Van Slyke, Elmer Witter (1861–1943)

By: Andrew Klooster

Type: Biography

Published: May 24, 2021

Updated: November 18, 2021

Elmer Witter Van Slyke, architect, son of Peter Van Slyke and Hannah Maria (Edwards) Van Slyke, was born in Eagle, Wyoming County, New York, on April 11, 1861. Van Slyke was the sixth of seven children from a farming family. The family had moved to Hamilton, Missouri, by 1870. Van Slyke graduated from Hamilton High School before working as a carpenter and joiner. He was trained as an architect in New York City and began working in an architect’s office in Friendship, New York, in 1885. He established his own office in the village of Lestershire (now called Johnson City), New York, in 1891. In 1892 he was elected as one of the first of Lesterhire’s trustees and helped draft the town’s bylaws. After moving to Binghamton, New York, in 1896, he began a professional partnership with Clyde H. Woodruff. The two collaborated for many years and eventually moved their firm to Oklahoma City in 1910.

Van Slyke and Woodruff came to Fort Worth in 1914 to oversee the construction of the First Christian Church, which they had designed. The two subsequently moved their practice to Fort Worth at the start of the following year. Van Slyke spent the rest of his life in Fort Worth and became a member of the First Christian Church, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Van Slyke and Woodruff designed many significant buildings during their partnership in Fort Worth. Their firm designed the Masonic Shrine Mosque, which was completed in 1919 and burned down in 1927; the Texas Christian University gymnasium, completed in 1921; and the Denton city hall, completed in 1927. Around ten years after moving to Fort Worth, they ended their partnership. Van Slyke established his own firm, Van Slyke and Company, which designed the Fort Worth Recreation Building, completed in 1927 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Van Slyke served as second vice-president for the Fort Worth section of the Texas Society of Architects in 1940. He retired in 1940.

Elmer Van Slyke married Eva J. Gardner on September 19, 1882. The couple had a daughter, Lydia Kate (“Kitty”). Eva died in 1885, and Van Slyke married Mary E. Swort on April 27, 1886. The couple had two daughters of their own. Kitty died unexpectedly in 1906, and Mary, after struggling with a long illness, died in 1907. Van Slyke married Isabella B. Whitney in 1913. The two were married until Van Slyke died at his home in Fort Worth on January 3, 1943. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery after a funeral service at the First Christian Church. Masonic Lodge No. 148 conducted the service at the grave, and Woodruff served as a pallbearer for his longtime business partner.

“Fort Worth Recreation Building,” United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, (, accessed May 12, 2021. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 4, 1943. William S. Lawyer, ed., Binghamton: Its Settlement, Growth and Development and the Factors in its History (Century Memorial Publishing Co., 1900). Carol Roark, Fort Worth’s Legendary Landmarks (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1995). Chuck Voellinger, “Denton 1927 City Hall,” (, accessed May 12, 2021.

  • Architecture
  • Architects
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Andrew Klooster, “Van Slyke, Elmer Witter,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 24, 2021
November 18, 2021

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