsenburg. It is constructed of pressed brick and has been used for many commercial purposes since it was built. The earliest tenants of the Roof & Dick Building were the Huerfano Trading Company (1910-1926) and the Walsenburg Electric Supply Company (1926-1932). In 1922, JC Penney moved its offices into the second floor of the building, while maintaining retail space down the street. In 1932, the JC Penney store was relocated into the Roof & Dick Building. In 1940, the building underwent modifications, including construction of an addition, allowing JC Penney to use the east retail space. At that time, the north storefront windows were filled with brick, and the interior stair case was relocated. Also in 1911, Francis W. Cooper designed the magnificent brick mansion on Third and Hendren Street for James B. Dick, the son of George.

Francis W. Cooper was the President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Colorado and helped establish the Western Mountain Region. From it’s inception in 1857 until 1892, the AIA had no chapters or components located within the Western Mountain Region. In 1892 the Colorado Chapter of the AIA was the first component to be established within the current boundaries of the Western Mountain Region (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). By 1900 there were two fellows from the Colorado Chapter. They were Robert S. Roeschlaub of Denver (elevated to fellowship in 1900 – one of only three that year) and Francis W. Cooper of Pueblo, Colorado, who was automatically made a “fellow” when the Western Association of Architects merged with the AIA in 1889. Cooper built the Mechanics Building in Pueblo, 1890-1891 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. He also designed homes for prominent Pueblo citizens. The only other fellow in the region at the time was J. S. Mathews of Cheyenne who was elevated to fellowship in the WAA in 1886 and, consequently, by the AIA in 1889. For the next forty years, no other WMR member was elevated to fellowship.

The Roof and Dick building is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the building is significant under Criterion A in the area of Commerce, with a period of significance of 1910-1985. During these decades, the building was an anchor in downtown Walsenburg. This period of significance recognizes the building’s continual use and presence in downtown Walsenburg.

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