George W. Peters (1859-1893), Architect

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Lincoln, Nebraska, 1887-1893

George W. Peters was born in 1859 in Dayton, Ohio to Joseph and Catherine Peters. His father was a builder and contractor credited not only with superintending construction of major structures, but also with designing several Dayton churches. Although 21-year-old George was identified as an architect in the 1880 census, the Dayton city directories list him as a draughtsman in the office of Peters & Burns from 1879 through 1886. His brother Luther Peters was a partner in that office,[1] described as "among most prominent Dayton firms, best known for...Dayton Public Library."[2][3][a] Peters was first listed in the Lincoln city directory in 1887 as an architect with J. H. W. Hawkins, then as a partner with F. C. Fiske as Fiske & Peters in 1888 and 1889. By 1890, they were listed as practicing separately when Peters designed the main building for Lincoln Normal University, by far his largest project. Peters died in 1893 in Dayton, Ohio on a visit to his parents. His widow, sometimes listed as Mary K. and sometimes as Katie M., died six years later at 39 years of age. They were interred together at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.[4][5]

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.

Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings

Lincoln, Nebraska, 1887-1893

Educational & Professional Associations

1879-1886: draughtsman with Peters & Burns architectural office, Dayton, Ohio.

1886: draftsman with J. H. W. Hawkins, Lincoln, Nebraska.[9][d]

1887: architect with J. H. W. Hawkins, Lincoln, Nebraska.

1888-1889: architect and partner, Fiske & Peters, Architects, Lincoln, Nebraska.

1890-1893: architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Buildings & Projects

Governor John M. Thayer House (1887-1889), 1901 Prospect Street, Lincoln, Nebraska. [6][b] (LC13:D06-1177) See National Register narrative.

George and Mary Kate Peters House (1889), 1928 Prospect Street, Lincoln, Nebraska.[7][b]

Lincoln Normal University (1890-1892), east of Lincoln (now 56th & South Streets, Lincoln, Nebraska).[10][11][12][e]

LincNormalUnivGeoWPeters.jpg
Lincoln Normal University (1890-1892). Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (October 30, 1890)

Plans for a new Conservatory of Music (1892), northeast corner of 13th & L Streets ("directly across form the present conservatory"), Lincoln, Nebraska.[8][14][15][16][17][c]

Notes

a. American Architect & Building News (February 6, 1886), published a full page drawing for "The Dayton Public School Library." See https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.15586/ Inland Architect published a photo of the same, see http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ds.06532/ Accessed January 16, 2017.

b. The Thayer and the Peters houses are near one another in the same Prospect Subdivision; both lots were purchased by Mary K. Peters and the houses were occupied by George and Mary, in succession, perhaps as they completed construction. Both properties were encumbered by several mortgages and then mechanic's liens in the course of construction.

c. Professor O. B. Howell had the Lincoln Conservatory of Music built on the southeast corner of 13th and L in 1889. It was a large four-story building with a steeple-like tower at the intersection opposite First Congregational Church.[14][15] The institution was an immediate success, to the point that within three years, Howell acquired the corner lot north across L Street and announced in March 1892 that he would build a larger Conservatory there, to be designed by Geo. W. Peters. "Upon this splendid lot work will be commenced at once upon a new conservatory building 50x142 in size, four stories in height. The new building will be built of gray sandstone and it will be surmounted by a tower 100 feet in height. It will contain a concert hall with a seating capacity for 800 and will contain in addition to instruction rooms some eighty rooms for students....The estimated cost...is $65,000."[16] Construction commenced but stumbled and by 1893 the property was encumbered by nearly a dozen mechanic's liens, including one in favor of G. W. Peters. He filed a lien against the owners of Nebraska Conservatory of Music for "plans, specifications and details" at a rate of "2% on the total cost of the building," described as "the New Nebraska Conservatory of Music." When auctioned by the sheriff in 1893, the property was called "the new unfinished conservatory building."[8][17] Peters died in mid-1893, before the project changed hands and construction resumed--not as a conservatory, but rather as a multi-dwelling structure. Called "Waverly Place" or "Waverly Hotel," it was a 3-story brick building with gray stone veneer. The Nebraska State Historical Society's Macdonald Studio Collection of photographs has two images of this building (M134-19271127 and M134-19310506).

