Stratton Hammon (1904-1997)
Stratton Owen Hammon, engineer, explosives expert, writer, photographer, genealogist, historian and architect, was well-known for his designs of Colonial Revival houses. A loyal native of Louisville, Kentucky, Hammon was the son of John and Emma Hammon. His genealogy traces to his paternal great-great-grandfather, John Hammon, Revolutionary War hero and descendant of Ambrose Hammon, who landed at Old Rappahannock County, VA, in 1666. Hammon’s ancestors were in Louisville as early as 1790.
Hammon studied art and mechanical drawing at DuPont Manual High School and designed his first house at the young age of 16. He then studied Architecture at the University of Louisville in affiliation with the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York City. In 1930, at just 26 years of age, he became the 35th architect registered in Kentucky. The next 10 years saw his residential designs accompanying articles in Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, McCall’s, and Good Housekeeping. He joined the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1936 and later served as Vice President of its Kentucky Chapter. He was appointed to the State Board of Examiners and Registration of Architects in 1945 and returned after the war to serve as Secretary-Treasurer beginning in 1947.
In 1942, Hammon was called to active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. By this time, he boasted 22 years of experience as an architect including thirteen years as the owner of his own firm. In July of that year he was appointed Area Engineer, Contracting Officer, and Commanding Officer of the project to build Columbus Air Support Command Base in Columbus, Indiana in just five months. He was involved in the construction of three more Army airfields, a general hospital, a quartermaster depot, and a modification center for the alteration of Army Air Corps bombers. In addition, he found the time to study International Law at the University of Virginia and attended Military Government school in Shrivenham, England.
In light of these accomplishments, Hammon was promoted to Major and served as Battalion Commander of the 371st Engineers. The Chief of Engineers soon loaned him to the European Civil Affairs Division (ECAD) because of his training in art and architecture. Hammon was assigned to First U.S. Army in France and designated the commander of an advanced landing party which crossed the Channel on the liberty ship, John R. Park. Landing at Utah Beach in June 1944, his detachment advanced to St. Lo. After First U.S. Army broke the German line, Hammon’s detachment was ordered back to a rest camp at Mont à la Quesne near Cherbourg.
In September 1944, Hammon was transferred to The Advanced Section, Communications Zone, ETO as the sole Monuments Officer among over 200 men. Just four months later he was again transferred. His orders sent him to General Eisenhower’s headquarters at the Palace of Versailles to act as the Monuments Officer at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). When he was eventually discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Hammon received three battle stars as well as the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre from France.
After the war, Hammon returned to his architectural firm in Kentucky, which now specialized in the effects of explosives and vibration on structural integrity. His son, Neal Owen Hammon, joined his father in 1948 and the firm’s name was changed to Hammon & Hammon. His interest in architecture and historic preservation endured for the rest of his life: he became a member of both the Filson Historical Society and the Kentucky Historical Society and wrote numerous articles for their publications. He was a three-time President of the Kentucky Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and a member of the State Historical Marker Committee.
Stratton Hammon passed away on October 22, 1997. Ten years after his death, he was memorialized in his beloved Louisville with the exhibit Kentucky Home: The Colonial Revival Houses of Stratton O. Hammon at The Speed Art Museum. This exhibit of his life’s work was accompanied by the book Kentucky Houses of Stratton Hammon and a lecture series given by architectural historian Richard Guy at the Filson Historical Society.