John R. Smith (1870-1958), Architect

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Lincoln, Nebraska, 1909-1935

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John R. Smith was born May 4, 1870 in Wisconsin to Richard H. and Mary Smith. The U. S. Census listed his father as a lead miner in 1870 and as a farmer in 1880. The family moved in the 1880s to Pierce County, Nebraska, where John married Florence Watson on December 31, 1899.[1] John was identified as a farmer in Willow Creek, Pierce County, Nebraska in the 1900 census. Florence and John had three children, the last a daughter born in 1905, the year her mother Florence died and was interred in Pierce County. 1905 was also the first year John R. Smith was listed in a Lincoln, Nebraska city directory as a draftsman for architect J. H. Craddock. Smith was a draftsman for a Lincoln millwork company in 1906 and 1907, then in 1908 was a draftsman in the office of Fiske & Dieman. He married Inez Rose Sheetz in 1908 and in 1909 began to be listed as an architect in University Place (now Lincoln), Nebraska.[9][a] While his residence remained University Place, his office was in downtown Lincoln as early as 1911. He designed residences, several schools and other public buildings in University Place and elsewhere in Nebraska, and made a specialty of church design, publishing a brochure "Modern Church Architecture" that listed 100 churches in five Midwestern states "for which we have furnished architectural services." His son Roland practiced with him as John R. Smith & Son from 1923-1935.[10]

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, 1905-1918, 1920-1921, 1931, 1935

Educational & Professional Associations

1905: draftsman for J. H. Craddock, architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10]

1906-1907: draftsman, Curtis & Bartlett Millwork Company, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10]

1908: draftsman, Fiske & Dieman, Architects, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10]

1909-1910: architect, University Place, Nebraska.[4][10]

1911-1921: architect, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10]

1922-1934: architect and partner, John R. Smith & Son, Architects, Lincoln, Nebraska.[10]

Buildings & Projects

Two-story school (1910), Brunswick, Nebraska.[5]

School, $10,000 (1911), Ainsworth, Nebraska.[6]

Eugene Levi house (1911), 1727 D, Lincoln, Nebraska.[3] (LC13:D07-361)

Fairmont Methodist Church (1911), Fairmont, Nebraska.[7]

Greybull School Building (1911), Greybull, Wyoming.[7]

Residence for J.M. Wildhaber (1911), Plymouth, Nebraska.[7]

North Bend Carnegie Library (1911-1913), 140 E. 8th, North Bend, Nebraska.[3] (DD09-010) National Register narrative

Theodore A. Kiesselbach House (1913), 3232 Holdrege, Lincoln, Nebraska.[3] (LC13:E11-013)

First United Presbyterian Church addition (1913-1914), NW corner 4th & Nebraska, Madison, Nebraska.[3] (MD03-021) National Register narrative

University Place Carnegie Library (1915), 2820 N 48th, Lincoln, Nebraska.[8]

Riley School (1917), State & Dudley, Lincoln, Nebraska. (survey form)


a. The U. S. Census of 1910 listed John Smith, architect (age 40) and his wife Rosie (36), married two years, with children Everett L. (9), Roland H. (8), Florence (5), and step-son (to John) Durwood C. Sheets (6). The young Smiths were all born in Nebraska while Rose's son Durwood was born in Idaho.[9]

b. Reference [2] circa date based upon 1921 being the only year that J. R. Smith is listed in the Directories at the address indicated on the publication; it is possible the publication was issued on the occasion of the formation of Smith & Son, Architects [ed].


1. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.

2. J.R. Smith & Son, Architects, “Modern Church Architecture,” (Lincoln: N.P., n.d. [c1921]). (includes list of 100 churches designed by the firm)

3. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

4. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "Florence M. Smith" (with spouse s.v. "John Smith"), Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

5. School Board Journal (October 1909), 26.

6. School Board Journal (March 1911), 33.

7. "Lincoln, Nebraska," American Contractor 32:21 (May 27, 1911): 63.

8. Nebraska State Library Commission, card file on public library buildings.

9. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line],s.v. “John R. Smith” (with spouse s.v. "Rose I. Smith"), Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

10. Lincoln city directories.

11. Nebraska, Marriage Records, 1855-1908 [database on-line], s.v. "J. R. Smith" (1899) and "John R. Smith" (1908), Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2017;

Page Citation

D. Murphy & E. F. Zimmer, “John R. Smith (1870-1958), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, April 6, 2018. Accessed, May 30, 2020.

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