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Lawrence Buck [1865-1929]


I am officially exasperated. Which is to say that my degree of pissed-off-ness has reached record levels.

Chicago architect Lawrence Buck has been one of my research interests for a very long time; you know how long my attention span can be when it comes to research. As you may also know, he is alleged to have designed three homes in Agincourt. Buck was a near-contemporary of FLlW but far less aggressive in self-promotion and also far less extreme in the distance of his aesthetic from the Arts & Crafts. Another reason that you probably don’t know his name is that he died in 1929, while Wright lived another thirty years into a ripe, crusty, and attention-grabbing old age. 

During his own lifetime, however, Buck was possibly better known in popular culture (as distinct from Wright, who may have been more notorious in the professional world). Buck was also a pioneer of sorts in using “women’s magazines” to promote his career—House Beautiful, Ladies Home Journal, etc. And it was through this medium that his clientele extended from Pennsylvania to Southern California. What has driven me to frustration tonight is the way he has been treated in the preparation of National Register nominations.

Two of his houses—one in Wichita and another in Cedar Rapids—have been put on the register but attributed to other architects. In one case (Wichita) the writer knew about Buck’s connection with the project, yet chose to deny him credit for the design—without any evidence for the attribution, that I can find in the form. The other (Cedar Rapids) nomination makes no mention of Buck whatsoever, even though there are multiple published sources linking him with the project and specifically naming him as “architect.” I am at a total loss to understand how this process can become so bureaucratized by people who simply fail to understand what it is that architects do. Errors—and I maintain they are errors—become institutionalized and simply cannot be changed once they are in the NR system.

Am I delusional to believe I understand the role of the architect in the creation and execution of designs or has there been some sort of gap in my education or my neural synapses? I am frustrated at a time that I have very little opportunity to do anything about this; there are other projects demanding my time. Yet my grundies are in a bundle unlike any time in recent history (perhaps excepting the denial of my request for promotion, but that should be a topic for another day). If any of you were handy, I’d suggest meeting at a bar with a full selection of bourbon for an evening of commiseration.

To mój cyrk. To są moje małpy.


  1. Janice says:

    I believe there is a house in Pana Illinois
    Lawrence Buck was the architect.

    It’s the Max H. Penwell house

    Built in 1908

    • Hello: And thanks for the reference. I was in Pana many, many years ago and took some poor shots of the Penwell house but the weather was uncooperative, so we’ll be back there some time soon. Perhaps next year. As I recall, the house was in very good condition.

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