Born in McAlister, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) to John L. and Aimee (Hilton) Kell, John Hilton Kell graduated from Emporia State Teachers College in Kansas before moving to Philadelphia to pursue his architectural degree at the University of Pennsylvania (Class of 1929). At Penn he carried away many honors, including the the Second Prize in the Frank Miles Day competition in 1926/27, and an Honorable Mention in the Samuel Huckel Prize competition for 1927/28. This was only the beginning, however, because in just a few years Kell won the first Arthur Spayd Brooke Memorial Prize (1928), the Faculty Medal in Architecture (1928/29), the Paul Philippe Cret Prize (1927/28), and finally the Henry Gillette Woodman Traveling Scholarship (1931), which awarded him $1000 so that he could travel to Europe.
After his return from Europe, Kell exhibited his watercolors and drawings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Watercolor Club, and in 1933 on the 24th floor of the Architects Building at 17th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia.
Immediately following graduation Kell worked for Paul P. Cret on projects including the University of Texas at Austin, and after his travels he returned to the Cret firm. However, the Depression had begun, and even the prosperous Cret firm found little work. In the reaction to this Kell moved to Washington, DC, and began freelance work for several architects. In 1933 he was hired by Ralph Cameron to work on a project in San Antonio, TX. He remained with the Cameron firm until about 1941, when he began work for the Army Corps of Engineers. By 1946 he had joined the office of Bartlett Cocke in San Antonio, and he is listed on Cocke's 1946 AIA Questionnaire. He would remain with the Cocke firm for the rest of his working career, evolving with the firm into Chumley, Jones & Kell.
We very much appreciate the information that the Kell Family supplied for this biography. Any errors are my own.
Sandra L. Tatman.
- University of Pennsylvania
- Emporia State Teachers College (KS)
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