Roberts & Bellangee, Architects
Artemas Roberts (1841-1944), Architect, Lincoln, Nebraska
James W. Bellangee (1844-1915), Architect, Lincoln, Nebraska
Roberts & Bellangee was a short-term partnership, early in the long careers of two individually notable brothers-in-law. Roberts came to Lincoln in 1870 with his wife Elizabeth, sister of James Bellangee. Bellangee had been teaching in Illinois, then joined Roberts in the designing of Lincoln High School in 1871, a French Second Empire design with a three-story tower. Elizabeth died in 1872, leaving Artemas with two young sons. The brothers-in-law produced another French Second Empire design for the state's normal school at Peru, Nebraska, where Bellangee was appointed to a professorship in mathematics and drawing, as well as serving as the on-site superintendent of construction. The partners' family connection was further strengthened when widower Roberts married his late wife's sister Mary in 1874, with whom he had four more sons. The year 1874 also marked the end of Bellangee's professional connection with Nebraska and to the best of our knowledge, the end of his architectural endeavors. Roberts continued to practice architecture from Lincoln for more than three more decades, while also maintaining a farm on the city's eastern edge. He retired to become a citrus farmer in Dade City, Florida, in 1907, but also practiced architecture well into his eighties in Florida, and for his son's projects in Lincoln. He died in 1944 at age 102. Bellangee and his wife Harriet had one daughter. The family lived in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1880s and '90s, where he worked in horticulture and real estate, and was active in populist political affairs. In the 1890s, he was among the leaders of a group of Iowans who established a "colony" called Fairhope near Mobile, Alabama, based on the "single tax" ideas of Henry George. Bellangee moved to Alabama by 1900 and was a key figure in administering and promoting Fairhope, and operated a successful truck farm. He died in Fairhope in 1915.
Buildings & Projects
a. Given as “Roberts & Ballange” in reference ; see note [b] in James W. Bellangee (1844-1915), Architect. The early publication History of the City of Lincoln recounts: "On December 23, 1871, the board adopted the plans and specifications for the new school house offered by Roberts & Bellangee, at a cost of $1,300, the architects to superintend the work. On February 15, 1872, the board decided to advertise for bids on the construction of the high school building, to be completed on September 1, 1872." 
Note that in September of 1891, the city fire chief condemned the original tower as being unsafe. The school board subsequently had steel supports added, and the tower was rebuilt using additional bricks as needed; the building was made safe. The rebuilt tower did not follow the original design, but was a simplified design somewhat more reminiscent of the original tower of the firm's Nebraska Normal School building.
b. Andreas noted “In the winter of 1871, Hon. S. P. Majors and Hon. William Daily, then members for Nemaha, secured from the Legislature the passage of an act, giving a one-fourth of one mill tax (amounting to $30,000) for the erection of a normal school building. With the proceeds of this tax the present normal school building was erected. The building is constructed of brick, three stories and basement, 90x63 feet, has a limestone foundation.... The normal edifice was designed by Roberts and Bellangee, architects, of Lincoln.... The new normal building was opened with appropriate ceremonies in 1873, and is a school of which Nebraskans should be proud.”
c. The architects, as was common, were also retained to superintend the construction of the new building. Artemas Roberts is cited in the board minutes in this capacity, until James Bellangee was elected Professor of Mathematics at the college on August 20, 1872. After that time, Bellangee assumed all superintendent responsibilities, including decisions on all changes and additions to the project while under construction. He was also consulted often regarding other architectural matters, and was appointed to the Building Committee on June 24, 1873.[4:125] True to his background in biology, which became more prominent later in life, he apparently was also involved with some campus landscaping, having been reimbursed for the cost of evergreen trees in June of 1874.[5:12]
d. Bellangee appears to have independently handled the plans and specs for this work while continuing to superintend the construction of the new building for the partnership.[4:121,125,129ff]
1. Historic American Buildings Survey: Catalog of Measured Drawings and Photographs of the Survey in the Library of Congress, March 1, 1941. (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1941), 211; or, 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/ . Though the HABS recordation is titled "McKinley High School," the Roberts & Bellangee building was Lincoln High School, while McKinley was the name of an elementary school which shared the same block from ca. 1900.
2. "Artemus Roberts, Architect,” excerpt from “Memoirs,” TS, ca. 1930. (submitted by Mrs. A. H. Sorenson, Tecumseh, Nebraska, n.d.); Nebraska State Historical Society, Fairview Museum file.
3. A. T. Andreas, History of the State of Nebraska, "Nemaha County, Part 11: Peru" (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1882), 1078. Accessed January 10, 2016: http://www.kancoll.org/books/andreas_ne/nemaha/nemaha-p11.html#educate
26. Andreas, A. T. History of Nebraska. (Chicago: The Western Historical Company, 1882), 1078. 4. Record Books, Peru Normal School. Nebraska State Historical Society, RG0029, Peru State College, S.1, V.01 (1865-1871).
5. Record Books, Peru Normal School. Nebraska State Historical Society, RG0029, Peru State College, S.1, V.02 (1874-1903).
6. Carl Yost, comp. "Abstracts from the Lincoln Board of Education minutes," TS, ca. 1930, "1891," p. 47. Lincoln Public Schools Archives.
7. A. B. Hayes & Sam D. Cox, History of the City of Lincoln (Lincoln: State Journal Printing Company, ca. 1889), 228-229.
8. Kay Logan-Peters “Roberts & Woods; Architects,” Historic Buildings of UNL. Accessed June 21, 2013: http://historicbuildings.unl.edu/people.php?peopleID=20&cid=14
D. Murphy and E. F. Zimmer, “Roberts & Bellangee, Architects,” 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.
Contact the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office with questions or comments concerning this page, including any problems you may have with broken links (see, however, the Disclaimers link at the bottom of this page). Please provide the URL to this page with your inquiry.