Louis Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois (1856-1930), Architect
Louis Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois was a Canadian-born architect who practiced in Omaha, Nebraska as "L. J. B. Bourgeois" with a number of partners over a span of a half-dozen years, from 1888 to 1893. Bourgeois was born in St. Celestine, Nicolet County, Quebec in 1856. He practiced only a few years in Canada (1878-1883), then worked as an architect in the United States for almost half a century. Before and after his Omaha sojourn he worked in Chicago, then practiced in Los Angeles for a decade between 1895 and 1904. He relocated to New York City around 1905 and there converted to the Bahai faith, which eventually led to his most notable work, the Bahai cathedral in Wilmette, Illinois, Mashriqui'l-Adhkar (dubbed The Temple of Light).[g] His design for the temple was selected in 1920 but not dedicated until 1953; at the time of his death in Wilmette in 1930 only the foundation was complete.
The Dictionary of Architects in Canada offers Bourgeois' authoritative biography. This page focuses on his Nebraska years, where he worked initially for F. M. Ellis, then entered into a series of brief partnerships. A partnership of S. E. Maxon "the well known architect of this city" and "Mr. Bourgeois, a French architect and graduate of Des Bourse Arts of Paris," was announced by the Omaha Daily Bee in January 1890. From April through early August of 1890, Maxon and Bourgeois advertised offices in both Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha. By mid-August 1890, H. C. Cooke had been added to the advertisements, with the same Omaha and Council Bluffs offices. Maxon and Bourgeois announced the dissolution of their copartnership in October, 1890. Finally, the Omaha City Directory of 1891 listed a partnership of Bourgeois with Herman Nitchner, then Bourgeois was listed alone in 1892 and 1893[a].
This page is a contribution to the publication, Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. See the Format and contents of Nebraska architect entries page for more information on the compilation and page organization.
Compiled Nebraska Directory Listings
Omaha, Nebraska, 1889-1893[a]
Educational & Professional Associations
1885-1887: architect with Ostling & Bourgeois, Chicago, Illinois.
1887: architect, partner with J. S. Donnellan, Chicago, Illinois.
1888: architect, Chicago, Illinois.
1889: architect with F. M. Ellis, Omaha, Nebraska.
1890: architect, Omaha, Nebraska.
1891: architect and partner, Bourgeois & (Herman) Nitchner, Omaha, Nebraska; and architect and partner, Bourgeois, Nitchner & Cooke of Omaha and Galveston, Texas[a][h]
1892-1893: architect, Omaha, Nebraska.
1894-1905: architect, Los Angeles, California.
Nebraska Buildings & Projects
Maxon & Bourgeois won the commission to design Hanscom Park pavilion, Bourgeois completed the project through superintending construction after the partnership dissolved (1890), Omaha, Nebraska.[e]
a. Bourgeois' last Omaha directory listing occurred in 1893, when he was listed among Architects in the Business Directory but not among alphabetic listing of residents.
b. An announcement of plans for the new Continental National Bank in December 1888 stated "it will be designed by Mr. Ellis, one of Omaha's best known architects, noting he had won the commission in competition "with representatives from Boston, Chicago and St. Louis..." Advertisements for bids for the construction of the bank in 1889 also stated it would be built according to plans and specifications by Ellis.
But an introduction of the Maxon & Bourgeois partnership in the Omaha Bee in January 1890 claimed that "Mr. Bourgeois is well acquainted in Omaha on account to his connection with the new Commercial National bank, corner of Sixteenth and Farnam, which has been erected from his design and details." This claim was repeated upon the opening of the building in June 1890 , when the Omaha World-Herald identified Bourgeois as its architect and Ellis as the superintendent of construction. Ellis then submitted a letter to the Omaha Bee noting his surprise at "a statement that one Bourgeois had designed the Commercial national bank building, which has just been completed after my plans and under my supervision. Bourgeois was simply one of a half dozen draughtsmen who worked upon the plans in my office. The plans were practically made before I employed Bourgeois."
U. S. National Bank acquired Commercial National Bank in 1905 and moved into the building at 16th & Farnam, before replacing the 1890 structure around 1915.
c.In March 1890, Maxon & Bourgeois were listed among a dozen architectural practices which offered designs for a high school to the Lincoln, Nebraska Board of Education. The other proposals came from Fowler & Beindorff of Omaha; Seymour Davis of Topeka; F. M. Ellis of Omaha; Frank, Bailey & Farmer of Kearney; William Gray & O. H. Placey of Lincoln; Pallister & Co. of New York; and R. C. Kerr & Co. of Rock Island. Ferdinand Fiske of Lincoln and Craddock & Hay of Lincoln were mentioned as having plans in preparation "and were given further time to complete the plans." The design of "Maxon, of Council Bluffs" was named among the half-dozen chosen for further consideration, but ultimately none of the plans advanced to construction.
d. The Sweesy Block was described in July 1890 as "It will be 88x63 and five stories high. It will cost about $50,000."
e. Three Omaha firms submitted plans for a pavilion in Hanscom Park--Fowler & Beindorff, I. Hodson, Jr., and Maxon & Bourgeois. Only Hodson and Maxon & Bourgeois provided cost estimates--the former $9,000 and latter $12,000. According to the Omaha Bee, "On motion the plans of Maxon & Bourgeois were accepted and the [park] commission will at once advertise for bids." After the partnership of Maxon and Bourgeois dissolved, a lawyer for the former presented the Omaha park commissioners with a bill for $200 for services in designing the Hanscom Park pavilion. Bourgeois was present and explained that on the dissolution of the partnership, he and Maxon agreed that the remaining $200 for that project would go to the former partner who carried the project to completion, and that as Bourgeois was retained by the commissioners to superintend construction of the pavilion, he had received the fee and considered the matter settled. The commissioners apparently agreed with Bourgeois.
