Artemas Roberts (1841-1944), Architect

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Lincoln, Nebraska, 1870-1909; Dade City, Florida, 1909-1944


Artemas Roberts was born to Soloman and Elizabeth Roberts on October 28th, 1841 in Richmond, Indiana. Artemas attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor from 1863 to 1867, graduating with degrees in both Architecture and Engineering. Also in 1867, Roberts married Elizabeth Bellangee. After a brief period in Chicago, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where he began an architectural practice, producing major commercial, public, and residential buildings. On a few early projects he partnered with his brother-in-law James Bellangee. Elizabeth Roberts died in 1872, leaving widower Artemas with two young sons. In 1874, he married Mary B. Bellangee, younger sister of his late wife, and together they had four more sons. [2][3][4][7][8][12][14][a]

Along with his architectural practice, Roberts served two years (1876-1877) as the city engineer for the City of Lincoln. He also served as the President of the New Republic Publishing Company during the 1880’s. From 1887 to 1903, he partnered with Alfred W. Woods to form Roberts & Woods Architects. Fairview, the house of William Jennings Bryan, was the most prominent building of their partnership. A few years after his partnership with Woods ended, Roberts semi-retired and relocated to Dade City, Florida. While he was in Florida, Roberts was involved in the design and construction of several public buildings within the community. He also occasionally designed projects in Lincoln for his sons. Artemas Roberts died on May 7, 1944 at the age of 102 in Dade City, Florida. His final resting place is at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska.[2][3][4][7][8][12]

This page is a contribution to the publication, Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. See the format and contents page for more information on the compilation and page organization.

S13_CharltonHs_1w.jpg
William Charlton House, 1873, (City of Lincoln)

Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings

1873-1877, 1887-1907

Educational & Professional Associations

1863-1867: Michigan University at Ann Arbor, Architecture & Engineering.[2]

1867-1868: Architect, Richmond, Indiana.[2]

1869: Architect, Chicago, Illinois.[2]

1870-1887: Architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2][3][4][22][24]

1871-1874: Partner, Roberts & Bellangee, Architects, Lincoln, Nebraska.

1876-1877: City Engineer, Lincoln, Nebraska.[4][17]

1877: Partner, Roberts & (George) Gorball, Lincoln, Nebraska.[32]

1880-1889: President of New Republic Publishing Company.[3][4][35]

1887-1903: Partner, Roberts & Woods, Architects, Lincoln, Nebraska.[4]

1904-1907: Architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.[4]

1907-1944: Citrus farmer and architect while "retired" in Dade City, Florida.[3]

Buildings & Projects

Dated

1870-1871

New foundation for University Hall (1870), University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2][d]

Furniture Design, State Capitol Executive Offices, (1870) Lincoln, Nebraska.[2]

1871-1875

Roberts' earliest major designs, for Lincoln High School (1871) and for Nebraska Normal School in Peru, Nebraska, were carried out in collaboration with his brother-in-law James Bellangee. See Roberts & Bellangee, Architects for more information on those projects. The remainder of Roberts' projects in this period were apparently his independent work. In 1874-1875, Roberts served as Lincoln's City Engineer, while he also advertised frequently in Lincoln newspapers as "Architect and Superintendent."[28]

School Building (ca. 1870’s), Bennett, Nebraska.[23]

Smith Brothers’ Bank (1872), Beatrice, Nebraska.[23]

One Room School Building (1872), Kenesaw, Nebraska.[23]

William Charlton House (1873), 17705 S. 12th Street, Roca, Nebraska.[10][18] National Register narrative

Claudius Jones Residence (1873), NE corner of Columbia and Jackson, Seward, Nebraska.[12][23]

Kingman Block (1873), 10th between O & P Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[4][23]

School Building (1873), Harvard, Nebraska.[23]

High School (1874), Seward, Nebraska.[16][23][29][31][g]

1876-1887

Practicing independently in this decade, Roberts designed several major commercial buildings in Lincoln, as well as schools in Lincoln and other Nebraska communities. A report on building in Lincoln in 1886 identified Roberts, John J. Kouhn, and J. H. W. Hawkins as "the principal architects" of the city's new structures, adding "The cost of buildings erected by Mr. Roberts is about $214,000."[27]

Institution for the Blind (1875), 824 10th Ave., Nebraska City, Nebraska.[2][30]

