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Ashford Snowden

Ashford Snowden, Architect [1866-1927]

Snowden Ashford [†] was Washington's first Municipal Architect. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1866, Ashford lived in the city for most of his life. He was educated at Lehigh University and Lafayette College, where he studied graphics and engineering, and was hired as a surveyor by the city of Willamsport, Pennsylvania after graduation. In 1887 Ashford returned to Washington and worked briefly as a draftsman for former Supervising Architect of the Treasury Alfred B. Mullett and for co-architect of the Library of Congress John L. Smithmeyer. He left Washington to set up his own practice in western Virginia, but returned to the city in the early 1890s.

In 1895, Ashford joined the staff of the District of Columbia Office of Inspector of Buildings, the agency entrusted with the administration of building laws and the design and construction of all municipal buildings, including schoolhouses, firehouses, recreational facilities, police stations, prisons, and hospitals. He was promoted to Director of that office in 1901 and became the city's first Municipal Architect in 1910, a year after the post was created by Congress in a reorganization of the building department.

During his term in the office, Ashford designed or supervised the design of more than 150 municipal buildings, including some 70 schools. He had a particular interest in school buildings, and, in 1906, visited a number of other cities to study school construction and design. In addition, he was instrumental in the revision and publication of the city's building regulations in the early 1900s. Ashford left government service in 1921 and practiced privately until his death in 1927.

† Lois Snyderman, Historic Preservation Consultant, Miner Normal School (Washington Normal School #2), nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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