Charles E. Chowins (1856-1922), Superintendent-Architect

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Lincoln, Nebraska, 1886-1922


Charles E. Chowins was born in 1856 in England. In 1896, at forty years of age, Chowins joined the University of Nebraska staff as an assistant in the engineering laboratory and wood shops. Eventually, Chowins began supervising the construction of the 1899 annex to Grant Memorial Hall, becoming the University's Superintendent of Construction, Grounds, and Buildings in 1905. He held this position until 1921, whereupon he became primarily responsible for the architectural work involving alterations of existing buildings. Chowins played an important role in the development of the campus during its rapid expansion period in the early 20th century, his greatest architectural contribution being the Plant Industry Building on the East Campus Mall. Chowins died in 1922, at age 66, while recovering from surgery.[1]

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.

Educational & Professional Associations

1886: contractor & builder, Lincoln, Nebraska.[b]

1887-1892: contractor, Lincoln, Nebraska.[4]

1896: construction foreman, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2]

1897: engineer, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

1898-1899: mechanic, University of Nebraska.

1899-1905: construction superintendent, University of Nebraska, Lincoln [1]

1900-1903: instructor, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

1905-1921: Superintendant of Construction, Grounds & Buildings, University of Nebraska, Lincoln [1][c]

1921-1922: Superintendant of Construction, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2]

Buildings & Projects

Dated

House (1885), 1802 Washington Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[7][f]

Foundation replacement (1887), University Hall, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2][4][8][a][d]

Superintendent of construction for Grant Memorial Hall (1887), University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.[5]

Machinery Hall, aka Chemurgy Bldg (1905), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[1]

Plant Industry Building (1912-1913), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[1][2]

Office Building for University of Nebraska Board of Regents (1913), North Platte, Nebraska.6][e]

Horse Barn, aka Judging Pavilion (1915), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[1][2]

Tractor Testing Lab (1919),University of Nebraska-Lincoln, East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[1]

Preliminary sketch plans (1922), Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2]

Beef Cattle Barn (1923), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[1]

Undated

Heating Plant (n.d.), University of Nebraska East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska.[2]

Dairy Barn (n.d.), extension campus [?], North Platte, Nebraska.[2]

Notes

a. Construction foreman for this project.[2]

b. First directory listing in Lincoln, Nebraska.

c. The Lincoln City Directory begins listing him as Superintendant of Construction in 1904.

d. Watkins dates the reconstruction of the foundation of University Hall to 1887, noting Chowins was the low bidder at $7,470, below W. B. Stout at $10,500 and Keys & Bullock at $9,400. The original sandstone of the foundation was sold for $200 and replacement stone was obtained from Oketo, Kansas. The Ninth Biennial Report of the Board of Regents noted over $14,000 in payments to Chowins from July through December 1887 for a variety of work, including "general repairs" on "main building." [4][8]

e. American Contractor lists "Office Bldg.: 2 sty. 32x38...North Platte, Nebr. Archt. C. E. Chowins...Owner University of Nebraska...Work started. Stucco, frame."[6]

f. Charles Chowins, "single," purchased property on S. 18th St. between Washington and A Streets in Lincoln, in 1885, and was in residence there according to the 1886 directory. The stuccoed brick house was in Chowins family ownership until 1955.

References

1. Kay Logan Peters, “Charles Chowins, Architect,” An Architectural Tour of Historic UNL, accessed December 7, 2010, <http://historicbuildings.unl.edu/people.php?peopleID=22&cid=14>

2. “Chowins, Veteran University Supt. Dead At His Home: Member of Mechanical Engineering Staff Dies After Operation,” Lincoln Star (June 17, 1922), 1.

3. Lincoln Star (June 18, 1922), 2.

4. Albert Watkins & J. Sterling Morton, Illustrated History of Nebraska, (Lincoln, Nebraska: Western Publishing and Engraving Co., 1913), III:297.

5. Kay Logan Peters, "Grant Memorial Hall," An Architectural Tour of Historic UNL, accessed March 26, 2017, <http://historicbuildings.unl.edu/building.php?b=11>

6. American Contractor (August 23, 1913), 82.

7. Lancaster County Deed 25:334, Mortgage 16:63, both 1885; Lincoln City directories.

8. Ninth Biennial Report of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, December 1st, 1888. (Lincoln, Nebraska: State Journal Company, 1888), 67-72.

Page Citation

D. Murphy and E. F. Zimmer, “Charles E. Chowins (1856-1922), Superintendent-Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, March 26, 2017. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, April 1, 2020.


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