f. San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1901 that Alice De Longpre was missing from her father's home in Hollywood and was presumed to be with "Louis J. Bourgeois, an architect and sculptor," who had lived with the De Longpres while designing Paul De Longpre's Hollywood home. Bourgeois was described as a Frenchman who was "not yet out of the thirties and...not an unattractive man." The 1910 U. S. census recorded Louis Bourgeois, "architect," age 45, with wife Alicia, age 30, both born of French parents, in Teaneck, New Jersey.
g. The one, spectacular design for which Louis Bourgeois is rightly remembered, the Bahai "Temple of Light" in Wilmette, Illinois, has a connection to another architect with a singular Nebraska connection, H. Van Buren Magonigle. In 1920 Magonigle was engaged as an advisor to the committee which selected the architect for the Temple. According to a lengthy article in the Butte (Montana) Miner which described the Bahai faith and its planned Temple in Chicago, when the Bahai convention in New York City in 1920 "finally narrowed down the design of Bourgeois and that of another the committee felt unwilling to decide without expert advice...Bourgeois strongly opposed to having any artist or architect of national reputation, who must necessarily be a Beaux Arts man, pass upon his original and new conception, but he was forced to yield, and H. Van Buren Magonigle was called in....In the end Magonigle told the committee that if they wished a striking and original design which embodied all styles without unduly favoring any, but uniting them into an original unity well symbolizing the spirit of the religious movement for which the temple must stand, they could have not choice but to take the Bourgeois model."
h. The Galveston (Texas) city directory of 1891 lists Herman Nitchner of "Bourgeois, Nitchner & Cooke" as a resident of Omaha in the residents' portion of the listings, and the Bourgeois, Nitchner & Cooke partnership with a Galveston office address among the architectural firms in the business directory. The 1893 Galveston directory lists "H. C. Cooke & Co." among architectural firms and Henry C. Cooke as a resident of that city.
The U. S. Census of 1900 listed Henry Cooke (architect, age 49), his wife Elizabeth (46), daughter Ada M. (20), and sons William C. (architect, 22), John H. (14), and Allen T. (11) residing in Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas. All were born in England and immigrated to the U. S. in 1890.
i. The notice of dissolution of the Maxon & Bourgeois copartnership in October, 1890 stated "L. J. B. Bourgeois has transferred, assigned and released to me, S. E. Maxon, all his rights, interest and claims to the property, business, good will and trade of said firm, also all unfinished work and payments on same to be made to Mr. S. E. Maxon."
1. "Bourgeois, Louis Jean Baptiste," in Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada 1800-1950, on-line at http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/1172, accessed July 5, 2020.
2. "Another Fine Building--It Will Be Built by the Omaha Commercial National Bank," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (December 31, 1888), 1.
3. "Notice to Contractors," Omaha Daily Herald (March 15, 1889), 7.
4. "A Temple to Finance--The Commercial National Banks New Building and Its Distinctive Architecture," Omaha Nebraska) World-Herald (June 1, 1890), 8.
5. "A Gross Misstatement," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (June 3, 1890), 2.
6. Jim McKee, "How U. S. National Bank of Omaha came to be," Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star (October 14, 2017).
7. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "Louis Bourgeois" and "architect". Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.
8. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s.v. "Louis Bourgeois." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.
9. Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
10. "Noted Architect Dies," obituary for "...internationally known architect," Belvidere (Illinois) Daily Republican (August 20, 1930), 4.
11. "Louis Bourgeois, Architect and Sculptor, Dead," Chicago (Illinois) Tribune (August 20, 1930), 22.
12. R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, "Bourgeois, Jean-Baptiste Louis (1856-1930). Designer of Mashriqui'l-Adhkar at Wilmette, Illinois, United States of America," H-Bahai: Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies (V. 1, No. 7, September 1997), available on-line at https://www.h-net.org/~bahai/notes/bourgeoi.htm, accessed July 5, 2020.
13. "De Longpre's Daughter Drops From Sight. Had Become Subject to the Influence of the Man Who Built Her Father's Home," San Francisco Chronicle (April 27, 1901), 3.
14. "A Promising Partnership," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (January 4, 1890), 6.
15. "The Condition of Trade," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (June 1, 1890), 15.
16. "Help [sic] School Plans--The Board of Education Gives Audience to a Dozen Architects," Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily Call (March 27, 1890), 1.
17. "Omaha in Brief," (Lincoln) Nebraska State Journal (July 19, 1890), 2.
18. "Maxon & Bourgeois, Architects and Superintendents. Fine Interior Decorations," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (April 30, 1890), 6; through (August 8, 1890), 6.
19. "Maxon, Bourgeois & Cooke," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (August 11, 1890), 6.
20. "God's First Temple--But the Park May Not Now Be Used for Religious Exercises," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (June 21, 1890), 8.
21. "Hanscom Park Bridges," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (April 3, 1891), 5.
22. "Exponent of an Universal Religion Uniting All Creeds in One to Lecture in Butte on Tour of the United States from Old Persia," Butte (Montana) Miner (January 3, 1921), 2.
23. "Death Now Hovering Over Temple of Light," Detroit (Michigan) Free Press (August 5, 1930), 9.
24. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], s. v. "Henry Cooke." Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.
25. "Dissolved," Omaha (Nebraska) Daily Bee (October 22, 1890), 7.
E. F. Zimmer & D. Murphy, “Louis Jean-Baptiste Bourgeois (1856-1930), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, July 12, 2020. http://www.e-nebraskahistory.org/index.php?title=Place_Makers_of_Nebraska:_The_Architects Accessed, August 15, 2022.
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