The firm developed into the premier architectural, engineering, and planning concern in South Carolina and the Southeast by the late 1950s and remained so well into the 1970s.
Founded in 1946 by William Gordon Lyles (1913–1981) and known widely as LBC&W, the firm developed into the premier architectural, engineering, and planning concern in South Carolina and the Southeast by the late 1950s and remained so well into the 1970s. Lyles, born in Whitmire, earned a B.S. in architecture from Clemson College in 1934 and worked for several years with Wessinger & Stork, a prominent local firm. In 1938 Lyles formed a partnership with Bob Stork, his brother-in-law. The designs of Stork & Lyles included Edmunds High School in Sumter, Mount Tabor Lutheran Church in West Columbia, and Grier Hall at Erskine College.
Lyles’s military service during World War II with the chief engineer’s staff and his design and construction achievements during the war effort set the stage for the establishment of LBC&W. In November 1945 Lyles began assembling the principals of his post-war firm: Thomas J. Bissett of Tampa, Florida; William A. Carlisle of Spartanburg; and Louis M. Wolff of Allendale–all Clemson architectural graduates, World War II veterans, and former associates of Lyles during the war. The firm was established in 1946 as William G. Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle & Wolff, Architects, but was incorporated in 1948 as Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle & Wolff, Architects and Engineers.
LBC&W quickly made a name for itself in the Southeast in post-war, federally assisted housing. During its early years LBC&W designed and built more than 500,000 housing units, including high-rise apartment buildings such as the Cornell Arms and Clair Towers in Columbia, the Darlington Apartments and Howell House in Atlanta, the Sergeant Jasper and Darlington Apartments in Charleston, Calhoun Towers in Greenville, and Clemson House at Clemson. The firm also received commissions from Charleston’s Sixth Naval District Engineers, several military installations, Columbia’s V.A. Office Building, and sixteen state school districts. College and university work included Clemson’s Johnstone Hall and the University of South Carolina’s (USC) Russell House and Thomas Cooper Library.
Some of the firm’s more notable commissions during the 1960s and 1970s included USC’s South Building and Tower, the Humanities Center, the Carolina Coliseum, the Department of Education’s Rutledge Building, Columbia’s main post office, Clemson’s Cooper Library, several buildings for Benedict College, Columbia’s C&S National Bank Building and Bankers Trust tower, Charleston’s Federal Building and V.A. and naval hospitals, Fort Jackson’s Moncrief Memorial Hospital, Richland Memorial Hospital, several buildings for the Medical University of South Carolina, and at least six other high-rise apartment buildings. In 1971 the U.S. Army brought the firm design contracts at Forts Hood, Sill, Campbell, Gordon, Polk, Bragg, and Belvoir. The Edgar Brown Senate Office Building and State House complex and Columbia’s First National Bank building are among the firm’s later designs.
At its peak in the 1960s, LBC&W employed more than 350 architects, engineers, planners, and support staff located in Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Columbia, Spartanburg, and Florence, South Carolina. It was the largest firm of its type in the Southeast and among the nation’s twenty-five largest firms. The firm received honors from all quarters for design excellence, community service, and professionalism, including the election of all four of its principals to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects.
LBC&W’s merger with Combustion Engineering Company in 1972 strengthened the firm but brought about closure of the Columbia office. Lyles’s retirement as the firm’s president in 1974, T. J. Bissett’s retirement in 1975, and the nationwide economic recession all led to the firm’s dissolution by the late 1970s.
Gordon, Lynn A. “LBC&W: From the Attic to the High-Rise and Beyond.” Sandlapper 7 (July 1974): 12–14.
Petty, Walter F., Charles Coker Wilson, and Samuel Lapham. Architectural Practice in South Carolina, 1913–1963. Columbia, S.C.: State Printing, 1963.