Architect's Persistence Results in Distinctive Structures
David Ramsey, Staff writer
The Hills Building, at 217 Montgomery St., Syracuse, fails
to qualify as a skyscraper, but it does serve as a soaring reminder of the
legacy of Melvin King (1868-1946), who used stubborn ambition, diligent
labor and an imaginative eye to become a superb architect.
King, born in LaFayette, walked into the office of Syracuse
architect Archimedes Russell in 1888 and asked whether he could work as an
apprentice. King, 5-foot-6, 135 pounds, looked up at the 6-foot-4, 250-pound
Russell and said he would be willing to work for free. He
wanted to become an architect and believed Russell could teach him.
He picked a grand instructor. Russell designed Syracuse
University's Crouse College and hundreds of other buildings during a long,
Russell was pleased to accept King's offer of free labor.
Melvin learned about architecture, yes, but also considered the fine points
of cleaning out the firm's furnace and strengthened his back by shoveling
snow from the sidewalk outside the office.
Russell admired his apprentice's work ethic and decided a
promotion was in order.
"Let's see, King, how long have you been here?" Russell
asked one day in 1889.
"A little more than a year," King replied, according to
brief biography written by his son, Harry.
The free work then ended.
Almost-free work followed.