Commercial Block (ca. 1875), 9th – 10th Street on O Street, Lincoln Nebraska.[23]

Capitol Block (1875), SW corner of 10th & O Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23]

School Building (1876), Sutton, Nebraska.[21][23]

Block of stores for A. M. Davis and D. B. Alexander (1879), Lincoln, Nebraska.[33][f]

Zehrung’s Block (1881), 135-145 S. 10th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23][37]

Davis Bros. 2-story brick stores (1881), O Street between 12th & 13th, Lincoln, Nebraska.[37][f]

Artemas Roberts House (1881), Lincoln, Nebraska.[2][b]

Odd Fellows Building (1881), 342 S. 11th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23][37]

City Block (1881), 145 S. 11th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23][37]

Brick block of double stores for V. E. Farmer and T. L. Ganter (1881), 11th between O & N, Lincoln, Nebraska.[37]

Brick two-story, double stores for George E. Fisher (1881), 9th between O & N, Lincoln, Nebraska.[37]

Brick two-story for George E. Church (1881), 10th between P & Q, Lincoln, Nebraska.[37]

Brick business house for J. W. Winger (1884), Lincoln, Nebraska.[38]

A.M. Davis Building (1885), 1110 O Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[5][19][23][e]

S. S. Chase block (1886), 16th & O Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

Addition to Harwood & Ames block (1886), N Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

J. W. Menlove block (1886), 11th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

Baldwin Brothers block (1886), 12th & O Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

D. B. Alexander's block (1886), 12th & O Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

Bohanan Brothers block (1886), Lincoln, Nebraska.[27]

Capitol School (1886), 821 S. 16th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[6]

Lancaster County Bank (1886), 117 S. 10th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23]

Plans for a bank (1886), Fairmont, Nebraska.[36][i]

3-Story Business Block for E.P. Hamer (1887), Lincoln, Nebraska.[34]

Dr. Muir house (1887), 15th & L Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[34]

A. J. Sawyer house (1887), 17th & H Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[34]

H. Herpolsheimer house (1887), 18th & E Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[34]

Tenement house for Elder Davis (1887), 17th & D Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska.[34]

1887-1903

The longest partnership of Roberts' architectural career was with A. W. Woods, spanning a decade and a half. Woods was about 30 years old and Roberts was 16 years his senior when they commenced their partnership in a period of dynamic growth in Lincoln. The "boom" years of the 1880s and early 1890s were followed by the Panic of 1893, which saw the capital city's population drop by one-quarter between 1890 and 1900. Roberts and Woods were among the few architects who remained in Lincoln throughout those lean years, into the recovery in the late 1890s and early 1900s. See Roberts & Woods, Architects for their projects of this period.

Later Work

DairyElevWest1924_11w.jpg
Roberts Dairy Building, 1924, Lincoln, Nebraska (City of Lincoln)

Roberts continued to design projects for his sons in Lincoln and in his "retirement" community of Dade City, Florida, for two full decades after his relocation from Lincoln in circa 1907. He was in his mid-80s when he designed a school in Florida and a creamery facility in Lincoln. He died in Florida in 1944 at 102 years of age. His remains are interred at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln.

Griffin Drug Store Building (1905), 37832 Meridian Ave, Dade City, Florida.[25]

Superintendent of construction for Pascos County Courthouse (1909), 37918 Meridian Ave., Dade City, Florida.[13][c]

Charles Roberts House (1917), 3158 Sheridan Blvd., Lincoln, Nebraska.[9]

Roberts Dairy Building (1924), 212 & 214 S. 20th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska. Building Permit #13083.[1]

Arthur Auvil House (circa 1925), Dade City, Florida.[15]

Dade City Woman’s Club (1926), 37922 Palm Ave., Dade City, Florida.[15]

Rodney B. Cox Elementary School (1926), 37615 Martin Luther King Blvd., Dade City, Florida.[15]

Undated Projects

Haas and Winger Block, Lincoln, Nebraska.[23]

Attributed Projects

F. S. Diager House (1910), 214 W. Meridian Ave., Dade City, Florida.[25]

Notes

a. Artemas and Elizabeth had two sons together, William C. and A. L. Elizabeth died April 14, 1872. In 1874, widower Artemas married Mary B. Bellangee, younger sister of the deceased Elizabeth (Bellangee) Roberts. Mary and Artemas had four sons together: John M., James Russell (founder of Roberts Dairy), Daniel Edward, and Charles W. [22][24]

b. Although Roberts did not secure a deed to the property until 1886 [11] and maintained a city address until 1875, by family accounts they moved to the farm in 1874 and built a substantial house in 1881.

