Cunningham, Frank Harrison

March 3, 1880–November 26, 1928

The buildings designed by the Cunninghams were generally utilitarian and lack significant stylistic flourishes.

and Joseph Gilbert Cunningham. Architects. The Cunningham brothers were prolific architects in the upstate from 1907 into the 1950s. Among the hundreds of projects they designed, the Imperial Hotel in Greenville (1911) and Easley High School Auditorium (1909) are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Their Greenville Memorial Auditorium (1940–1957) was a significant Greenville landmark until its demolition in the late 1990s.

Frank and Joseph Cunningham were born in Greenville (Frank on March 3, 1880, and Joseph on July 19, 1882). Both graduated from Clemson College in 1903 with degrees in textile engineering. While Clemson did not have a program in architecture at the time, Rudolph E. Lee taught engineering drafting and structural design as early as 1902. The Cunninghams worked for a time with the noted textile architect and engineer J. E. Sirrine. By 1909 they were practicing as engineers and architects in Greenville. They worked together until Frank’s death on November 26, 1928. Joseph retired about 1960 and died on January 19, 1969.

The Cunninghams designed dozens of residences, commercial buildings, schools, and churches. While most residences and commercial buildings were in Greenville, they designed schools across the state, including in Orangeburg, Pendleton, St. Matthews, Woodruff, Paris, Prosperity, Bush River in Newberry County, Tumbling Shoals, Pickens, Jonesville, and Travelers Rest.

The buildings designed by the Cunninghams were generally utilitarian and lack significant stylistic flourishes. They were among the first to integrate newly available steel construction with traditional brick bearing wall construction, with the Easley High School Auditorium using light steel trusses with massive rivet plates. The Imperial Hotel in Greenville continued the approach and has a steel skeleton frame carrying much of the load of the floors, but the walls are load-bearing masonry, not fully integrated with the skeleton frame.

Bainbridge, Robert W. “Rudolph E. Lee and Architecture at Clemson.” In Campus Preservation and Clemson Historic Resources. Clemson, S.C.: Clemson University College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, 1995.

Wells, John E., and Robert E. Dalton. The South Carolina Architects 1885–1935: A Biographical Directory. Richmond, Va.: New South Architectural Press, 1992.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Cunningham, Frank Harrison
  • Coverage March 3, 1880–November 26, 1928
  • Author
  • Keywords prolific architects, Imperial Hotel in Greenville, Easley High School Auditorium, degrees in textile engineering, utilitarian and lack significant stylistic flourishes,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 31, 2020
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 12, 2016
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