David R. McCurdy (1853-?), Architect & Builder
David R. McCurdy was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1853, son of a Methodist minister. He attended theological seminaries in Wisconsin and Iowa, then taught in Iowa country schools in the late 1870s, marrying Clementina around 1876. He spent the early 1880s in prison in Iowa for burglary, then built houses in Abilene, Kansas. In Lincoln, Nebraska by 1887, D. R. McCurdy was listed in the city directory as an architect, builder and real estate dealer. In 1889 David R. McCurdy was proprietor of Western Sash & Door Company in Lincoln. His occupation was listed simply as "real estate" in 1890, his final listing in the Lincoln city directory. David R. McCurdy was listed in the Denver city directories as a carpenter in 1891, a bricklayer in 1892 and again as a carpenter in 1893.[b] The 1900 U. S. Census identified his residence as the Arapahoe County Jail in Denver. A long article in Lincoln Evening News in 1903 provided McCurdy's own account of his long career alternating between building, burglary, and safe-cracking, including prison terms both before and after his time in Lincoln. His own account and that of the Evening News of his relative success as a builder in several locations may not have been totally forthright, considering the number of foreclosures that dogged his projects in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. His wife Clementina divorced him during one of his later terms in prison in Colorado. He remarried in 1905 and was listed as a carpenter in Denver in the U. S. Census of 1910, married to Mary.[b]
Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings
Lincoln, Nebraska, 1887-1890
Educational & Professional Associations
Theological seminary, University of Gainesville, Wisconsin; and Albion Theological Seminary, Albion, Iowa, before 1874.
Buildings & Projects
One-story residence (ca. 1890), 2316 D Street, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Lincoln city directories)
a. In a two-page article in Nebraska State Journalverbosely entitled "$3,000,000.00--Permanent Improvements in Lincoln for 1887. The Building Record for the Past Year. Homes for 10,000 People Built in a Twelvemonth. A Faithful Pen Picture of Our Progress. Three-Quarters of a Mile of Brick and Stone Business Frontage. A Round Million Dollars Spent on Residences and Nearly as Much on Business Blocks," one of the "Other Residences" listed was "D. R. McCurdy, K and Twenty-first, two story residence with a handsome exterior. Cost, $3,200." The Lincoln city directory of 1887 listed D. R. McCurdy, "architect & builder & real estate" as residing at 1911 K Street. In 1889, his address was given as 2041 K.
b. David McCurdy, a carpenter, resided in Denver in 1910, according to the U. S. Census, with his wife Mary (age 48). Their five-year marriage was listed as the second for both.
c. The Abilene Weekly Chronicle of January 5, 1894 reported "Two formerly of Abilene, Kansas, boys were up for trial in the Westside criminal court this week. David R. McCurdy was convicted of having burglar's tools in his possession and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary..."
1. "Other Residences," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (January 1, 1888), 9-10.
2. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "David McCurdy." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
3. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "David R. McCurdy." Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
4. "Startling Recital of Criminal Career--David R. McCurdy, Formerly Prominent Business Man of Lincoln, an Expert Safe-Cracker," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (May 11, 1903), 1, 8.
5. "Sheriff's Sale," Abilene (Kansas) Weekly Reflector (January 13, 1887), 8; "Publication Notice," Abilene (Kansas) Gazette (May 3, 1888), 8; "Publication Notice," Democratic Times (Hays City, Kansas) (March 21, 1889), 8; "In County Court. The Call of the Docket for the January Term This Morning," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (January 7, 1890), 4; "One New Case Filed," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (October 21, 1890), 7.
6. Abilene (Kansas) Weekly Chronicle (January 5, 1894), 4.
E. F. Zimmer and D. Murphy, “David R. McCurdy (1853-?), Architect & Builder,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, June 5, 2018. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, December 5, 2022.
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