|In 1909, the architects Purcell and Feick received a commission from J. D. R. Steven, a Wisconsin businessman, for a house in the older section of Eau Claire. It was one of several Eau Claire commissions Purcell's firm carried out between 1908 and 1915. At the time Steven's house was being planned, a neighbor, Mrs. T. B. Keith, wished to modernize her nineteenth-century house and invited the architects over for a visit. The following year, George Elmslie, who had just left Louis Sullivan's office and joined Purcell, designed a dining room suite that undoubtedly gave the Keith home a contemporary feel.
The elaborate seat backs, table legs, and table frieze demonstrate Elmslie's facility at translating stylized organic ornament into sawed wood. Sawed-wood decoration was also used to great effect in houses designed by the firm, including the Purcell-Cutts house, now owned by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Elmslie produced similar dining room suites (some with square tables) for other clients, including Harold C. and Josephine Crane Bradley of Madison, Wisconsin (who would commission three Purcell and Elmslie houses) and E. L. Powers of Minneapolis. And he had one made as a present for his wife, Bonnie Hunter Elmslie. The Keiths' suite, however, is one of the few to survive, having remained in the Keith family until its donation to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
One chair from the Elmslie suite and two from the Bradley suite are known to exist, and a chair probably from the Keith suite is in the Art Institute of Chicago.