James W. Bellangee (1844-1915), Architect

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Lincoln, Nebraska

James W. Bellangee, n.d. (Courtesy, Fairhope Public Library)
James W. Bellangee was an 1867 graduate of the University of Michigan, with a degree in biology.[4][21] He was practicing architecture in Chicago in the early 1870s. Bellangee became the first instructor in architecture at the University of Illinois (then the Illinois Industrial University), during the 1870-1871 school term, having been appointed to teach the first student of the fledgling program, Nathan Clifford Ricker.[3][4][5][26] Ricker subsequently established the professional architecture program at Illinois, a program that exerted great influence in the midwest.[3][4][5][a] Many Nebraska practitioners studied there prior to the establishment of the architecture program at the University of Nebraska.

Following the 1870-1871 term at Illinois, Bellangee left Chicago and briefly joined his brother-in-law, Artemas Roberts, in his practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. His three Nebraska attributions (recorded in the partnership of Roberts & Bellangee) consist of the first high school building in the state capital, the main (second) building of Nebraska's first state-chartered normal school, where he also taught for two years, and additions to the old Normal college building. He married Harriett Jameson in 1869 and their daughter Anna was born while he was teaching in Peru, Nebraska, in 1873.[18][21][22[b][g]

In the 1880s and 1890s, Bellangee was listed in the city directories of Des Moines, Iowa as a horticulturalist or in real estate.[19] Perhaps it was through the latter that he became interested in Henry George's "single tax" theory of property ownership and development. With a group of Iowans, he helped form an Iowa corporation to establish a "single tax" colony, or town, and served on the committee that selected a site in Baldwin County, Alabama. Established in 1894, the town of Fairhope still flourishes across Mobile Bay from Mobile, Alabama, and the Single Tax Corporation remains a major property holder. Bellangee, his daughter and her husband William R. F. Call, and their daughter Helen B. Call, are all interred in the Fairhope Colony Cemetery.[9]

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.

Nebraska Normal School, 1871-1873, Peru (Nebraska State Historical Society)

Educational & Professional Associations

1867: Biology degree, University of Michigan.[4][21]

ca. 1867-ca. 1869: instructor of mathematics, Agricultural College of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois.[6][e]

1870: architect, Chicago, Illinois.[3]

1870-1871: instructor in architecture, Illinois Industrial University (later, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana).[3][4][5]

1871-1873: architect and partner, Roberts & Bellangee, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10][17][b]

1872-1874: professor of mathematics and drawing, Nebraska Normal School, Peru, Nebraska.[6][10][22:107,125][c]

1884-1898: horticulturalist and real estate dealer, Des Moines, Iowa.

1894: founding member of Fairhope, Alabama, a "single tax colony."[7][8][d]

1894-1915: Fairhope treasurer, promoter, pamphleteer, truck farmer.[11][12][13][14][15][16][f]

Buildings & Projects

The whole of Bellangee’s known architectural work was in partnership with Artemas Roberts; see Roberts & Bellangee, Architects for his buildings and projects.


a. The Illinois program is considered to be the second architecture program established in the United States, and the first in a western school.[3][4][5] In 1922, The Western Architect stated, "It should be a matter of great interest, especially to middle west architects, to know that the University of Illinois was the second school in America to establish a formal curriculum in architecture and to know that in this she was preceded only by Massachusetts Institute of Technology....

“In his proposed organization for the new Illinois Industrial University, Doctor John Milton Gregory, the first Regent (President), in 1867, proposed as one of the features of the ‘Polytechnic Department,’ a ‘Course in Architecture and the Fine Arts,’ and as early as 1870 engaged Mr. James Bellangee to give instruction in architectural drawing. The next year architectural instruction was presented by Mr. Harold M. Hansen, who had pursued professional studies at the Bau-Akademie in Berlin.”

