Clarence Kelley Colley


Clarence Kelley Colley was a Nashville architect noted for his institutional designs, most in the Classical Revival style. Several of his buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the North Branch Carnegie Library (1915), East Branch Carnegie Library, Omohundro Waterworks pumping plant and boiler house, and the Westboro, Wellington Arms, and Sterling Court apartment buildings, all in Nashville; the Perry County Courthouse in Linden (c. 1928 Colonial Revival); and single-family dwellings, Wilkinson House in Joelton (1930 Dutch Colonial Revival) and Drane House in Clarksville (Arts and Crafts style). Colley also designed the President’s House (1911 Georgian Revival) and Kirksey Hall (1911) at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and the Commons Building (1916) at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville as well as public schools in Nashville and Clarksville.

Colley was the oldest son and the second child of Seth and Fidelia Elizabeth Smith Colley’s eight children. His Colley ancestors migrated in the early 1800s from Kentucky to Robertson and Sumner Counties in Tennessee. He was raised on an eighty-acre farm in Wilson County near Cedar Creek. As a young man, Colley left the farm for Nashville and began working in the boiler room at Vanderbilt University. In 1894, Colley married Nannie Sue Molloy, who died in 1899, three years after their only child, William Clarence, was born. Beginning in the 1880s, Colley and his brother, Homer, were architectural apprentices to Albert F. Speight and Col. William Crawford Smith until they started their own firm, C. K. Colley & Company Architects, in 1899. William replaced Homer in 1921, and the name was changed to C. K. Colley & Son. Colley was a charter member of the Nashville Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which was organized in 1922.

Suggested Reading

Eleanor Graham, ed., Nashville: A Short History and Selected Buildings (1974); Joseph L. Herndon, “Architects in Tennessee until 1930,” M.A. thesis, Columbia University (1975); Robbie Jones, “Tennessee Architecture: Professional Architects and Builders, 1920-1950,” unpublished manuscript (2006)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Clarence Kelley Colley
  • Coverage 1868-1956
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 22, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018