David R. McCurdy (1853-?), Architect & Builder
By his own account, David R. McCurdy was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1853, son of a Methodist minister. The U.S. Census consistently listed his father Hiram as a carpenter or as a farmer. D. R. McCurdy also reported he attended theological seminaries in Wisconsin and Iowa, then taught in Iowa country schools in the late 1870s. He married Clementina Starr in 1874.[d] 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 entry 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 in 1900, during one of his later terms in prison in Colorado.[e] He remarried in 1905 and was identified as a carpenter in Denver in the U. S. Census of 1910, married to Mary.[b] He was last mentioned in a Denver directory in 1917, when he was working as a porter.
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
a. In a two-page article in Nebraska State Journal verbosely 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 Twelve month. 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..."
d. According to the 1870 census, McCurdy's parents were Hiram and Sidney McCurday [sic]. The family then resided in Adrian, Wisconsin, where his father was a farmer and David was a "farm laborer" at that time. By 1880, the parents and several of David's siblings had relocated to Abilene, Kansas, where Hiram was a carpenter.
e. Clementina (Starr) McCurdy petitioned for divorce from David R. McCurdy in 1900 in Denver.
f. 2320 D Street appears to have been newly built when McCurdy was listed as residing there in the "Street Key" of the Lincoln city directory of 1890. The main alphabetical listing of residents that same year provides his entry as "cont[ractor] and bldr" residing at 1904 S Street. 2320 D was not a listed address in the 1889 "Street Key." McCurdy acquired two adjacent lots on D Street in 1888 for $3,000 and quickly accrued seventeen mechanics' liens filed against the properties (probably corresponding to the addresses 2316 and 2320 D). A small frame cottage with Queen Anne detailing still stands (2019) at 2316 D on McCurdy's Lot 10, Block 7, Houtz Place Addition.
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.
7. Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "David R. McCurday." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
8. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "Hiram McCurdy." Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
9. Colorado Department of Health, Colorado Statewide Divorce Index, 1900-1939, on-line through FamilySearch, s.v. "Clementina McCurdy."
10. "Street Key" in 1890 Lincoln city directory lists "McCurdy David R, real estate" at 2320 D.
11. Lancaster County Deed 50:30, 1888.
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, February 25, 2019. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, November 29, 2022.
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