Sunday, January 6, 2013

Henry H. Hohenschild: Rolla's Architect

By Ryan Reed 

Henry Hohenschild circa 1897
Henry Hohenschild moved to Rolla in 1882 and made the southwest corner of Eight and Olive his home for over 30 years.  During his three decades in Rolla, he delved into politics and publishing.  However, his most profound impact was on the built environment.  A largely self-trained architect, Hohenschild designed scores of buildings in Rolla and the surrounding communities.  At the turn of the twentieth century, he became the architect for the State of Missouri and designed countless municipal building across the state.  His architectural contributions have been recognized in Missouri and several have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Regardless, his influence politically, socially and architecturally in Rolla has been largely forgotten.

Henry Hohenschild was born in St. Louis on June 2, 1862 to German immigrants Wilhelm and Kunigunde Hohenschild.  The youngest of seven children, Hohenschild was raised in the Soulard neighborhood of South St. Louis.  His father died in 1873 when Hohenschild was only eleven.  He and his mother moved in with his eldest brother, William, and continued to live with him until the end of the decade.  Unlike his father and four brothers, Hohenschild was not attracted to profession of butcher.  Instead he developed an interest in architecture.  At a young age he honed his skills in technical drawing by working as a clerk for architect Charles E. Illsley.  By 1876, when Hohenschild was only 16 years old, he was listed in the St. Louis city directory as an architect.  Hohenschild’s early work in St. Louis has never been documented.  What is known is he quickly developed a successful practice after moving to Rolla in 1881. 

There are a few factors which likely drew Hohenschild to Rolla in 1881.  His older sister, Emma, moved to Rolla circa 1874 after her husband became the head miller of the Rolla Flouring Mills.  Her husband, Frederick W. Seele, was responsible for retrofitting the mill with modern machinery.  Frederick’s brother, Henry Seele, was a gunsmith who occupied a commercial space on Eight Street east of Pine Street.  On the night of July 4, 1881, Henry lost his business to a devastating fire that destroyed nineteen buildings along Eight Street.  The fire was likely caused by fireworks that landed on the roof of Daum’s boarding house on the south side of Eight Street near the railroad line.  The fire quickly spread west to adjoining buildings.  As the fire was being fought by both the white and black fire brigades with the aid of citizens, cinders leapt to the north side of Eight Street and ignited Seele’s gunsmith shop.  The fire moved east and enveloped Kraus’ Hotel and the Crandell House.  The fire final extinguished due to lack of combustible material.  Nearly every building along either side of Eight Street from Pine Street to west and the railroad tracks to the east was destroyed.

The Crandell House at Eight Street and the railroad. Razed.
Professional architects became a much needed commodity after the fire.  Hohenschild was known in Rolla due his familial ties to the Seele’s.  He had also been to Rolla the month before the fire after he was commissioned by the school board to design a new school house.  Hohenschild was quickly inundated with design work in Rolla.  His first contracts consisted of designs for the Crandell House, the Kraus Boarding House, a commercial building for David W. Malcolm and an office for attorney Luman F. Parker.  All of his contracts were located along the recently ravaged Eight Street. Due to the large amount of contracts in Rolla, Hohenschild opened an office on the east side of Pine Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets during the Fall of 1881.  The following Summer he designed and had constructed for himself a two story frame house at the southwest corner of Eight and Olive Streets.  By the age of nineteen, Hohenschild had already made a significant impact on Rolla’s built environment.

For the next decade, Hohenschild became one of the leading and most influential architects in Rolla.  His commissions included public buildings, commercial spaces, religious institutions, academic facilities and residences.  These commissions included Lincoln School at First and Pine Streets (1882), The Chancellor’s Residence at Eleventh and State Streets (1890), The Masonic Lodge at Seventh and Pine Street (1891), The Mining Laboratory for the Missouri School of Mines at Twelfth and Pine Streets (1893) and The Rolla State Bank at Seventh and Pine Streets (1894).  A few examples include the residence of Governor Seay of Kingfisher, Oklahoma (1891), the Masonic Temple in Houston, Missouri (1898) and the St. James Public School (1900)

Lincoln School constructed 1882.
In 1899, Hohenschild was appointed State Architect by Governor Lon V. Stephens.  His duties included the design and construction supervision of numerous public projects.  This included the Asylum for the Insane in Farmington, Missouri in 1901, the Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Mount Vernon, Missouri in 1905 and the temporary state capitol building in Jefferson City in 1912.  During his time as State Architect, Hohenschild maintained his residence in Rolla and continued taking commissions in Phelps County.  Among his local projects during this time were two public schools.  Benton School at Sixth and Cedar Streets was designed in 1909 and Rolla High School was constructed two blocks north of Benton seven years later.  Hohenschild was even commission in 1904 to design the headstone for former state senator Samuel H. Headlee who was interred in the Masonic Cemetery in St. James. 