Hansen was unable to return in the fall of 1872, so Gregory asked Ricker, a senior student, to take over the instruction. Ricker received his degree in March of 1873, three months before MIT gave its first degree. Ricker was then asked to take the program in 1873, with the stipulation that he go abroad for further preparation. This he did, touring France, England, Germany, Holland, and Austria, including spending a term in the Bau-Akademie in Berlin. Upon his return, he established the professional curriculum at the University. Ricker was made Assistant Professor in 1874, Professor in 1875, and Professor Emeritus in 1917. He was given the professional degree, Master of Architecture, in 1878, and the honorary Doctor of Architecture in 1900.[5]

b. Bellangee's surname seemingly invites misspelling, as "Boulanger" in one source [17], “Ballange” in others[1][2], or sometimes "Ballenger" or "Bellenger." Bellangee’s appearance in Lincoln in 1871 as a partner of Roberts on the design of Lincoln High School [1][17] was shortly before the death of his sister, and Roberts' wife, Elizabeth, in Lincoln, in April of 1872.[3][4] See Artemas Roberts (1841-1944), Architect, for more on the Bellangee sisters. See also Dover, Illinois, U. S. Census, 1860, 1288/1312.

c. The Nebraska Advertiser of Brownville reported on “The Faculty of the State Normal School” at Peru, Nebraska in 1873, including that “Prof. James Bellangee, teacher of mathematics, is a graduate of Michigan University. He taught mathematics in the Agricultural College of Illinois, at Champaign, for two years. He taught very successfully in the Normal last year.” The year before, the same paper called him “Secretary of the Faculty, Mathematics and Drawing.”[6]

d. The Commoner newspaper of Lincoln reported in 1910: “...the Fairhope single tax colony was founded some fifteen years ago by three advanced thinkers from Des Moines, Iowa who were devoted followers of Henry George--E. B. Gaston, Frank Brown and James Bellanger (sic).”[8]

e. The years given for this assignment are speculatively determined by the process of elimination, as Bellangee's exact activities and whereabouts between 1867 and 1870 are not presently known. Kruty states that Ricker (see note [a] above) was “placed in a program of mathematics, German, and drawing, the latter administered by James W. Bellangee, a Chicago architect.” Bellangee also records a two year stint teaching mathematics at the “Agricultural College of Illinois” (note [c] above), a college of the Illinois Industrial University where the architecture program was housed.[3][6][25] Bellangee's appointment for the 1870-1871 academic year, however, was exclusively as "Teacher of Architectural and Mechanical Drawing;" the details of his appointment to the Agricultural College have not been verified.[26]

f. Bellangee was active in the "single tax" movement even before the founding of Fairhope. In 1892 he spoke at a rally of the Omaha, Nebraska single tax club: “James Bellangee, of Des Moines, told what he knew of land monopolies in Iowa...”[11] He not only was among the founders of the "colony's" corporation, he also chose the site: "A committee consisting of James Bellangee and Shuah S. Mann was appointed to select a site for the community. After looking at several prospective sites in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, the eastern shore of Mobile Bay was selected. The Fairhope Industrial Association started buying land there, and in November of 1894 a group of 28 single taxers from Des Moines as well as other cities assembled in Fairhope to begin building their model community."[7]

He was also noted to have traveled widely to recruit additional settlers, including visits to Washington, D. C. in 1903[12] and Denver[14]. The Colorado report mentions a "brief description of Fairhope, given in a little booklet issued by James Bellangee." In 1903, an Iowa newspaper reported: "He is here now on a visit to old friends, after an extensive lecturing tour in the east explaining the colony and its work and purposes. He was well entertained by persons of national repute in Boston and the east."[13]

The colony drew interest across the country. A lengthy article in a Washington, D. C. newspaper in 1909 mentioned Bellangee as a founder, the treasurer of the corporation, "the first man to buy a share of stock," and a successful truck farmer: "James Ballangee [sic], one of the pioneer single-taxers, produces several thousand dollars’ worth of lettuce, beets, radishes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, okra, peppers, cantaloupes and other garden truck, which he ships to the Mobile market by boat every morning.”[15]

g. James, Harriett, and Anna Bellangee are listed together in Iowa State censuses of 1885 and 1889. James and Anna are listed in 1895 but Harriett is not, nor is Harriett interred with the rest of the family in Alabama. James Bellanger's obituary in 1915 mentioned that "Mrs. Bellangee died over 20 years ago." Like her husband, she was active in civic matters, appearing on the 1889 ticket of the Union Labor party for the post of state Superintendent of Schools for Iowa.[9][19][20][21] She finished third among five candidates, with 1.6% of the votes cast.[23] James Bellangee also sought statewide office in 1893 on the People's Party ticket, running third (among four candidates) with 8% of the votes cast.[24]


