George E. McDonald (1861-1942), Architect
George E. McDonald was born in New York, New York in 1861 and was active as an architect/builder in Kansas by the early 1880s. He produced several courthouses and other buildings across Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, before practicing in Colorado, Wyoming, and California. He relocated many times throughout his career, from Kansas to several communities in Nebraska, then Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, and California. His adventures included heading to Alaska to prospect in the Klondike gold rush in 1898 and being injured in (but surviving) a train wreck in Missouri in 1904.[m]
He also married at least three times. He married Elsie May Dale in 1885 in Fort Scott, Kansas. They had two sons--Dale in Fort Scott (1886) and Donald in Superior, Nebraska (1889).[o] He married Helen Almena Parker in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1894.7][c] Finally, he married Emma Olinger around 1917, who petitioned for divorce in 1921.46][n] His last known major projects were in Casper, Wyoming in the late 1910s. He later practiced in Denver in the early 1920s and in Los Angeles, California by 1929. McDonald died in Los Angeles in 1942.[p]
NB: The subject of this page appears to have been unrelated to the very active Cincinnati architects George E. McDonald Sr. (ca.1864-1928) & Jr. (ca. 1892-1969), dba McDonald, McDonald & McDonald.
Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings
1890-1891: Fremont, Nebraska
1893: Geneva, Nebraska
1893: Omaha, Nebraska
Educational & Professional Associations
1886-1887: Architect, Red Cloud, Nebraska.
1889: Architect, Superior, Nebraska.
1889-1891: Architect, Fremont, Nebraska.
1891: Architect, Fairbury, Nebraska.
1891-1893: Architect, Geneva, Nebraska, (sometimes associated with John H. Silvernail of Kearney).
1893: Architect, Omaha.
1894-1896: Architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.
1897: Architect, Warrensburg, Missouri.
1900-1909: Architect, Kansas City, Missouri.
1912-1916: Architect, Pueblo, Colorado.[e]
1917-1919: Architect, Casper, Wyoming.
by 1929-1935: Architect, Los Angeles, California.
Buildings & Projects
Two-story frame dwelling (1885), National Avenue, Fort Scott, Kansas.
Sherer-Lindsey Building (1886), Red Cloud, Nebraska.
Smith County Courthouse (1887-1888), Smith Center, Kansas.
Proposal for Gage County Courthouse, not selected (1889), Beatrice, Nebraska.
New schoolhouse (1891), Nelson, Nebraska.
Two wings to the Richardson County Courthouse (1894), Falls City, Nebraska.
Proposal for Marion County Courthouse (1895), Knoxville, Iowa.
Three-story brick & stone business block for Hiram L. Smith (1895), Lots 10 & 11, Block 39 (1314 O Street, later Hardy Furniture Co.), Lincoln, Nebraska.
Proposal for a new high school (1897), Lincoln, Nebraska.
First Methodist Church (1902), Emporia, Kansas.
Gymnasium for state normal school (1904), Warrensburg, Missouri.
Plans for Elk County Courthouse (1907), Howard, Kansas.
Competition proposal for Greene County Courthouse (1909), Springfield, Missouri.
First Presbyterian Church (1917), southwest corner of Park and Wolcott Streets, Casper, Wyoming.
City Hall (1918), Casper, Wyoming.
"Extensive remodeling" of Moose Hall, plans and specs "by George E. McDonald, local architect" (1929), Visalia, California.
Cassville Jail (1933), Cassville, Missouri.
Two-story, seven room residence (1935), 160 North Martel Avenue, Los Angeles, California.
a. McDonald also worked out of Lincoln and Red Cloud.
b. Fifteen architects submitted proposals to Jefferson County commissioners for a courthouse in Fairbury, Nebraska. The selection process took a novel turn when the chairman of the county board, another of the commissioners, and the chosen architect, George E. McDonald, were arrested by the county sheriff a few minutes after the selection. The third commissioner had sworn out a complaint that the selection was based on bribery by McDonald. McDonald and the commissioners plead guilty and were fined.
