Architect Pics: Young R.W. Naef

Several weeks ago I posted the Mississippi State yearbook photo of N.W. Overstreet.  It provided a bookend to the 1970 image of Architects Naef, Gates, Matthes, and Overstreet as old men.  Finding that Overstreet photo prompted me to search for images of the other three as young men. I turned to the MDAH HRI database to begin my quest.  I learned that:

  • Frank P. Gates attended Chicago Technical College, that while it did have a physical location also did a thriving business in correspondence education.  He graduated in 1916 with a diploma in Architectural Engineering.  Not an institution that would sell many yearbooks.
  • Carl E. Matthes Sr. attended R.T. Grape Technical School which was possibly one of Chicago’s vocational high schools.  His college education was listed as attending the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in Chicago for three years.  I had difficulty finding anything about either of these two institutions.
  • Robert W. Naef received a degree in Architectural Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1923.  Definitely a yearbook issuing institution.

RW Naef Illio 1924 yearbook vol 30 p98 There he was in the 1924 Illio, Vol. 30.  Still recognizable as the man in 1950 and 1970 images. The nickname “Ding” I imagine is a play on words of his birthplace Whiting, Indiana.  “Gargoyle” was the name of the Honorary Architectural Fraternity, Sigma Tau was the Honorary Engineering Fraternity, and Scarab was the Professional Architectural Fraternity. To my pleasure I learned that the Architectural Society -of which Naef was on the Executive Committee- put out their own yearbook.  Featured in the Architectural Yearbook are renderings and construction documents completed during the course of the years courses. The images were selected on merit by the yearbook staff and Department of Architecture faculty. Architectural Yearbook 1923 vol. 10 University of Ill Urbana The yearbook committee selected a Structural Steel Design of Naef’s for inclusion in the Architectural Yearbook.  Looking back it might have not been a surprise that he spent much of his career on the engineering side of the architecture business.  It would be interesting to compare his structural design from the year book with some of his Mississippi work as a Professional.

While not as jovial as Overstreets yearbook entry, this staid description creates a second portrait in addition to the photograph.  One of a man who loved his profession.

Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Preservation People/Events

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Love those drawings–what a find!


    • Aren’t they? I like their concept of the architectural yearbook.

      Now the real challenge is to find that truss system used in one of his Mississippi buildings. Know of any Naef buildings with a dome?


      • DeSoto County Court House has a dome, as well as the Kennon Observatory, not sure if those are the domes you’re looking for, but thought I’d mention.


        • Thanks for looking into this! Based on the photographs in the MDAH HRI db the two buildings you suggest don’t have elements that would require the extensive support shown in Naef’s school assignment. It might be worth looking into buildings designed by Overstreet’s office during the time Naef was with them.


  2. IIs it possible that the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in Chicago was the Art Institute of Design of Chicago which started in the mid-late 1800’s? I looked at their history and its never referred to as that but who knows. Checked all my newspaper references and found no R. T. Grape Technical Inst. Love doing the research though, especially since here in Arizona our architecture (what’s left of it since they’re tearing a lot of it down for new student housing….) is so different. Love getting lost in other places, even if only by computer. Thanks for a continued great website!


    • I am not sure if the Art Institute of Design of Chicago was ever referred to as the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in Chicago. The Beaux-Arts Institute of Design was a New York based school that might have had a branch located in Chicago. I would dig into BAID NY records to see if anything relating to a Chicago affiliate turns up.

      R.T. Grape might actually be R.T. Crane Technical High School. Crane started a Technical School that taught drafting and the like. Ill have to look into this when I have more time. I think the MDAH HRI db information comes from the AIA 1956 Directory which possibly originated the error.

      I am glad to hear that some one enjoys research as much as we do! We are happy as ever to blog and hope to get back to more frequent posts once some other projects are completed.


  3. II’m sure you know that Carl Matthes, Sr’s son, Carl Jr, joined his father and Emmett Landry’s firm, along with 2 of Landry’s sons. The firm is still in business as Landry and Lewis, run by Emmett’s grandson.


  4. One last note, the photo of the 4 architects together that you wrote about, with Mr. Overstreet looking like he had been photoshopped in, I found a photo of him in the March 5, 1953 Delta Democrat, page 9. The man on the right that you have labelled Mr. Overstreet is most definitely him!


  5. I have come across a well preserved rendering of a Brookhaven school that Mr. Naef produced in 1940. If I could share the scanned file of it I would – but do not see that functionality here.


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