1. A. T. Andreas, History of the State of Nebraska (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1882), 1078.

2. McKinley (sic) High School, HABS No. 35-2, “Written Historical & Descriptive Data,” (Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey). Accessed July 25, 2013. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/NE0026/

3. Paul Kruty, “Nathan Clifford Ricker: Establishing Architecture at the University of Illinois,” in Lillian Hoddeson, ed. No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes (Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 5, Html version accessed July 25, 2013, http://www.arch.illinois.edu/about/history/ricker/ Original link no longer active; see the version saved September 29, 2011 by the Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20110929114742/http://www.arch.uiuc.edu/about/history/ricker/ (accessed January 10, 2016).

4. Several sources cite Bellangee's Michigan degree from Ann Arbor, but the degree in biology is specified in “History of Architecture at Illinois,” School of Architecture website, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, accessed July 25, 2013, http://www.arch.illinois.edu/about/history/ Original link no longer active; see the version saved September 7, 2013 by the Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20130907093003/http://www.arch.illinois.edu/about/history (accessed January 10, 2016). For other mentions of Bellangee in the context of the Illinois architecture program, also see Norbert Schoenauer, “History [of the School of Architecture],” McGill University School of Architecture website. Accessed September 1, 2011. http://www.mcgill.ca/architecture/introduction/history/ ; and "Architectural Education in the United States, II: The University of Illinois," American Architect and Building News 24:662 (September 1, 1888): 95. Online through Google Books. Accessed January 16, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=QKYwAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=james+bellangee+architect&source=bl&ots=fPdez-MznW&sig=H9i1cARvNEE1Fo8v0EfNbrqQENo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiaoO_a4bTKAhVG5mMKHdl5BDwQ6AEIIjAC#v=onepage&q=james%20bellangee%20architect&f=false.

5. “Doctor Nathan Clifford Ricker: Pioneer in Architectural Education in America,” The Western Architect XXXI:7 (June 1922): 78-79. Accessed January 16, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=6RbnAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=james+bellangee+architect&source=bl&ots=MKGTWgvXIH&sig=1JvwSZmLZek3yCqqWw62k0K-Yrg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8uImIqrbKAhUluoMKHbdxApMQ6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=james%20bellangee%20architect&f=false ; Also see Roula Geraniotis, "The University of Illinois and German Architectural Education," Journal of Architectural Education, 38:4 (Summer 1985), 15; and Sidney Fiske Kimball, “The Department of Architecture: Development, Condition, Ideals,” The Alumni Quarterly of the University of Illinois VII:2 (April 1913): 87. Accessed January 16, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=jajOAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=james+bellangee+architect&source=bl&ots=VBvIb2Irmz&sig=3J6iP2i7QtZjnwF1bI0NSKh7jOg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8uImIqrbKAhUluoMKHbdxApMQ6AEIJzAE#v=onepage&q=james%20bellangee%20architect&f=false

6. Nebraska Advertiser (August 29, 1872), 3; and (August 28, 1873), 2.

7. "History of Fairhope and the Single Tax Corporation," in Fairhope Single Tax Corporation. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://www.fairhopesingletax.com/fairhope-history/

8. The (Lincoln, Nebraska) Commoner, (September 2, 1910), 7.

9. Fairhope Colony Cemetery, Fairhope, Alabama. Bellangee's stone is inscribed "One of Fairhope's Founders." Accessed January 9, 2016. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=120645573&PIpi=93071850

10. A. T. Andreas, "History of the State of Nebraska," “Nemaha County, Part 11: Peru” (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1882). Accessed January 9, 2016. http://www.kancoll.org/books/andreas_ne/nemaha/nemaha-p11.html#educate

11. “The Single Taxites. They Work Up Enthusiasm and Some Ill Feeling,” St. Paul (Minnesota) daily globe, (July 4, 1892), 1 [Dateline: Omaha, July 3]. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90059522/1892-07-04/ed-1/seq-1/#

