The Pill Hill Pioneer: Harold H. Crawford

Dated: 10/10/2019

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The Pill Hill Pioneer: Harold H. Crawford

We told you that our most recent listing at 932 9th Ave SW Rochester was a MUST SEE, and it was. Here’s why!

In 1941, famous Rochester architect Harold Crawford designed this Dutch colonial home.

Residence for Hayes Dansingburg (1941)

Photo by Ken Allsen

Harold Crawford was born in Southwestern Minnesota just a few miles from both the South Dakota and Iowa borders. When Harold was 15 years old, his mother Carrie bought a rooming house in Rochester so Harold and his brother could attend Rochester High School.

After graduation, Crawford was accepted in to the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois. With his Bachelor’s degree from Illinois, Crawford worked in Illinois for a year before applying for Harvard University’s Masters program in Architecture. Crawford was told that he would be admitted immediately, but his financial situation didn't make it possible to attend. Then, the chairman of the Architecture department had provisions made where Crawford’s finances would fall into place.

Residence for Harold H. Crawford (1926)

Photo by Ken Allsen

During the summer of 1916, Crawford had returned to Rochester for a brief period. Crawford was hired by Dr. Charles H. Mayo and his wife, Edith to tutor their son who was home for the summer from a boarding school in Pennsylvania. Crawford and the Mayo families had become acquainted through church in the early 1900s. The brief work that Crawford had done for the Mayo’s would lead to a future of commissioned projects. 

Nearing graduation, Crawford was weighing out his options and decided to return to Rochester in 1916. At this time, the Mayo Clinic was experiencing growth and their workers needed homes, giving Crawford prime opportunities.

Harold Crawford’s first commission project in Rochester was a barn for Dr. Christopher Graham, an original partner in the Mayo group practice.


Horse Barn for Christopher Graham (1916)

Photo by History Center of Olmsted County

It was later in 1916 and it to 1917 that Crawford had also completed projects for two residences on Pill Hill. Crawford’s initial project on Pill Hill gained heavy attention leading to three additional residential projects on Pill Hill.

In 1920, Crawford reunited with the Mayo family and was commissioned by Charles Mayo to design a remodel for his home in Rochester. Sixteen years later in 1936, Crawford was again commissioned by Charles Mayo for a remodel design. This time, it was for Mayo's mansion, the Mayowood. Soon after in 1937, Crawford completed his final commissioned project for Charles Mayo, the design of a new home in Tucson, Arizona. 

Residence of Charles W. Mayo (1936) "Mayowood"

Photo by History Center of Olmsted County


In the early 30s during the Great Depression, Crawford was kept busy with his commissions on Pill Hill as well as commercial and public buildings projects being done.

With the assistance of Peter Bross, major projects like the Folwell school in 1930, the United States Post Office building in 1932, and the Rochester Public Library in 1936 were completed.

The Rochester Public Library remains as Crawford’s best-known public building project. After the library moved in the early 70s, the Mayo Clinic purchased the building. The 1937 building is now part of the Mayo Medical School and is known as the Mitchell Student Center.

Rochester Public Library (1936)

Photo by History Center of Olmsted Center

In all, Harold Crawford designed around 40 homes in the Pill Hill area and 150 additional homes and buildings across southeastern Minnesota.

Crawford did not necessarily follow a style when it came to his projects. He may of had a favorite considering his best known houses on Pill Hill and the old Rochester Public Library were Tudor style, but ultimately it was his client's preference that came first. 

A project designed by Harold Crawford is a unique style in its own. 

If you're interested in a home in the Rochester, MN area, please don't hesitate to give me a call. I'd love to help you buy a home and/or sell your existing home. Feel free to call me at 507-990-1721 or email me

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