c. In 1894, George E. McDonald was granted a license in Lincoln, Nebraska to marry H. Almena Parker. He was 33 years old, son of Frances T. and Bridget (McNally) McDonald, born in New York, residing in Geneva, Nebraska. She was 30, residing in Lincoln. A newspaper report of their wedding called him "the contractor, well known all over the state" and her as "Miss Almena Parker, who is equally well known, to Lincoln people especially, as an elocutionist and teacher." Reportedly, they "will be home after March 20th at 1538 R street." The 1900 census enumerated George and his wife of six years (listed as Helen A.) in Kansas City, Missouri.
d. The Grand Island home was under construction in 1887. An article in Nebraska State Journal mentioned "Architect Fuerman has sent...photographs of the front elevation of the new building to be erected for the soldiers' and sailors' home at Grand Island. The building will be very neat, durable and commodious." "Fuerman" was presumably Julius Fuehrman, Architect of Grand Island. However, in a spat between two state boards about the approval process and quality of construction and repairs at the Grand Island Home, George E. McDonald was mentioned as present during an inspection tour, as architect of the original building. It was also implied he was also architect of a new electric light plant "just put in."
e. Other city directories listing George E. McDonald, architect, include Kansas City, Missouri (1901-1908), Pueblo, Colorado (1912-1916), and Denver, Colorado (1920-1921).
f. The Omaha Bee reported in 1889 that the supervisors of Dodge County "have just adopted plans for the new $60,000 court house, to be erected this year. There were eighteen sets of plans in competition, the lucky architect being George E. McDonald of Superior. The plans provide for a very handsome structure 35x125 feet in dimensions. It will be of brick, with stone trimmings and stone corners. There will be a central dome over one hundred feet in height. The building will be three stories high and one of the handsomest as well as the best arranged court houses in Nebraska."
g. The Omaha Bee reported on the dedication of the Nuckolls County Courthouse in Nelson. After a judge spoke, "George E. McDonald, the architect, then gave an address on building."
h. The Fort Scott (Kansas) Daily Monitor mentioned in 1884 "several fine residences being built as fast as the weather will permit. Prominent among them is the residence of Mr. M.M. Peck. Upon inquiring as to the architect and builder, we learned that Mr. George E. McDonald, a rising young man, who has resided in the city about three years, furnished the plans and specifications, and also has the contract for the work....He informed us that his prospects were flattering for a big season, and that in all probability he should have to employ quite a number of first class workmen to execute the work he plans..."
i. A Kansas state census of 1885 listed George E. McDonald as a carpenter, residing in Fort Scott.
j. The Commissioners of Marshall County, Kansas, considered bids from nine architects for designing and superintending construction of a new courthouse. Among the nine were the following from Nebraska: J. Guth of Omaha, C. C. Rittenhouse of Geneva, M. Leach of Lincoln, and George E. McDonald of Fairbury. Perkins & Adams of Topeka, Kansas were chosen.
k. Nebraska newspapers noted that the board of public lands and buildings appointed John Silvernail of Kearney and George E. McDonald of Geneva to design a facility for "juvenile feminine deliquents. In describing "a splendid water color picture" of the proposed building, the press stated "The design is that of John Silvernail of Kearney, while the workmanship of the picture is that of George E. McDonald of Geneva." Later articles mentioned only McDonald as the architect, but in 1893 Omaha Bee reported that McDonald and Silvernail were each paid about $350 plans and supervision of construction.
l. The Neodesha Daily Sun reported in 1898: "George E. McDonald, a robust architect of Warrensburg left Kansas City at 10 o'clock this morning for Alaska after spending two days here outfitting." It must have been a brief trip as he was reported interviewing stock yard people in Saint Joseph, Missouri in April, 1898.
m. McDonald was "seriously hurt and...confined to his bed" by a train wreck near Holden, Missouri in 1904. The newspaper story on the injured parties mentioned that McDonald was "the architect who has been here for some months in charge of the construction of the state normal school gynasium..."
n. The U.S. Census of 1920 lists architect George E. McDonald and his wife Emma O. residing at 2956 West 32nd Ave. in Denver. A handsome bungalow, now (2019) used as a real estate office, still stands at that address. Los Angeles Time mentioned an item from Denver in 1921, that Mrs. Emma Olinger McDonald had filed a divorce complaint against George E. McDonald, and that they had married in 1917.
