Allan D. Conover


Men of Progress. Wisconsin. (pages 555-586) A selected list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Together with short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin.

CONOVER, Allan, D., architect and civil engineer of Madison, is the son of O. M. Conover, who, many years ago, was a professor in the University of Wisconsin, and later a lawyer, and for many years the supreme court reporter. Allan D. Conover was born in Madison in 1854, and received his early education in a private school and in the public schools of Madison. In 1869 he entered the University of Wisconsin, and graduated therefrom, with honors, in 1874. Prior to his graduation, however, he spent two years in practical work, one of which was as a member of the engineering and constructional force of the Wisconsin Central railroad, and the other in the geological survey in southwestern Wisconsin under Moses Strong. Mr. Conover's studies in the university were largely in the sciences and in civil engineering; and after graduation he did general engineering work in and about Madison and a season's work on the Wisconsin river improvement. In 1875 he received the appointment of tutor in the university under Prof. Nicodemus, and both gentlemen, for two years, in addition to their university work, acted as topographers to the state geologist, preparing the charts and maps for the first two volumes published, containing the records of that survey, which have become a part of the scientific literature of the state. They also prepared the large map of the state which is seen in many libraries and offices. In 1877-8 Mr. Conover was engaged in general engineering work in Madison, and the following years was assistant professor of mathematics under Professor Sterling; and, upon the death of that gentlemen, Professor Nicodemus, in 1879, became his successor. He next served as professor of civil engineering for eleven years, and during his professorship this department and that of mechanical engineering under his charge developed very rapidly, the number of students increasing from fifteen to over one hundred. From 1881 to 1883 Prof. Conover held the position of city surveyor, and prepared the first plans for a general sewerage system for the city, which was at first rejected, but was subsequently revived, and, after slight modifications by Col. Waring, in 1895, was adopted by the council. In 1884 Science hall of the university was burned, and, as professor of civil engineering, the plans for rebuilding the structure greatly interested him, and turned his thoughts toward architecture. He aided in the preparation of the plans of Mr. Koch, the architect for the new building, and advocated them before the legislature. He was made superintendent of construction for Science hall and for the group of buildings of which it forms a part, including the chemical laboratory, the machine shop and the boiler house, the plans of the latter being wholly his. In 1885 Prof. Conover opened an architect's office which L. F. Porter, his present partner, and two years later a branch office was established in Ashland, and the firm furnished the plans for most of the better class of buildings in that city. The design of the elegant Knight hotel, the First National bank, Security bank, county jail, Breen block and new Vaughn building were their work. Resigning his professorship in the university in 1890, he has since devoted all his time to architecture, spending the three succeeding summers in Ashland. He, with his partner, has furnished plans for about forty school houses, Madison, Baraboo, Fond du Lac, Wausau and many other cities having fine specimens of their work. The university armory and gymnasium are also notable examples of the firm's taste and skill in design. One of the structures in which the firm has taken especial pride is the diocesan school for young girls in Fond du Lac, costing sixty-five thousand dollars, which is of stone in the Gothic style. The Episcopal churches at Stevens Point, Chipewa Falls and Rhinelander, the bank buildings at Shell Lake, Rhinelander and Fairmount, Minn, plans for jails at Ashland, La Cross and Baraboo, asylums and some one hundred dwellings in Madison, Ashland, Washburn, and scatterd about the state, many of them very artistic in design, are the work of this firm. Mr. Conover has, for many years, held the position of bridge expert and consulting engineer to the state railroad commissioner, and one of the duties of this position is the preparation of the railroad map biennially issued from that department. The last one issued, embracing an edition of seventeen thousand copies, is the handsomest and most servicable yet produced.

In heavy litigation Mr. Conover's services as an engineering expert are often in demand, and are highly appreciated by leading lawyers of the state.

Mr. Conover was married, in 1881, to Miss Ella E. Stone of Chicago, and their home is one of culture and refinement, where the distractions of an arduous profession are forgotten amid books and social pleasures.


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