Architect. Wilson was born on November 20, 1864, in Hartsville to Dr. Furman Edwards Wilson and Jane Lide Coker. He earned an A.B. in civil engineering in 1886 and the C.E. degree in 1888 from South Carolina College. Beginning his career as a railroad engineer in Columbia and Roanoke, Virginia, Wilson entered architectural practice in 1891 in Roanoke. By 1896 he had returned to Columbia to enter into partnership with William Augustus Edwards. Wilson & Edwards’s designs included the Masonic Temple of Columbia (1898–1900), the People’s Bank of Anderson (1899), and the First Baptist Church of Sumter (1900–1901). From 1896 to 1899 Wilson also served as Columbia’s city engineer and superintendent of the waterworks. He completed a course of architectural study in 1900 in the Atelier H. Duray at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He returned to Columbia that year to an expanded private practice that included such notable design projects as the Darlington Graded School. Wilson and Edwards dissolved their partnership in 1901.
Between 1904 and 1907 Wilson made repairs to and rebuilt parts of the South Carolina State House, which had been substantially completed by Frank P. Milburn in 1903. From 1905 to 1907 his collaboration with Henry Ten Eyck Wendell produced Coppin Hall at Allen University (1906–1907), First Baptist Church of Hartsville (1906–1907), and Neville Hall at Presbyterian College (1906–1907). Wilson’s association with Edwin D. Sompayrac (1907–1918) and James B. Urquhart (1907–1910) was arguably the state’s most successful partnership prior to World War I and coincided with Wilson’s tenure as architect for the University of South Carolina (USC). The firm’s designs included Davis (1908) and LeConte (1909–1910) Colleges at USC, Davidson Hall at Coker College (1908–1910), the J. L. Coker & Company Department Store in Hartsville (1909–1910), the Gresham Hotel in Columbia (1912), construction supervision of the Palmetto Building in Columbia (1912–1913), Camden’s Carnegie Library (1915), and the Darlington High School (1915). Wilson took George R. Berryman and J. Robie Kennedy as associates in 1923 and 1924, respectively, only to end that partnership as early as 1927. Important works by Wilson, Berryman & Kennedy included several buildings at Limestone College, Greenwood High School (1925), and the Andrew Jackson Hotel of Rock Hill (1925–1926). Harold Tatum joined Wilson as his final associate in 1929 and remained until Wilson’s death in 1933. Wilson & Tatum were credited with the design of Sumter’s Tuomey Hospital (1929–1930) and the Cheraw Post Office (1931–1932).
Wilson was arguably the state’s most significant and influential early twentieth-century architect. His practice was both regional and varied in nature, and his office was perhaps the first in the state to encompass all disciplines involved in building construction and thereby reflected more than most the complexities of modern architectural practice. In 1914 Wilson became the first twentieth-century South Carolinian to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, after having been elected the South Carolina chapter’s charter president the previous year. He served as the first chairman of the South Carolina Board of Architectural Examiners from 1917 to 1933 and helped draft the state’s first building codes.
Wilson married Adeline McKenzie Selby on December 23, 1889. The couple had two daughters. He died in Columbia on January 26, 1933, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Wells, John E., and Robert E. Dalton. The South Carolina Architects, 1885–1935: A Biographical Directory. Richmond, Va.: New South Architectural Press, 1992.
Withey, Henry F., and Elsie Rathburn Withey. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased). 1956. Reprint, Los Angeles: Hennessey and Ingalls, 1970.