So Minnesota: Olof Hanson, America's first deaf architect | KSTP.com

So Minnesota: Olof Hanson, America's first deaf architect

Joe Mazan
Updated: May 17, 2021 10:33 PM
Created: May 17, 2021 04:06 PM

Most of us have heard of the legendary architect Frank Llyod Wright.

However, there was another architect who broke ground in a different way. That architect also called Minnesota home. 

Olof Hanson was born in Sweden in 1862 and moved with his family to Minnesota.

Susan Garwood, with the Rice County Historical Museum, says shortly after arriving in America, Hanson lost hearing in one ear.

"They speculate that he got a cold or got some infection," Garwood said. "Two years later he was deaf in his other ear as well, so at the age of 13 (he was) profoundly deaf."

Hanson enrolled in the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.  After graduating he taught at the school for a few years, then followed his dream to become an architect. Known as the first deaf American architect, Hanson quickly made his mark in Minnesota.

"He set up his first independent architectural firm here in Faribault and it's amazing what he did within that time," Garwood said. "He designed 24 homes, 18 stores or businesses, two churches and 10 schools, and that's what he did in Faribault."

Later Hanson moved the firm to the west coast, but he never stopped convincing the world of his abilities extended to all deaf people.

"He was an advocate for and on behalf of the deaf community across the United States. Certainly, it can be a barrier for communication but it doesn't have to be a barrier for your dreams," Garwood said.
 
When he passed away in 1933, it was written, "The life of Olof Hanson is an inspiration to the deaf." 


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