100 Years of History

1915 | Charles Barber Follows in His Father's Footsteps

George's son, Charles, grew up in his father’s office and soon followed him into the profession. Charles enrolled in the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under Paul Cret, a leader in the Beaux Arts movement, and later toured Europe studying architectural styles. After graduation, Charles founded a practice in Knoxville with E.A. Seahorn, E. Dean Parmelee, and Charles's cousin, David West Barber. In 1915, Ben F. McMurry joined joined the firm, which was then called Barber & McMurry Architects. McMurry, a Blount County native, was also a graduate of Cret’s program in Pennsylvania. Together, Ben and Charles designed many iconic residences in and around Knoxville, notably in the Sequoyah Hills area, quickly gaining a reputation as leading residential architects.

Today | BarberMcMurry Builds on Rich History

Just after the turn of the century, the firm modified its name to BarberMcMurry Architects. Today, the firm's portfolio includes experience in virtually every building type. As BarberMcMurry continues to evolve and adopt innovative practices in sustainability and technology, the firm remains committed to the high architectural design standards inherited from the firm's founders. We continue to embrace Charles Barber's building philosophy: that every building must express character in its design and in its effect upon those who use it and experience it.


1888 | George Barber Founds Knoxville Firm

BarberMcMurry Architects is Knoxville's oldest architectural firm. Its roots can be traced to the firm of George F. Barber, an experienced builder and architect. George came to Knoxville from DeKalb, Illinois and founded his mostly-residential practice in 1888. Barber developed an international following with his designs, which he published in a series of popular “plan books” created by his studio staff. Many houses — most in the Victorian style — were built throughout the United States. His pattern approach to residential architecture became very successful and helped to inspire the Sears pattern house which followed a decade later.

1920-1950 | Barber & McMurry Branch Out

As time went on, the firm broadened into other types of architectural design work. Barber & McMurry designed churches, clubs, office buildings, apartments and schools, including some of the most distinctive buildings in Knoxville, from Church Street United Methodist Church to the General Building, from buildings on the University of Tennessee campus to Candoro Marble Works. Today, a number of the firm's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the 1930s and 1940s, the firm's reputation continued to grow. Barber & McMurry expanded into higher education design — including nearly half of the buildings on UT Knoxville's campus — and healthcare, designing hospitals, medical office buildings and other facilities for regional healthcare systems. By the 1950s, Barber & McMurry Architects was considered a specialist in church design.