Meticulous and exacting, prolific Waco architect Milton W. Scott crafted a legacy throughout the city that has withstood the test of time. Today, his historic buildings stand as hallmark pieces of Waco’s rich history.
Born in New Orleans on August 23, 1872, Milton William Wallace Scott came from a long line of Scottish engineers, inventors, and builders. When his family moved to Waco following his father’s death in 1883, Scott found work as an apprentice carpenter at the age of eleven in order to support his widowed mother and three sisters. Although he never received a formal college education, Scott loved to read and study, and after his mother remarried, he began to work as a draftsman for his stepfather John P. Powers.
Scott left his stepfather’s business in 1906 when he began to collaborate with Glenn Allen on the design of First Baptist Church of Waco. At that same time, the pair also began to draw up plans for the construction of the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Plant (now, the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute). In 1907, he began working with noted Waco architect Roy E. Lane to design various private homes as well as the Rotan Grocery Company and the Brazos Investment Company.
As his reputation throughout the city grew, Scott received additional jobs which would cement his reputation as a Waco icon. In 1910, he partnered with T. Brooks Pearson on the design of Waco High, an elaborate three-storied project costing $140,000 (over $3 million in 2015) at its completion in 1913. During that extensive project, Scott met and married Ivy Eugenia Thompson Haythornwhite. The couple later had two children. By 1916, the couple purchased a family home at 617 North Fourth Street (as indicated on the Waco History map), and Scott designed and built a cluster of cottages and apartments around the home to rent out. Following 1913, Scott left his partners and branched out into his own work, though he sometimes employed associates and draftsmen to help with the workload.
Scott’s meticulous nature produced impressive architectural structures, but also frustrated many contractors. After his death, his son noted that Scott thought it was as his duty, as the on-site representative of the building’s owners, to oversee each detail of the construction process. Although his exacting demands may have produced some irritation, the results were unquestionable, as evidenced by the durability and strength of his designs. For instance, Scott designed every structure taller than one story that survived the devastation of the 1953 Waco tornado, excepting Roy E. Lane’s ALICO building.
Scott’s work consumed his life. He took only two vacations during the last fifteen years before his death and worked tirelessly to ensure the quality and craftsmanship of his buildings. He designed buildings for various groups throughout the city, including eighteen public school buildings, portions of the Waco Methodist Home, Temple Rodef Shalom, and various buildings on the campuses of Baylor University and Texas A&M.
Though he had become well known throughout Waco and Central Texas, Scott scrambled for jobs after the Depression hit. He had been working to design an apartment complex as a personal project, but he lost most of his savings in the economic downturn. He struggled to find architecture commissions, and financial hardships compounded upon pre-existing health problems. He passed away in 1933.
Though some of Scott’s iconic work was torn down or destroyed during urban renewal in the 1960s, many of the buildings he designed still stand today. Structures such as Waco High and the Roosevelt Hotel convey this city’s great history while serving as reminders of Scott’s incredible work and lasting legacy.