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An Introduction to the Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects (1788-1940)
By Walter E. Langsam

The purposes of this biographical dictionary are to assemble as much as is known, as well as references to additional material, on architects who practiced in the Cincinnati area (including Northern Kentucky); and to provide basic information and sources on architects from elsewhere who worked on some occasion in the Cincinnati area, with emphasis on their Cincinnati works and connections.  Admittedly some of these connections are peripheral—such as those architects who merely contributed to various exhibitions of architectural work in Cincinnati—but they may provide clues to other contributions to the architectural world of the Cincinnati area.  Among the exhibitions indexed here are a number of special interest, including an architectural display at the 1882 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition; at least two exhibits by the Cincinnati Architectural Sketch Club in the late 1880s (coinciding with the completion of H.H. Richardson’s Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Building and the merging of the East-Coast-based American Institute of Architects and the Chicago-based Western Society of Architects decided at a joint meeting in Cincinnati; three/four exhibits by the Cincinnati Chapter of the AIA (founded in 1870) in the first decade of the 20th century at the Cincinnati Art Museum; and a traveling exhibition of German-Austrian architecture and design in 1904 that introduced cutting-edge early Modernism to the area.

The time-span indicated by the title of this biographical dictionary is not an absolute limitation.  Some outstanding local practitioners, particularly those who have received attention because of their espousal of Modernism, are included, as well as renowned architects and firms who have participated in post-World War II developments, through both projects and executed works, particularly in the University of Cincinnati’s late 20th-century Signature Architect program.

In addition to architects per se, there is, where available, representation of engineers, landscape architects, urban planners, interior designers, builders, and craftspersons who contributed to the overall built environment of the Cincinnati area.  Nevertheless, the focus is on architects, their education and training, career paths, major works, professional and sometimes social and personal associations, interconnections, partners, apprentices, designers and draughts-persons, their possible influence on other architects.  Although much of the text is purely informative, the author has on occasion inserted more or less extensive essays on the architects’ character and quality (from his own point of view only, of course), descriptions of significant works, and suggestions on influence, professional relationships, etc.  Paraphrase is frankly used for such informational sources, especially the invaluable but scarce compilation—including only those 20th-century architects who were still alive at the date of publication (and so omitting many important but long-lived practitioners)—by Henry F. and Elsie Rathburn Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased) (1956; reprinted by Hennessey & Ingalls, Los Angeles, 1970), on which the present biographical dictionary was deliberately modeled.  Withey should be consulted directly for their own bibliographical sources, usually professional periodicals including obituaries.

 

This version of the biographical dictionary is intended to supplement the tour guides, Architectural Foundation, and Historical Society publications, and other readily available sources on the architecture of the Cincinnati area.  It is based largely on contemporary sources, particularly The American Architect & Building News (Boston; The American Architectafter 1909), The Inland Architect & News Record (Chicago), The Western Architect & Builder (Cincinnati; published at least from the 1880s until the 1930s, although so far only a few volumes between 1904 and 1910 have been accessible, aside from a few individual late 19th-century issues), and their generally short-lived rivals and successors; directories, local histories, promotional publications, and newspapers and periodicals; and an unpublished list of architects who appeared in Cincinnati business directories assembled by Roger Clark for the Cincinnati Historical Society (1989).

In addition to some records of the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, founded in 1870, the Cincinnati Historical Society has an extensive collection of drawings by Cincinnati architects. Other records are preserved in the Rare Book Room of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and in the Archives of the University of Cincinnati, which also hold other materials consulted here. There are also a few drawings in private collections.

The format used here is obviously based on that employed by several more comprehensive dictionaries (or encyclopedias) of architects, American and otherwise.  The pioneer work of the type for the U.S.A. is Henry F. & Elsie Rathburn Withey in their invaluable Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased) (Los Angeles, Cal., 1956 [reprint, 1970]).  Also not totally reliable and spotty in coverage is Wodehouse’s American Architects from the Civil War to the First World War (1976).  The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects, Adolf K. Placzek, ed. (N.Y.: The Free Press, 4 vols., 1985), has many admirable essays on architects throughout history, with international representation, including a number cited here, but there are notable omissions among American, particularly 19th- and early 20th-century architects, and almost all regional practitioners (virtually no primarily Cincinnati architects are included, for instance).  I have used these sources throughout, but supplemented and corrected their entries when possible, using the sources listed above and below.  Often I have paraphrased and even quoted the information in these sources without specific note, except where opinions, interpretations, and particularly fine phrases have been quoted.  For the better-known architects, these sources provide extensive bibliographies, usually not repeated here; I have also not cited sources for most individual buildings in the Cincinnati area, although they are readily available in my database (It will be available by appointment through the Architectural Foundation and Historical Society Library at Cincinnati Museum Center) and card files.