12. “Seeks Recruits for Single Tax Colony. James Bellangee, of Fairhope, Ala., in the City,” The Washington Times (March 18, 1903), 1. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1903-03-18/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1836&index=8&rows=20&words=Bellangee+James&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=james+bellangee&y=13&x=20&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

13. Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown, Iowa, December 22, 1903), 1. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85049554/1903-12-22/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1836&index=9&rows=20&words=Bella.ngee+James&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=james+bellangee&y=13&x=20&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

The article was reprinted in The Minneapolis Journal (November 25, 1904), 9. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1904-11-25/ed-1/seq-10/#

14. “The Single Tax Colony--The Progress of Fairhope, Ala., proves to be highly satisfactory. Four hundred people reside in the village which is now metropolis of County,” Evening (Walla Walla, Washington) statesman (December 1, 1904), 6, dateline, Denver, December 1. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085421/1904-12-01/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1836&index=1&rows=20&words=Bellangee+James&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=james+bellangee&y=13&x=20&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 .

15. William E. Curtis, “Showing Their Faith: Progress of the Single Tax Colony of Fair Hope. Location is Delightful. Residents Endeavoring to Prove the Theories of Henry George. Made up of the Cultured,” Evening Star (Washington, D. C., April l9, 1909), 16. [Dateline Mobile, Alabama, April 6, 1909] Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1909-04-09/ed-1/seq-16/#

16. “Beautiful and Picturesque Fairhope, Alabama,” The Pensacola Journal (October 5, 1913), 30, [Illustrated]. Accessed January 9, 2016. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87062268/1913-10-05/ed-1/seq-30/#date1=1836&index=6&rows=20&words=Alabama+Fairhope&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=fairhope+alabama&y=17&x=13&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

17. A. B. Hayes and Sam. D. Cox, History of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska with brief historical sketches of the state and of Lancaster County (Lincoln: State Journal Company, 1889), 222-229.

18. Marriage in Des Moines, Iowa, March 1896, of Anna L. Bellangee, 23, daughter of James Ballangee and Harriett Jameson, b. Peru, NE, 1873, to William R. F. Call, 24. Ancestry.com. Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1809-1992 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2014.

19. Iowa State Census, Polk County, Des Moines, 1885, 1889, 1895. Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.

20. “A Union Labor Ticket,” Los Angeles Daily Herald (September 5, 1889), 4, [Dateline Des Moines, Iowa, September 4].

21. "Death of Jas. Bellangee. Pioneer Fairhoper dies as result of burns received in cleaning park," The Fairhope Courier (August 13, 1915), 1. Courtesy of Fairhope Public Library.

22. Record Books, Peru Normal School. Nebraska State Historical Society, RG0029, Peru State College, S.1, V.01 (1865-1871).

23. Iowa Official Register, 1890 ("The Red Book"), 109, 113. Accessed January 14, 2016. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/shelves/redbooks/Redbook-1890%20(23GA).pdf

24. Iowa Official Register, 1893 ("The Red Book"), 102, 184. Accessed January 14, 2016. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/shelves/redbooks/Redbook-1895%20(25GA).pdf

25. Alfred Charles True. A History of Agricultural Education in the United States, 1785-1925 (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication No. 36, July, 1929): 118, 119, 401-402. Online through Google Books, accessed January 16, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=C4Y_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA402&lpg=PA402&dq=Agricultural+College+of+Illinois+1870&source=bl&ots=V7SzXJHiTx&sig=y3aUGx7AkI_By1b7wA8f9TTKDnA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjb5IGittfKAhUL8mMKHc58DUAQ6AEINjAH#v=onepage&q=Agricultural%20College%20of%20Illinois%201870&f=false

26. Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Industrial University for the Year 1870-1 (Springfield: Illinois Journal Printing Office, 1872): 3, 40, 60. Online through Google Books, accessed January 16, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=N37OAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=james+bellangee+architect&source=bl&ots=KvQWWg5Lia&sig=UoXebVnKtfSmRguxQlEfZY8UsV0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiaoO_a4bTKAhVG5mMKHdl5BDwQ6AEIMTAH#v=onepage&q=james%20bellangee%20architect&f=false

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Page Citation

D. Murphy and E. F. Zimmer, “James W. Bellangee (1844-1915), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, January 15, 2016. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, April 20, 2021.

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