Emiel J. Christensen (1895-1988), Architect

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Omaha, 1923-1924, and Columbus, Nebraska, 1927-1970

Emiel Christensen was born in Washington County, Nebraska on April 23, 1895, the son of Lars Christensen and Maren Pedersen.[2][10][12][c] He married Clara Newmeyer on September 11, 1920, and enrolled at Washington University the same year. Christensen began his architectural career after serving with both British and American troops in France during World War I, first in the office of Thomas Kimball in Omaha, from 1923-1924.[2][10][11][12]

After a period of travel, study, and work experience, Christensen landed in Columbus in 1927 and established his career there. He was prominently associated with park design and community planning, in addition to architecture, and is considered the “father of planning” in Nebraska for his pioneering work across the state. Several of his most important architectural works were designed in the Rustic mode. Christensen died on May 10, 1988, in Columbus, at the age of 93.[2][7][10][11][20]

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

Oak Ballroom, 1935-1937 (D. Murphy)

Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings

Columbus, Nebraska, 1928-1976

Educational & Professional Associations

1918-1919: soldier, 4th Division, US Army.[2]

1920-1924: special work in architecture, Washington University, and private instruction with European Masters.[11][a]

1921-1923: student, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.[12]

1923-1924: draftsman and assistant superintendent, Thomas Rogers Kimball (1862-1934), Architect, Omaha, Nebraska.[11]

1924-1925: draftsman and geologist in the American Southwest.[11]

1925-1926: draftsman and superintendent, Frederick S. Stott (1889-1968), Architect, Los Angeles, California.[11]

1926: draftsman, spec writer, and superintendent, Jerrod A. Berry, Bishop of Florida Diocese, Jacksonville, Florida.[2][10][11]

1926-1927: private research, sketching, and general study.[11]

1927-1928: draftsman and designer, George Grabe (1883-1949), Architect, Columbus, Nebraska.[11]

1928-1962: architect and owner, Emiel J. Christensen, Architect, Columbus.[11]

1938: Registered Professional Architect, Nebraska, A-45.[11]

1949-1967: Instructor in architecture, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.[11]

1956-1961: member, State Board of Examiners for Professional Engineers and Architects.[11][21]

1958-1967: planning director, Nebraska Resources Division.[21]

1962-1970: architect and owner, Emiel J. Christensen & Associates, Columbus, Nebraska.[12]

Paweto (E. J. Christensen)
PaWiTo (E. J. Christensen)
Oak Ballroom, 1935-37 (D. Murphy)
Columbus City Hall, 1934-35 (D. Murphy)
Isaac Walton Lodge, 1937-38 (NeSHPO)
Isaac Walton Lodge, 1937-38 (NeSHPO)

Buildings & Projects

Residence (1931), 1560 26th Avenue, Columbus, Nebraska.[19]

Building now owned by Prairie Hills Council of Girl Scouts (1933), 1570 33rd Avenue, Columbus, Nebraska.[19]

Columbus City Hall (1934-1935), Columbus, Nebraska.[8][9][15][16][17][18] (PT01-140)

Oak Ballroom (1935-1937), by Lost Creek at Schuyler City Park, Schuyler, Nebraska.[5][19][23] (CX06-003)

Isaac Walton League Cabin (1937-1938), Columbus, Nebraska.[6] (PT00-262)

Residence (1942), 105 Pershing Road, Columbus, Nebraska.[19]

Our Savior Lutheran Church (1950), 1200 S. 40th St., Lincoln, Nebraska.[22

Residence (1951), 106 S. Parkway, Columbus, Nebraska.[19]

PaWiTo (1954-ca. 1969), Platte River bluffs, Polk County, Nebraska.[13][14][b] (PK00-221)


Emiel J. Christensen, Created Pawns or Creative Partners: Lecture Notes on Over-all Planning as a Tool of Community Development (Columbus, Nebr.: Author, 1961).

[Emiel Christensen], "PaWiTo: A 30 Acre Tract Dedicated to the Creative Use of Leisure Time, Owned and Developed by the Bradley and Christensen Families of Columbus, Nebraska," 1969.

Honors & Awards

1984: Distinguished Architect Award, Nebraska Society of Architects.[21]


a. Another reference gives dates at Washington University as 1921-1923.[2]

b. The begin date represents the year the tract was purchased,[14] while the end date is an estimate based on evidence of the fully developed site.[13]

c. Reference [20] states his birth in Lyons, Burt County, Nebraska.


1. Omaha Sunday World Herald (September 23, 1984), F4.

2. Nebraska Press Association, Who's Who in Nebraska (Lincoln: State Journal Printing Co., 1940), 906.

3. University of Nebraska News 38:8 (September 17, 1958).

4. Margaret Currey, The History of Platte County, Nebraska (Culver City, CA: Mucedy and Gee, 1950).

5. Schuyler Sun (May 12, 1977).

6. Hazel Peterson, “Conservation and Concern for wildlife cornerstones for Izaak Walton League,” Columbus Telegram (March 11, 1988), 1, 3.

7. Social Security Death Index

8. “Plan of Columbus Fire Department Becomes Reality,” Columbus Daily Telegram (June 17, 1935).

9. “New Civic Home Adds to Burdens of City Council,” Columbus Daily Telegram (June 17, 1935).

10. Dust jacket from book, Created Pawns or Creative Partners.

11. “From the Files: Emiel J. Christensen, A-45,” The Nebraska Professional (May 1994), 5.

12. American Institute of Architects, comp., American Architects Directory Second Ed. (New York: R. R. Bowker Co., 1962), 117, accessed April 4, 2010, http://communities.aia.org/sites/hdoaa/wiki/Wiki%20Pages/1962%20American%20Architects%20Directory.aspx

13. [Emiel Christensen], "PaWiTo: A 30 Acre Tract Dedicated to the Creative Use of Leisure Time, Owned and Developed by the Bradley and Christensen Families of Columbus, Nebraska," 1969.

14. Bill [Christensen], "Pawito 68601-2," Geocaching, accessed November 14, 2014. https://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?wp=GCJQBQ&title=pawito-68601-2&guid=22e5f16c-4aa7-4999-8d30-cf4a72692d7a

15. “Columbus Building Magnificent City Hall and Public Auditorium,” The Columbus Daily Telegram (September 11, 1934), 5.

16. “Architect's drawing of New City Hall and Auditorium,” The Columbus Daily Telegram (August 22, 1934), 1.

17. “New City Hall and Auditorium Plans Near Completion,” The Columbus Daily Telegram (July 5, 1934), 8.

18. “Council Retains Architect on New City Auditorium,” The Columbus Daily Telegram (April 19, 1934), 3.

19. “Columbus Architect shared his vision in area,” Columbus Telegram (May 3, 2007), 1A, 2A.

20. “Emiel Christensen, conservationist, dies in Columbus,” Lincoln Journal (May 10, 1988).

21. “Architects Honor Emiel Christensen,” Omaha Sunday World Herald (September 23, 1984) 4F.

22. City of Lincoln Building Permit #52840.

23. Jeff Barnes, 150@150: Nebraska's Landmark Buildings at the State's Sesquicentennial (Architectural Foundation of Nebraska, 2017).

Page Citation

D. Murphy, “Emiel J. Christensen (1895-1988), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, September 16, 2014. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, December 7, 2022.

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