This dictionary is based on information—in original and reproduced form—now in my own collections, library, and files, assembled over more than 40 years (since I first began to study American architectural history at Yale University in 1966, primarily under the aegis of Henry-Russell Hitchcock, George Hersey, Vincent Scully, and faculty members, as well as fellow students including Neil Levine).

Special thanks are due to the late James Alexander, Allen Bernard, Mary Ann (Brown) Olding, Thomas W. Brunk, Karen Carter, Chris Cain, the late Harriet Hord Cartmell of Maysville, Ky., Richard Chafee, Cecie and Jay Chewning, Jan Cigliano, Addison Clipson, Jeffrey A. Cohen, Robert Dorsey, June and Lloyd Engelbrecht, Scott Gampfer, Carol and Joe Gastright, Al Geiser, Bruce Goetzman, Steve Gordon, Nancy House, Leah Konicki, Clay Lancaster, Bea Lask, Blanche Linden-Ward, Stewart Shillito Maxwell, Jr., Zane L. Miller, the late Denys Peter Myers, the late Carol Nagel, Sue Ann Painter, Robert M. Polsgrove, the late George F. Roth, Jr., William B. Scott, Jr., William Seale, the late Henry D. Shapiro, Suzanne Sizer, Patrick Snadon, Juanita Stork, Beth Sullebarger, Paul Tenkotte, Jeffrey Tilman, Elisabeth Tuttle (Miller), Rita Walsh, the late Dottie Walters, Margaret (Margo) Warminski, Robert J. Wimberg, and many others who have helped on individual architects, buildings, themes, and problems.  Correspondents and colleagues from other institutions have also been generous with their assistance; these include Jan Cigliano, Kevin Rose of Springfield, Oh., and Ben Ross of Lafayette, Indiana.  Without the late Andy Zinghis I could not have managed the original database and word-processor on which this dictionary has been prepared.  Rob Wilson, Lloyd Engelbrecht, and other friends have helped me maintain it.

As always, my late parents, Walter C. and Julia E. Langsam, my late cousin Eve Hardinge, Marjory Meanwell, the late Priscilla Colt, the late Janice Forberg, my collaborator Alice Weston, my colleagues Patrick Snadon, Beth Sullebarger, and Margaret Warminski, and above all Russell J. Speidel have provided personal and moral support.  This version—on the threshold, I hope, of its career—is dedicated to my daughter Thea, on the threshold of hers.

Note: Places of birth, if known, are given with dates of birth (sometimes themselves, like death-dates, uncertain); if no birth and death dates are given, the place (in parenthesis) refers to the primary locus of professional activity (usually of well-known outside architects and firms).  Dates of practice in Cincinnati are mainly based on Clark; birth and dates are often from Withey, who frequently lists obituaries; dates of buildings are approximate, usually backed up by at least one reference.  Most buildings in the Cincinnati area for which specific addresses are given still exist, or are well represented in other Cincinnati resources.  As mentioned above, an effort has been made to include all relevant material (or references) on local practitioners, but the coverage on those from elsewhere emphasizes their Cincinnati-area works and connections. 

Walter E. Langsam, February 27, 2008.

Editor’s note: The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) is pleased to publish this online version of Walter E. Langsam’s biographical dictionary, which is owned by the foundation. It is a major contribution to research and understanding of our region’s built environment.

AFC intends to correct errors as noted and expects to update and expand the data in the years to come. Please contact Painter@architecturecincy.org with comments.

Sue Ann Painter, September 1, 2008

About the Author and the Editor

WALTER E. LANGSAM is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant, with a B.A. from Miami University and a Master’s degree in art history from Yale University. He taught at the University of Cincinnati in DAAP. He has published on both the urban and rural architecture of Kentucky, where he served as Assistant Director in charge of the National Register of Historic Places at the Kentucky Heritage Council during the mid-1970s. Since 1982, he has lived and worked in the Cincinnati area, compiling a database of more than 20,000 historic and contemporary buildings with regional connections.

 

 

Susannah Sachdeva
Susannah is pictured with the Ohio University mascot, Rufus the Bobcat.

SUSANNAH SACHDEVA is a journalism student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She is currently the director of advertising for the campus magazine,Backdrop. She plans to begin her career working for a magazine or publishing company after graduating in June of 2010.