Hohenschild's early designs were a mixture of architectural styles.  During the mid to late nineteenth century, architects drew heavily on Medieval precedents and the resulting styles were closely interrelated.  The Chancellor’s Residence is an example of various elements of Queen Anne, Romanesque and Chateauesque blending seamlessly in one building.  At the turn of the twentieth century, experimental combinations of styles became common with architects. Popular styles at the time including Prairie, Mission, Craftsman, etc., were being integrated with romantic styles of the previous decades.  The Washington County Courthouse in Potosi was designed by Hohenschild in 1907 and combines Italianate elements from the Romantic period with dominate design features of the Prairie style.   However, Hohenschild designed several building throughout his career following an exclusive style.  Jackling Gymnasium, designed in 1915, is a Gothic Revival building utilizing pointed arches, crenellated parapets and drip molds.  The Pike County Courthouse in Bowling Green, Missouri , designed in 1917, is a straight forward Neoclassical building incorporating a pedimented portico supported by Ionic columns.  His mastery of design reflects a surprising adaptability for an architect who learned his trade at the height of the Victorian era.

Chancellor's Residence constructed 1890
Hohenschild became politically active while living in Rolla.  In 1884 he was appointed City Assessor by the Rolla City Council and subsequently became City Treasurer six years later.  In 1896, Democrats of the 27th Senatorial District met at Shaw’s Opera House at Eight and Pine Streets where Hohenschild put in his nomination for state senator.  From his previous positions held in local government, Hohenschild gained a reputation for being an “ardent and uncompromising democrat.”  Local newspapers were against Hohenschild’s nomination and supported local physician and Republican candidate, J.L. Short.  The Rolla New Era insinuated that Hohenschild’s candidacy was “hatched out of a back room of a banking institution and that the vote was fixed.”  The publication continued by stating that, “he knows very little about the requirements of the laboring classes and cares less.”  Nonetheless,  Hohenschild beat Short by over 700 votes and became a state senator by the age of 24. 

Hohenschild’s term as senator was lackluster.  He introduced legislation against the slandering of political officials in circulated publications prior to general elections.  Hohenschild authored the bill after slanderous material was circulated across the 27th District prior to the election.  The new senator did not want others to face the same annoyances that he experienced during his campaign.  The bill stated that no newspaper shall print any statements against a candidate for political office or even accuse him of party disloyalty within ten days of the election.  This bill garnered little support and was quickly defeated.  By the end of his term, Hohenschild hoped for a second nomination by the Democrats of the 27th District.  However, Phelps County went against him and instructed their delegates to nominate attorney Robert Meriweather of Rolla.  Hohenschild’s term came to a close during the winter of 1901 and thus ended his political career.

Gov. Seay Residence in Kingfisher, Oklahoma constructed 1891
After his political defeat, Hohenschild returned to Rolla and stayed busy at his architectural practice.  He received commissions to design the Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville in 1903 and a school in Bolivar, Missouri during the same year.  He even designed the residence of Ralph E. Burley in Lebanon, Missouri in 1905.  This is the last known residential commission of Hohenschild’s and currently the only residential building for which the original blueprints survive.

In 1906, Hohenschild found himself embroiled in a bitter fight that divided the citizens of Rolla.  During his term as state senator, the Missouri School of Mines appointed a new Chancellor, George E. Ladd.  Ladd was an outspoken native of Massachusetts who admitted he was “willful, quick tempered” and "inclined to be rebellious.”  Ladd threw himself into an attempt to improve the campus to make it aesthetically pleasing to attract students to Rolla.  In his criticisms of the campus, Ladd called the Chancellor’s residence a “monstrosity.”  Ladd’s statements quickly put him at odds with Hohenschild who had designed several building on campus.  Hohenschild had typically been the de facto architect for the university.  However, when Ladd allowed competitive bidding on the design of new campus buildings, Hohenschild sought to remove him as Chancellor.

Ladd accepted a position to be the Director of the Missouri Mineral Exhibit during the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  By taking the offer, Ladd would be drawing two salaries from the State of Missouri.  Hohenschild was the former Inspector General for the state during his term as state senator.  As Inspector General, Hohenschild was charged with examining the actions of various government agencies to ensure they were operating in compliance with government policies.  He was also responsible to discover any misconduct, waste, fraud, theft or any criminal activity related to an agency’s operations.  Detecting a misuse of government funds, Hohenschild, who still wielded political influence in Missouri, persuaded the newly elected governor, Joseph Folk, to investigate Ladd’s administration.