o. George E. McDonald, age 24, of Fort Scott, Kansas, married Elsie May Dale, age 24, of York, Nebraska, October 6, 1885, in Bourbon County, Kansas. Elsie McDonald was listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as widowed, living in York, Nebraska, with sons Dale (b. 1886) and Donald (b. 1889). Dale was born in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1886 and Donald in Superior, Nebraska in 1889. When U.S. Army Capt. Dale F. McDonald applied for a passport in 1920 for continued military service in Europe, he listed his father as George E. McDonald, born in NYC, occupation architect, current residence "I do not know."
p. In the U.S. Census of 1940, a 79-year old George E. McDonald, born in New York, was listed as lodging in Los Angeles, with a notation that he was at the same residence in 1935. The California Death Index lists a George E. McDonald, born in NY 1 Jan 1860, died in LA 14 Nov. 1942.
q. Lincoln Evening Call of December 15, 1895 noted: "The plans of Architect G. E. McDonald of this city were accepted for the building of the new $20,000 M. E. church at York."
r. Contribution courtesy of Patrick Thompson, Germantown, Maryland, December 5, 2019.
1. Plans & specs (photocopy) in Nebraska State Historical Society archives. [front & right elevations, transverse section, tower details; first, second and basement floor plans; window details, roof details; Fred Thornton drawings].
2. Webster County Argus (August 5, 1886): 8; and (August 1, 1886): 8.
3. Pollak, Oliver B., Nebraska Courthouses: Contention, Compromise, and Community. (Images of America Series) Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2002, [725.1.P771n]
4. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
5. "A Sensational Arrest," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (July 15, 1890), 1; "Pen, Paste and Scissors," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (October 9, 1890), 5; "Not a Profitable Investment. The One Made by Architect McDonald. He Petitions the Governor for the Remission of the Fine Inflicted Upon Him for Bribery," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (December 30, 1890), 6.
6. Ancestry.com. Nebraska, Marriage Records, 1855-1908 [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald." . Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2017.
7. Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (February 28, 1894), 4.
8. "Two Boards Are Scrapping--Visiting and Examining Board Complains to the Governor," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 15, 1896), 8.
9. "Notice to Contractors," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 24, 1894), 8.
10. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald," "architect," b. c. 1861. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
11. "A New Court House," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (February 28, 1889), 2.
12. "Selecting Plans," Beatrice (Nebraska) Daily Express (November 12, 1889), 4.
13. "A New Court House Dedicated," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (December 8, 1890), 1.
14. In "The City Yesterday," Fort Scott (Kansas) Daily Monitor (March 12, 1884), 4.
15. Ancestry.com. Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925 [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald," b. 1861. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
16. "Local News," Fort Scott (Kansas) Daily Tribune & Monitor (July 21, 1885), 4.
17. Daily Pioneer (Smith Centre, Kansas) (December 30, 1887), 4.
18. "Commissioners' Proceedings," Daily Pioneer (Smith Centre, Kansas) (February 14, 1888), 2.
19. "Marshall County--(Gathered from our exchanges and elsewhere)," Blue Rapids (Kansas) Times (April 2, 1891), 2.
20. "J. H. Silvernail the Architect," Kearney (Nebraska) Daily Hub (April 13, 1891), 3.
21. "The Contract Let," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (May 29, 1891), 5.
22. "State House Briefs," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 3, 1891), 8.
23. "More Official Looseness. Evidence of Careless Expenditure of Money at the Geneva Industrial School," Omaha (Nebraska) Bee (June 24, 1893), 5.
24. "Awarded to a Lincoln Man," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (June 29, 1894), 5.
25. "Notice to Contractors," advertisement seeking bids to build on Lots 10 & 11, Block 39, Lincoln, (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (March 12, 1895), 7.
26. "Notice to Contractors," advertisement seeking bids to build First M. E. Church, York, Nebraska, (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (January 19, 1896), 7.
27. In "Personal," "Architect George E. McDonald of Warrensburg, Mo., is in the city to submit plans for the new high school," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (January 21, 1897), 6.
28. "Architects George E. McDonald of Warrensburg, Mo., and M. T. Leach of this city, submitted plans for the new high school building." Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (January 22, 1897), 1.
