Architect Walter Frederic Martens (March 15, 1890-July 8, 1969) was born in Danville, Illinois. His early training was in the office of architect L. F. W. Stuebe of Danville, where he worked as a draftsman from 1913 to 1918 and as a junior member from 1919 to 1921. Martens moved to West Virginia in 1921 and opened his practice in Charleston.
Just two years later, Martens won the competition for a coveted commission to design the West Virginia executive mansion, official residence of the governor. Martens’s Georgian revival design for the governor’s mansion was approved with praise by Cass Gilbert, architect of the nearby state capitol. The mansion’s completion in 1925 opened the door for many new commissions in Charleston and elsewhere in the state. In 1929, Martens completed the work for Homeland, a skillfully designed Colonial-revival residence in Lewisburg. Martens designed several distinctive Charleston homes in revival styles using stone, including the house of Mrs. Cyrus W. Hall at Ruffner and Kanawha Boulevard and Torquilstone for the son of Governor MacCorkle. Martens’s mastery of revival styles was demonstrated throughout the 1920s in designs for many of West Virginia’s churches and residences, and also in the Science and Liberal Arts Halls of Davis & Elkins College (1924) and in the French Chateauesque style of the Charleston Woman’s Club.
The 1930s practice of Walter Martens is characterized by a shift to the contemporary styles of Art Deco and Moderne. Deco-style designs by Martens include the 1935 Cavalier and Belvedere Apartments, both in Charleston. With the ambitious Kanawha Boulevard still under construction, Martens completed a larger Deco-style project at Riverview Terrace apartments in 1937. He formed a new partnership with his son, Robert, beginning in 1941. In the 1940s and later, Martens and Son designed several modern buildings including Ripley High School and the Charleston Civic Center.
Walter Martens served on the state Board of Architects, and in 1944–45 he was the West Virginia chapter president of the American Institute of Architects. In 1952, he was bestowed with the distinctive honor of fellowship in the AIA. Martens died in Charleston.
This Article was written by Carl Agsten Jr.
Last Revised on October 08, 2010
Clark, Walter E., ed. West Virginia Today. New Orleans: West Virginia Editorial Association, 1941.
Shearer, Connie. Homeland. Charleston Gazette, 5/28/1986.
New Civic Center. The Architectural Record, (Nov. 1956).