100 Years of History







The Past Informs Our Future

19th Century Roots

BarberMcMurry architects is Knoxville’s longest established 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 “plan books” created by his studio staff. Many houses (most often in the Victorian style) where 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.

Branching Out

As time went on, the firm broadened into other types of work, such as churches, clubs, office buildings, apartments and schools. These facilities formed an important part of Barber & McMurry’s practice starting in the mid-1920’s. The work and reputation of the firm grew during the 1930’s and 1940’s and included a significant portfolio of educational architecture. In particular, the campus of the University of Tennessee contains a rich display of the work of Barber & McMurry, with nearly half of the campus buildings bearing the firm’s signature. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, the firm became known as a specialist in church design throughout the Southeast. In the latter part of the 20th century, the firm moved into healthcare, designing many new hospitals, medical office buildings and related facilities for regional healthcare systems.

In His Father's Footsteps

Barber’s son, Charles, grew up in his father’s office and soon followed him into the profession. Charles enrolled in the School of Architecture led by Paul Cret at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, George sent Charles on the traditional Beaux Arts tour of European architecture. After graduation, Charles setup a practice in Knoxville and worked with E.A. Seahorn, Dean Parmleee, and his cousin, David West Barber. In 1915, Ben F. McMurry joined Barber to form Barber & McMurry Architects. McMurry was also a graduate of Cret’s program in Pennsylvania. He and Barber launched an active practice of recognized styles of design and quickly gained a reputation as leading residential architects.

Approaching the Second Century

Just after the turn of the century, the firm modified its name to BarberMcMurry architects. Today, BMa’s portfolio is comprised of a well-rounded base of experience in virtually every building type. As the firm continues to grow and evolve, the current partners embrace the high standards inherited from the firm’s founders. Their philosophy adopts the responsible of architects fulfilling the needs of the client, are responsive to agreed budgets and schedules and respects the context into which every design is placed. The firm’s philosophy, maintained by Charles Barber almost a century ago, is that every building must express character in its design and in its effect upon those who use it and experience it.