Orpheus Hodge Fisher (1899 - 1986)

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Nicknames: "King"
Birthplace: Chester, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: Died in Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
Occupation: Architect
Managed by: Ric Dickinson
Last Updated:

About Orpheus Hodge Fisher

Orpheus Hodge Fisher was born on July 11, 1900, in Oxford, Pennsylvania, the eighth child of Pauline Conklin Fisher of the Dominican Republic and George Albert Fisher of Baltimore, Maryland. Pauline Fisher died soon afler Orpheus's birth and the family moved to Wilmington, Delaware. Fisher's father was an instructor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Fisher attended the Central Friends Seminary in Philadelphia until ninth grade, when he transferred to Wilmington Central High School in Delaware. Throughout the 1920s, Fisher worked at a number of jobs in Philadelphia, where he was part of a community of African American architects that included the renowned JULIAN FRANCIS ABELE. In a I946 publicity release written by Marian Anderson's agent, Fisher named his employers during this period, including Zantzinger. Medary & Borie of Philadelphia. He allegedly also worked for the Stanley Company of America, designing theaters in Philadelphia. By February 1928, Fisher was working for Heacock & Hokanson Architects in Philadelphia. That same year. Fisher and a co-worker started their own company. They bought a golf course in a Philadelphia mainline suburb intending in reduce it from thirtysix holes to eighteen holes and build houses on the remaining land. The Great Depression put an end to this venture, and Fisher went to New York City in search of employment. This entrepreneurial spirit and professional flexibility was the one constant in Fisher's career and remained with him throughout his life. As with many things. Orpheus Fisher's route to New York, where he spent his thirties. was not direct. From 1929 to I930, Fisher was in Nova Scotia, Canada, helping to design the Glace Bay Power Plant. In l930 he was working for the RCA Victor Company in Camden, New Jersey. It was probably during this stint that he worked on Rockefeller Center, because RCA was the Center's biggest tennant. Perhaps it was during this period when Fisher also worked for United Engineers & Construction Company. Fisher said that it was designing a home for ihe president of the company, DeWilt P. Robinson, that sparked his interest in residential design. This interest strongly influenced his later earner choices. In 1932 Fisher lived in Brooklyn and worked for the New York City Board of Education, Bureau of Construction and Maintenance. Later that year he worked for the American Cottonpickers Corporation in Manhattan performing unspecified tasks. Although be met his second wife and great love, Marian Anderson, in 1915 when both were still in high school, they drifted apart. Fisher had such light skin than he passed for White, and in 1924 he married lda Gould, a White woman. The marriage was not successful and the couple separated. Ida Gould's family raised their son James, born in 1925, with minimal contact with Fisher. It was not until the summer of 1935 that Orpheus Fisher and Marian Anderson rekindled their feelings for one another. This period coincides with professional stability for Fisher. From 1934 In 1939, Fisher worked for the 1939 New York World's Fair Corporation. In 1935 Fisher attended a concert by Marian Anderson at Carnegie Hall. They had not seen each other for more than two years. He knew, just as he had when they were teenagers, that he wanted to marry Marian. She, now in her late thirties. felt established enough in her professional singing career to consider marriage. However, Marian Anderson's constant international touring made it difficult for a romance in progress. Another obstacle was the fact that Fisher was still married to lda Gould. Their divorce was not finalized until late 1940. This period of chaste courtship fostered continuous correspondence between Marian and Orpheus. Their letters document the extensive renovations Fisher carried out between 1938 and 1940 on Marian Anderson’s Philadelphia residence. Fisher joined two rowhouses and applied a Georgian-style facade. He intended for these changes to signify the importance of the occupant. Marian Anderson considered her long-distance architectural project as part of a grand scheme to return to America, retire. and settle down with Fisher. His responsibility, in addition to renovating her home in Philadelphia. was to find a suitable home for lhc two of them. In Danbury, Connecticut, Fisher located fifty acres of rolling farmland with a Victorian farmhouse and barn. Because Marian Anderson was African American and Fisher looked While, they suffered racial discrimination in their attempts to buy a home in Danbury. They ended up purchasing twice the amount of land than they had originally intended, probably in cupilulution to race issues. However, by 1942 they owned their future home. Marian and Orpheus married on July 17, 1943. in Danbury and moved into the farmhouse. They were residents of Danbury for the remainder of their lives. Thc 1940s saw Fisher shift professionally. Although the couple maintained a residence in New York City, in March 1943 Fisher resigned from his job lhem and began working at the Barden Corporation of Danbury, which manufactured indispensable ball bearings needed for the war effort. This job switch allowed him to end the lengthy commute between Danbury and New York City and to begin work on his proudest architectural achievement. “Marianna Farm.” Marian and Orpheus devoted themselves to developing "Marianna Farm“ into a working farm. In addition in farming, Fisher operated a commercial kennel from 1946 to 1952. Fisher designed his wife's studio and the farmhouse. Both buildings were cleanly designed and l-slory with minimal ornamentation. From the 1940s through the 1970s, Fisher received numerous solicitations from people interested in commissioning projects or interviewing him. No evidence was found that Fisher either encouraged or accepted any of the offers. He continued his work in Danbury. which included running a real estate company in which both Orpheus and Marian acted as landlords. Fisher also traveled extensively with his wifc. supporting her singing career and civil rights appearances. Orpheus Fisher died at Danbury Hospital in 1986 after an extended illness. His memorial service was held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury.

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Orpheus Fisher's Timeline

1899
July 11, 1899
Chester, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States
1925
January 5, 1925
Age 25
Hazleton, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States
1943
July 17, 1943
Age 44
Bethel, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
1986
March 26, 1986
Age 86
Danbury, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
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