St. James Public School constructed 1900
During the Winter of 1906, Governor Folk appointed an investigation committee consisting of Hohenschild and State Representative W.J. Salts of Rolla.  For three days in February, Salts and Hohenschild interviewed over forty witnesses at the Phelps County Courthouse for testimony against Ladd.  As the investigation was being conducted, factions in Rolla were angry over the insinuations against Ladd.  Hohenschild was involved in a street brawl with the editor of the Rolla New Era, Col. Charles Woods.  Hohenschild believed Woods was spreading derogatory statements about him. The following morning, Representative Salts was walking to the courthouse when he met City Clerk, B.H. Rucker.  Salts confronted Rucker because, like Hohenschild, he believed Rucker was spreading rumors across the county regarding his character. Salts began giving Rucker a piece of his mind and Rucker responded by punching Salts in the face.  In retaliation, Salts produced a pistol.  Rucker grabbed the pistol and a struggle ensued until they were separated by local citizens.  Salts was immediately arrested for assault and carrying a concealed weapon.  At the end of the deliberation, the students of the Missouri School of Mines marched with torches through Rolla which culminated with burning Hohenschild in effigy at the intersection of Eight Street and the railroad tracks.  In the end, Ladd resigned the following year due to the investigations and pursued mining investments near Joplin.

Outside of his political and architectural career, very little is known about Hohenschild’s personal life.  A lifelong bachelor, Hohenschild lived with his mother and various family members including his niece and nephew Edna Hohenschild and Robert Seele.  He established the Rolla Literary and Dramatic Club in 1883 and began to direct and perform in plays held at Campbell’s Hall.  He typically played the leading man in performances such as "Little Sunshine" and "Ten Nights in a Bar Room."  Hohenschild also authored and produced several publications.  These included a periodical, “The St. Louis Architect and Builder” in 1886, and a book entitled “Practical Hints on Building.”  Hohenschild was also a member of several local, national and international organizations.  In 1885, he became a charter member of the Western Association of Architects and was admitted to the American Institute of Architects (AIA).  Four years later, Hohenschild became a fellow of the AIA.  In addition, he belonged to the Societe Central d’Architecture de Belgique of Brussels and the European Society of Architects.

Benton School constructed 1909
Hohenschild continued working and living in Rolla towards the end of his life.  His commissions almost exclusively consisted of county courthouses in Missouri.  After the death of his mother in 1913, Hohenschild moved to St. Louis and started a practice with Angelo Corrubia and Gale Henderson.  One of his last commissions was in 1923 for the Osage County Courthouse in Linn, Missouri.  Due to heart disease, Hohenschild quit taking commissions and lived the rest of his life at 12 Parkland Place in North St. Louis.  On January 5th, 1928, Hohenschild accidentally fell and received abrasions on his face.  The abrasions became infected and he died the following month on February 3, 1928.  Well known across the state, Hohenschild’s obituary appeared on the front page of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

Active in politics, social organization, and writing, Hohenschild’s most profound influence was on the built environment with his architectural designs.  He designed twelve county courthouses in Missouri during his career and countless structures and buildings in at least thirteen counties.  Several of his designs are listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Missouri and the Midwest.  However, his architectural contributions in Rolla have been largely forgotten even though the city contains the largest collection of his designs.  Several of Hohenschild designs have been razed in Rolla over the past fifty years.  However, many still survive and must be recognized and maintained.

Listed below are a few examples of Hohenschild's work during the course of his architectural career.

Dr. McMurtry House in Salem, Missouri constructed 1881.
Malcolm and Long Building at the corner of Eight and Pine Streets.  Razed and currently a parking lot next to Alex's Pizza.
Masonic Temple at Seventh and Pine Streets constructed in 1891.  Remodeled in 1906.
Pulaski County Courthouse in Waynesville, Missouri constructed in 1903.
Samuel H. Headlee Monument 1904.
Washington County Courthouse in Potosi, Missouri constructed 1907.
Jackling Gymnasium constructed 1915.  Razed.
Osage County Courthouse in Linn, Missouri constructed 1923


  1. An excellent essay on the much under-appreciated architecture of H.H. Hohenschild. He designed many more buildings than I was aware of previously. His Gov. Seay house, although much larger, is very reminiscient of the house at Ninth and Olive in Rolla, which, utilized the same sort of "bullet-turret" over a bay window. A very interesting post.

  2. Thank you for this essay and posting. I personally found it quite fascinating and informative--Henry Hohenschild was the brother of my great-grandmother (Emma Hohenschild Seele). Your research provided me information not only about Henry Hohenschild but the Seele part of my family as well. Do you have any additional information about the Hohenschild's or Seele's during their time in Rolla?