Biographical Dictionary of Cincinnati Architects, 1788-1940
Author: Walter E. Langsam
Contemporary photographs: Alice Weston
Editors: Susannah Sachdeva and Sue Ann Painter
Publisher: Architectural Foundation of
Olmsted, Fredrick Law
(Hartford, Conn., 1822-1903)
Although Olmsted did not have very much significant work in the Cincinnati area, in Dayton he was hired by John Patterson, co-founder of the National Cash Register, to landscape the neighborhood surrounding his company. The Olmsted family, as an architectural firm, was involved in 274 designs in Ohio, 151 of which were in Dayton.
Olmsted also had lots of private commissions in Louisville, Ky., as well as the Louisville Park System, ca. 1891.
NYCOPAR (1840-1900), 58-59;
Macmillan Encyclopedia, III (1982), 319-24 (by Charles C. McLaughlin);
Van Vynckt, ed. (1993), I, 626-27 (by Nancy J. Volkman);
Klaus (2002), 49-50;
Painter, AIC (2006), 51, 134, 136, 143, 178;
Owings, Nathaniel (Alexander)
(Indianapolis, Ind., 1903-1984).
Founding member of Skidmore, Owings, Merrill (SOM), one of the most respected architectural firms in the United States and abroad, especially for its tall buildings, which include Chicago’s Sear Tower and John Hancock Center. SOM has a number of projects in Greater Cincinnati, beginning with the classical modern Terrace Plaza Hotel in the Cincinnati CBD for John J. Emery.
Owings was interested in nature, the environment, historic, and urban preservation. He traveled in Europe in 1920, discovered architecture through visits to Notre Dame, Chartres, Mont-St. Michel; entered architecture school at the University of Illinois, but completed training at Cornell in 1927. Worked for York & Sawyer in N.Y. but admired Bertram Goodhue.
Formed a partnership with his brother-in-law and University of Cincinnati graduate Louis Skidmore in 1936 (after the 1933 Century of Progress Expo, Chicago); they founded SOM with engineer John Merrill in 1939.
SOM is especially admired for its organizational and engineering skills. Owings took the lead in introducing “big business” administrative and marketing practices to architecture. As Wilson put it, “Indeed he was not the designer, but a facilitator.”
R.G. Wilson (1984), 226-27 (by R.G. Wilson).