c. Roberts recalled in his memoirs that he drew the plans for the Pascos County courthouse. The National Register nomination for the courthouse identifies E. C. Hosford Company (of Altanta and Eastman, Georgia, and Bartow, Florida) as the designer of the building, with Roberts serving as the superintendent of the building's construction.[2][13]

d. In his memoirs, A. Roberts talks about his involvement in the State University’s first building, University Hall. He did not design the building, however he recounts that he saw the sandstone foundation of the building, which was cracking even before it was finished. He accompanied the Nebraska Governor to inspect the building and was commissioned to have the building raised and the foundation replaced with limestone. While the replacement was occurring a support beam failed one evening and the building was in jeopardy of collapsing. Roberts and a few foremen put up a temporary support beam in the dark and saved the building from disaster. [2]

e. Party wall agreement, Lancaster Register of Deeds, Deed BK 24:204, between A.M. Davis, and J. R. and L. C. Richards, dated July 29, 1885. The Richard Brothers were to build a four story brick building, 50 feet wide and Davis planned three stories on 25 feet of frontage. F. M. Ellis is identified as the Richard Brothers’ architect, and A. Roberts as Davis’s architect.

f. Andreas' History of Nebraska (1882) lists both the "Davis & Alexander block" and the "Davis Bros. building" in a long roster of Roberts' early works in Lincoln. Albert M. Davis & Son had a building at 1120 O Street for which Roberts is identified as architect on a party wall agreement, presumably accounting for one of Andreas' Davis buildings. An 1882 newspaper story on construction in Lincoln in 1881 includes "Davis Bros' double 2-story brick, O between 12th and 13th; A Roberts, architect; cost $10,000..."[23][26][37][e]

g. Andreas' History of Nebraska in 1882 includes the high school in Seward among buildings designed by Roberts. The same source notes: "The school building is a large, two story, healthful and roomy brick, erected in 1874 at a cost of $8,000. It is well located, and is one of the many bright features of the city."[16 Nebraska State Journal of October 15, 1875 indicates that "The last issue of Nebraska Patron contains an engraving and description of the Union School building at Seward" and quotes a lengthy description from that source.[31]

h. In 1888, Lancaster County Commissioners reviewed plans for a new county courthouse, after an earlier proposal proved financially infeasible. Over a dozen architects submitted plans. Roberts was a member of a three-person committee chosen by the commissioners to assist them in the selection; the other men were contractors. In describing members of the committee, Nebraska State Journal noted: "Mr. Roberts is a practical architect, but is now turning his attention to newspaper business, in which he has been engaged something over a year."[35]

i. Nebraska State Journal reported in 1886 "Architect Roberts yesterday sent out plans to Fairmont for a new bank."[36]

References

1. City of Lincoln Building Permit #13083, September 8, 1924 (plans on file).

2. “An Account of the Roberts Homestead, Lancaster Co., Nebraska,” By Ruth Roberts Sorenson, Section 1. July 6, 1968. (Typescripts at Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Department.)

3. “Artemas Roberts, 102, Early Lincoln Architect, is Dead,” Lincoln Star (May 8, 1944).

4. City of Lincoln Directories, 1873-1907.

5. Lancaster County, Nebraska, Register of Deeds, Deed Book 24:205.

6. Carl Yost. “History of the Lincoln Schools, 1864-1925," typescript abstract of School Board minutes, by University of Nebraska student as NYA project, 1936, 31-33. Copy at Lincoln Planning Department.

7. Kay Logan-Peters, “East Campus 1896: Agriculture Experiment Station Building,” Historic Buildings of UNL http://historicbuildings.unl.edu/building.php?b=24 , accessed 06/21/2013

8. Kay Logan-Peters “Roberts & Woods; Architects,” Historic Buildings of UNL http://historicbuildings.unl.edu/people.php?peopleID=20&cid=14 accessed 06/21/2013.

9. E.F. Zimmer, “Boulevards Historic District National Register Nomination.” National Register of Historic Places, Nomination Form. Lincoln: Lincoln/Lancaster Planning Commission, 2008. https://web.archive.org/web/20160728202359/http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/nebraska/lancaster/LC13-Boulevards-HD.pdf accessed 06/21/2013.

