George L. Pfeiffer--Architect


George Lewis Pfeiffer—Architect
by LeRoy Blommaert
This is another in a series of articles on architects who lived or worked in Edgewater or designed buildings in Edgewater.  
The Man
George Lewis Pfeiffer was born May 22, 1861, in Worms in what is now the Federal Republic of Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1883 when he was 22 . His obituary indicates that he began public school at age 5, and 8 years later entered a technical high school for a 2 year term.  After that he attended the Polytechnical Institute at Frankfort for the next 3 years. From 1878 to 1879 he studied at the Academy of Applied Arts at Karlenshue, and from 1879 to 1882 he was a student at the Military Engineering College in Spandau.  This information was presumably furnished by his nephew Dr. Fritz Laun.
The first record of him in Chicago is the 1890 City Directory where he was listed as architect with no business address but a home address at 1 19th Place.
His March 1922 application for a passport confirms his date of birth and middle name, gives his father’s name as Friederich, describes him as 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall, with blue eyes, gray hair, ruddy complexion, and oval face, and attests that he was naturalized in 1896 in Cook County.
Based on the 1930 census he married his wife Florence in either 1891 or 1892; based on the 1910 census they had no children.
The 1900 City directory shows him as an architect with offices at 1168 W. 12th St. and a home address of 968 W. Trumbull. In the 1908 directory no business address is given but his home address is given as 1124 W. 12th St. It is the same in the 1909 directory but his occupation is given not as architect, but as Secretary of the West Side Amusement Co. He is not listed in the 1910 directory, but the 1910 census lists him and his wife Florence as living in Biscayne Bay, Lemon City, Dade County, Florida. He thus moved from Chicago sometime during late 1909 or early 1910.
In 1920 or 1921 he began a partnership with Gerald O’Reilly, a man 35 years his junior.
Before moving to the Miami area, he was very active in German-American organizations.  An item in the Chicago Tribune of June 13, 1908 reports that he was elected in a contested contest President of the United Societies (an umbrella organization of various ethnic organizations.)
He was also very involved in architectural professional organizations both in Chicago and also later in Miami. In 1907 he was on the board of the Chicago Architects’ Business Association (Inland Architect, December 1907).  In Florida, he helped organize the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and at one time served as its president. (Hahn building nomination form)
George Pfeiffrer died June 15, 1938 at his home after a short illness at age 77, his wife having pre-deceased him by two years. Besides his nephew Dr. Fritz Laun of Chicago, he was survived by two sisters living in Germany (Miami Herald, 6-16-1938).
His Work
The American Contractor data base for the period 1898 through 1912 reports that he had 88 commissions from 1898 though 1910, for an average of 6.76 per year. The highest number was 12 in 1899 and 1905; the lowest number was 1 in 1900. (Click here for a list of these commissions in street order. Note that the numbers are the old pre-9-1909 numbers not the current ones.) Almost all his commissions were on the south or west side; only about 10 were on the north side.  One substantial one is at 3700-02 N. Clark Street (the northwest corner of Clark and Waveland.  It still stands. 
Only two were in Edgewater, but they are special. The are 1430 and 1436 W. Berwyn—two elaborate and unique greystone two flats designed for two brothers, Christopher and John Christiansen, in 1904 and 1908 respectively.
He had a connection to the beer industry. Five of his commissions were for the Standard Brewing Company; four were for the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company and five were for either F. J., Carl J., or Charles J. Dewes who were associated with the Standard Brewing Company.  That’s a total of 14 commissions or 16% of his commissions during the 1898-1910 period.
One of his commissions has been designated a City of Chicago Landmark. It is the Vorwaerts Turner hall at 2431 W Roosevelt Road. Click here to learn more about this structure. (a photo portrait of George L. Pfeifer is on page 16 of the nomination form.) See also this article about the the Vorwaerts Hall and the Turner movement.
Five of his commissions have been orange rated by the City of Chicago as having historical or architectural significance.  They are 1314 S. Troy (N. Lawndale), 1430 W. Berwyn (Edgewater), 1629 N. Karlov (Humbolt Park), 1751-57 W. Belmont (Lakeview), and 3700-06 N. Clark. (Lakeview.)
Like many successful architects he adopted to changing tastes in styles and in his particular case to the regional and climatic environment to which he relocated.  It appears that he was even more successful in the later part of his career than in the first, obtaining a number of substantial commissions. His commissions in Chicago gave no indication of what he would later design in Miami and his commissions in Miami offered no clues as to what he had designed earlier in Chicago.
Three commercial buildings from 1921-1925 and one residence designed by him and his partner Gerald O’Reilly in the Miami area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  One is the Hahn Building at 140 N.E. 1st Avenue Miami. Other commissions include the Shoreland Arcade and the Roosevelt Hotel.
Sources: City of Chicago Directories, census reports, passport application, Vorwaerts Turner Hall Chicago Landmarks Commission staff nomination report, Wikipedia, Google maps, Inland Architect, Miami Herald.
Code 1; code one  [Note: if this article is published in the Society’s Scrapbook, it will need to be changed to show the actual website addresses of the links.]