d. Lincoln Evening Call of July 12, 1886, noted "Architect J. H. W. Hawkins has found it necessary owing to his increased business to secure the services in the drafting department of G. W. Peters, of Dayton, O., who will take charge of his duties tomorrow."[9]

e. Lincoln Normal University's main building has long and credibly been attributed by Lincoln historian Jim McKee to Artemas Roberts, who lived nearby on a farm northeast of the campus when Lincoln Normal was built. Matt Hansen has provided conclusive evidence, including a signed rendering published in 1890, that George W. Peters was instead responsible. The building's cost was estimated at $85,000 with "Plans...drawn by George W. Peters..." When Peters died in 1893 in his early 30s, Lincoln Normal was mentioned as his "principal work."[10][13][14]

Peters' perspective drawing bears a draughtsman's signature at lower left, barely legible as "Ed. B. Collins." Edward B. Collins is listed in the 1889 Lincoln city directory as a "draughtsman" and in 1891 as "draughtsman" for F. C. Fiske, with whom Peters partnered in 1888-1889. Probably Peters' association with Collins began during that partnership.

Lincoln Normal's attribution to Roberts may have arisen from an 1891 newspaper column entitled "Lincoln Normal University" which provided faculty updates and newsy items about residents around the Normal "village," including that "Mrs. Roberts, wife of our architect, A. J. [sic] Roberts, is visiting friends and during her absence Mrs. Johnson will act as superintendent of the village Sunday school." The reference to "our architect" may indicate that architect Roberts was a familiar and active resident of the "village," rather than that he designed the University building.[11][12]

References

1. Harvey W. Crew, History of Dayton, Ohio, Dayton, Ohio: United Brethren Publishing, 1889. See http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/page/page/3440614.htm Accessed January 16, 2017.

2. "Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940," 2008; see http://oldsite.architecturecincy.org/dictionary/P.html#peters Accessed January 16, 2017.

3. 1860, 1870, 1880 U. S. Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. s.v. George W. Peters, with parents Joseph and Catherine.

4. Death notice for G. W. Peters, (Lincoln, Nebraska) Evening News (July 28, 1893); same in (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 28, 1893), 6.

5. http://www.woodlandcemetery.org Accessed June 4, 2015.

6. Lancaster County (Nebraska) Deeds 38:71 (March 1887) and 46:621 (April 1889) and Mechanic's Liens C-408 and D-268.

7. Lancaster County (Nebraska) Deeds 46:628 (April 1889) and 71:280 (January 1893) and Mechanic's Liens E:374, 436, 477, 521.

8. Lancaster County (Nebraska) Mechanic's Lien H-157, 1892.

9. Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (July 12, 1886), 4.

10. "Lincoln Normal University Geo. W. Peters--Architect," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (October 30, 1890), 1 (illustrated with signed rendering).

11. James L. McKee, Lincoln: The Prairie Capital, Northridge, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1984, 70.

12. "Lincoln Normal University," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (November 22, 1891), 6.

13. "A Chance to Win--If Lincoln Comes to the Front--She May Get a Big Thing--The Grandest Institution Yet Remains to Be Secured--Work Should be Commenced at Once for Subscriptions of Land, Money and Building Material," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (September 23, 1890), 4.

14. "The Conservatory--Ground Broken for the Building. A New Institution to be Established Here for Musical Instruction," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (May 24, 1889), 2.

15. James L. McKee, "Lincoln Conservatory of Music," in Remember When...Memories of Lincoln (Lincoln, Nebraska: J. & L. Lee Co., 1998), 62.

16. "A New Building. The Conservatory of Music to Build. The Great Success of That School Demands at Once More Room," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Call (March 28, 1892), 8.

17. "To be Sold Again," Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening News (December 23, 1893), 4.

Page Citation

E. F. Zimmer and D. Murphy, “George W. Peters (1859-1893), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, December 17, 2022. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, February 1, 2023.


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