Walter D. Behlen (1905-1994), Engineer

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Columbus, Nebraska

Walter Behlen established Behlen Manufacturing in 1941, where he became the inventor of “frameless stressed skin” structures, also called Behlen buildings.[1][5] Due to this important contribution to architecture, Behlen received an honorary doctor of engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1959, as well as an Honorary Doctor of Science from Midland College. In 1966, Behlen became Chairman of the Board of Behlen Manufacturing Company in Columbus, Nebraska. Behlen was born in 1905 and died in 1994.[4]

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.

Educational & Professional Associations

1941: Launched Behlan Manufacturing Company, Columbus, Nebraska.[1]

1950: Developed a frameless steel building system, or “Behlen buildings”, Columbus, Nebraska.[3]

1959: Honorary Doctor of Engineering, University of Nebraska.[1]

1959: Honorary Doctor of Science, Midland University, Fremont, Nebraska.[1]

1966: Chairman of the Board, Behlen Manufacturing Company, Columbus, Nebraska.[1]

1968: Recipient of the Horatio Alger Award.[4][a]

Buildings & Projects

Behlen Manufacturing Company Factory (1958), East Hwy 30, Columbus, Nebraska. (PT00-062)

Walter and Ruby Behlen House (1959), 2555 Pershing Road, Columbus, Nebraska.[2][5][b] (PT01-538)


a. He was the first Nebraskan to receive this award.[4]

b. Collaborator with designer, Jack Savage, Leo A. Daly Company, Architects.[2][5]


1. Walter D. Behlen, “A New Look at Stressed Skin,” Nebraska Blue Print (October 1966): 8-9, 28.

2. David Sadler, “Advanced Materials, Design,” Sunday (Omaha) World Herald (March 15, 1959), 1F.

3. "1969-1936," Behlen Manufacturing Company website, accessed September 23, 2014,

4. "Walter Dietrich Behlen, 1905-1994," Nebraska State Historical Society, manuscript collection, RG1595.AM: Walter Dietrich Behlen, 1905-1994. Accessed September 23, 2014,

5. A complete description of the house and its architecture is provided in: Jill Dolberg, “From Barns to Domesticity: Material Flexibility and Innovation in the Walter and Ruby Behlen House,” Docomomo US (Summer 2006), 1,8.

Page Citation

D. Murphy, “Walter D. Behlen (1905-1994), Engineer,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, February 21, 2016. Accessed, August 13, 2022.

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