ELKINS – Jefferson County author and architectural historian John C. Allen Jr. has accepted an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Davis & Elkins College.
Allen’s award came during the school’s commencement ceremonies Saturday. School officials said the award is made in recognition of a leader’s “outstanding achievement in the humanities, original contribution to the creative arts, scholarship or other merits.”
A graduate of Tulane University, Allen is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Vernacular Architectural Forum. He has served on the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission for eight years.
For his 2011 book, “Uncommon Vernacular: The Early Houses of Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1735-1835,” the Harrison County native profiled 250 buildings, ranging from plantation homes of George Washington’s family to the log houses of simple farmers.
In the black-and-white book, he detailed design, materials and construction techniques rooted in the mix of German, Scots-Irish, English and African cultures of Jefferson County.
The book also highlighted innovations in 18th century architecture as well as state, regional and national history and features hundreds of photos by famed Washington, D.C., architectural photographer Walter Smalling Jr.
Allen’s work won Foreword Reviews’ 2011 Book of the Year Award for architecture and earned its publisher, West Virginia University Press, an Independent Publisher Gold Award.
Over the years, Allen has lectured on historic architecture and preservation issues at the American Institute of Architects in D.C., the Institute of Classical Architecture, Shepherd University, West Virginia University, Marshall University, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Va., and many other venues.
In October, Allen made a presentation at Davis & Elkins where he detailed his research for the book and then took part in a panel discussion featuring historic preservationists from throughout the state.
Those who attended also viewed an exhibition of photos and historic maps. Some of the photos, enlarged and framed for gallery display, remain on exhibit at D&E.
Allen, who also serves as chairman of the board of the J.F. Allen Co., also is the son of Davis & Elkins trustee Joyce Allen and John C. Allen Sr.