29. "Off for the Gold Fields. Prospectors from Warrensburg Going to the Klondike," Neodesha (Kansas) Daily Sun (January 27, 1898), 3.
30. In "Local in Brief," St. Joseph (Missouri) Gazette-Herald (April 20, 1898), 3.
31. "Court House. Mount Vernon, Missouri," advertisement for sealed bids, Lawrence Chieftain (Mount Vernon, Missouri) (August 2, 1900), 1.
32. "Notice to Contractors," advertisement seeking bids for courthouse, St. Louis (Missouri) Republic (March 22, 1901), 9.
33. "George E. McDonald of Kansas City Mo., architect of the new Methodist church which is now in the course of construction at Ninth and Merchant was in town Saturday," Emporia (Kansas) Weekly Gazette (June 19, 1902), 7.
34. "Air Failed to Operate. This Caused the Missouri Pacific Wreck on Saturday. Fifty-One Persons Injured in Derailment Caused by Broken Rail. Five Cars Went into Ditch," Hutchinson (Kansas) News (December 5, 1904), 1.
35. Notice of McDonald "of Kansas City the architect, who furnishes the plans for the new Elk county court house," spent a few days in Howard, the county seat, The Citizen (Howard, Kansas) (June 5, 1907), 1.
36. "Will Inspect Plans--County Court Will Go Over Court House Drawings Submitted by Many Architects," Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader (April 15, 1909), 3.
37. Advertisement for "George E. M'Donald Architect," Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune (November 6, 1917), 7; and frequently thereafter until.....
38. "Sketches Submitted for Handsome Church Edifice," Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune (November 28, 1917), 6.
39. "Negotiations Look to Early Adjustment of Dispute Over Deed to New City Hall Site--Land Donated for Park Purposes Will be Available, Belief...," Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune (May 7, 1918), 1, 8.
40. "George E. McDonald, city architect, has returned from Denver, where he spent several days visiting his wife and family," Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune (January 15, 1919), 3.
41. "Architect is Dead--George McDonald Funeral Servics to be Held Tomorrow," obituary for George E. McDonald Sr. (c. 1864-1928), Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer (February 13, 1928), 1. SEE also obituary of his architect son, George E. McDonald Jr. (c. 1892-1969), "George E. McDonald Services Wednesday," Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer (March 11, 1969), 5.
42. "Moose Hall Bids Will be Opened," Los Angeles Times (February 25, 1929), 18.
43. "George E. McDonald, Kansas City architect, has approved the new jail building...," Cassville (Missouri) Republican (December 7, 1933), 4.
44. "Building Permit Applications Made," Los Angeles Times (March 31, 1935), 31.
45. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald" and spouse "Emma" in Denver. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
46. Los Angeles Times (April 11, 1921), 4.
47. Ancestry.com. Kansas, County Marriage Records, 1811-1911 [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald" and "Elsie May Dale." Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
48. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "Elsie McDonald" and location: "York, Nebraska." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
49. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line], s.v. "Dale F. McDonald." Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
50. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
51. Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line], s.v. "George E. McDonald" born New York, ca. 1860. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.
52. Ancestry.com. Iowa, Marriage Records, 1880-1940 [database on-line], s.v. "Donald F. McDonald." Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
53. "The Soldiers' Home," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (June 1, 1887), 8.
54. In "Brevities," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (December 15, 1895), 8.
55. Sally F. Schwenk and Kerry Davis, Cultural Resource Survey – Phases I & II: Warrensburg, Missouri. September, 2008. https://www.warrensburg-mo.com/DocumentCenter/View/29/Cultural-Resource-Survey-Phase-I-and-II-PDF
56. "Johnson County Missouri Historical Society Facebook page," Facebook.com/jocomohistory Accessed December 12, 2019 via https://www.facebook.com/jocomohistory/posts/george-e-mcdonald-architect-from-lincoln-nebraskadesigned-the-richardsonian-roma/10161617822525587/
57. "Fight Over The Court House. Marion County's Building a Bone of Contention for Architects," Des Moines (Iowa) Register (August 4, 1895), 1.
D. Murphy and E. Zimmer “George E. McDonald (1861-1942), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, April 27, 2020. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, August 16, 2022.
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