10. “Charlton House National Register Nomination,” 1996, by J. S. Stumpff https://web.archive.org/web/20160728201910/http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/nebraska/lancaster/LC00-127-Charlton-Hse.PDF accessed 06/21/2013.

11. Lancaster County, Nebraska, Register of Deeds, Deed Book 28:4.

12. “An Account of the Roberts Homestead, Lancaster Co., Nebraska By Ruth Roberts Sorenson” Section 2. TS, July 26, 1938. (Typescripts available at Lincoln/Lancaster Co. Planning Dept.)

13. “Pascos County Court House National Register Nomination,” Janus Research Inc. 2005. http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/fl/Pasco/state.html accessed 6/25/13.

14. “Artemas Roberts,” Find a Grave http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=41553305, accessed 06/21/2013.

15. Carl Shriver & Kathy Reynolds, "Dade City Woman's Club," a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, 2003. Accessed April 11, 2016: http://focus.nps.gov/nrhp/GetAsset?assetID=59e68ce0-b5bc-40bd-a98f-3b197bf3adcc

16. "Schools" in "Seward County" in Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska, Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1882. Accessed on-line March 8, 2016: http://www.kancoll.org/books/andreas_ne/seward/seward-p4.html

17. "Official Roster" (of City of Lincoln officials), in "Lancaster County," Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska, Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1882. Accessed on-line March 8, 2016, s.v. "A. Roberts": http://www.kancoll.org/books/andreas_ne/lancaster/lancaster-p2.html#roster

18. Plans and specifications for the Charlton House are on file at the City of Lincoln Planning Department.

19. Lancaster County Register of Deeds, Mechanic's Lien C:91, for lumber used in erection of building on Lot 12, Block 57, Original Plat of Lincoln, 1886-1887.

20. Park Hill National Register Nomination, E. F. Zimmer, 2010. http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/nebraska/lancaster/LC13-Park-Hill.pdf accessed 6/25/13.

21. “Pages of History: Nebraska High Schools,” Nebraska High School Historical Society, Inc., 1994.

22. Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

23. "Artemus (sic) Roberts" in "Lancaster County. Biographical Sketches" in Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska, Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1882. Accessed on-line March 8, 2016, s.v. "A. Roberts": http://www.kancoll.org/books/andreas_ne/lancaster/lancaster-p21.html

24. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.

25. Steve Rajtar, “Dade City Historical Trail,” 1999. Accessed April 11, 2016: http://www.reocities.com/yosemite/rapids/8428/hikeplans/dade_city/plandadecity.html

26. Specifications for Three-Story Brick Business Block for E.P. Hamer by A. Roberts, Architect. 1887. [see file]

27. "A Year of Prosperity. Lincoln's Growth in Population, Buildings, Railroads, Real Estate Transfers, Schools. Churches, Banks, Business Blocks, Dwellings, Street Railways, etc., etc.," Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily News (December 31, 1886), 1.

28. "Architect" (advertisement for A. Roberts), (Lincoln, Nebraska) Daily State Journal (May 30, 1874), 1.

29. "To Builders" (call for proposals), (Lincoln, Nebraska) Daily State Journal (June 10, 1874), 2.

30. "Nebraska State Institution for the Blind--Notice to Builders--Sealed Proposals," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 9, 1875), 2.

31. "New School Building at Seward," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (October 15, 1875), 3.

32. "A. Roberts, Geo. Gorball, ROBERTS & GORBALL, ARCHITECTS," advertisement in (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (January 7, 1877), 1.

33. "Notice to contractors," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (August 16, 1879), 4.

34. "Improvements. Brief Mention of a Few of the Many," Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily News (April 14, 1887), 4.

35. "New Court House Plans," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (February 24, 1888), 8.

36. "Mere Mention," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (April 16, 1886), 8.

37. "The Year 1881. It is a Successful and Booming One for the Capital City of Nebraska. A Review of Its Building Interests and Other Industries. Nealy $600,000 Expended in Business Building During the Past Year. The Value of Realty Upon which the Magnificent Business Block Rest is Fully $200,000," Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily News, (January 2, 1882), 4.

38. "Sealed Proposals Will Be Received..." (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (May 24, 1884), 7.

Page Citation

E. F. Zimmer, “Artemas Roberts (1841-1944), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, January 23, 2018. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, October 19, 2019.


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