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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Richard A. George

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 376-377 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Richard A. George, a leading architect and highly esteemed citizen of Utica, where he successfully followed the profession of architecture on his own account for a period covering more than three decades, designing many important buildings of the city, was sixty-two years of age when called to his final rest on the 27th of February, 1922. His birth occurred in Leipsic, Germany, on the 2d of October, 1859, and he was reared and educated as a builder and architect. After he had completed the prescribed course of study in the ordinary German schools he entered the polytechnic in Leipsic and received a most practical training. In the winter season he studied the principles of building and architecture through building schools designed for that purpose. In the summer months he worked as a builder, putting into practice what he had learned during the winter. He studied in the building schools of Leipsic, Munich, Dresden, the School of Fine Arts in Paris and the building schools in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Rome, Italy. He finished his education in 1878 in the polytechnic and building school at Hoexter, Germany. While Mr. George was a student of architecture he won several important competitions. One was in the city of Leipsic, where he won a prize of two thousand marks to be received in the form of instruction in his profession in Rome, Italy. He decided to go to Rome on foot with a party of students of his own age, but they were moved by the wanderlust to see strange countries and traveled through Austria, then to Turkey, working now and then at their trades as builders, but after a month or so again en route. Finally they crossed the desert of Sahara on camel back, making the journey in four weeks. After nineteen months of travel and sightseeing in various countries, where he saw all kinds of buildings, Mr. George went to Rome and took his course there. The school at Rome was not superior to others he had attended, but the opportunity he had of studying the ruins of the wonderful buildings in the ancient city well repaid him and afforded him great enjoyment.

At the age of nineteen Mr. George had the temerity to enter a competition for new buildings for Strasburg University. He happened to be out of work at the time and made preliminary sketches and did some work on the plans. Then he obtained a position at Berlin and told the master architect by whom he was employed that he intended to take part in the competition. He was advised not to do so; that so many older and more experienced architects would compete that he would stand no chance, and when he exhibited what work he had done on the plans he was told in a kindly way that they were impossible; but he had faith in his plans and, without altering them, he finished them. Just before the competition closed he entered his plans, hoping to get some kind of a rating on them. When the award was made the commission selected the best three plans. The first prize was given to the master architect and builder of the city; the second to a graduated architect, aged twenty-one; and the third prize to Mr. George, who was but nineteen years old and had not graduated. These three were told to combine the best features of their respective plans, which they did, and from these plans were erected the buildings of Strasburg University as it stands today.

In 1881 Mr. George went into business for himself in Leipsic and continued until 1884. In the latter year he emigrated to America and after working in New York city for one year came to Utica, New York, where he spent the remainder of his life. He entered the employ of A. I. Simmons, a well known architect, with whom he continued until 1890. Then he opened an office on his own account and thereafter followed the profession of architecture very successfully to the time of his death. Mr. George was the architect of the Genesee, the Olbiston, the Kanatenah, the Bellevue (now Chelsea), the Oswego and Lorraine apartment houses. He drew the plans for the residence of Joseph B. Nelbach, at the corner of Genesee street and Jewett place, for the Moravian church and St. Mathew's Lutheran church, the Savage Arms plant, the Chancellor block on Park avenue, the Jones apartment house at the corner of Mary and First streets, and many other important buildings. In 1900 Mr. George returned to Germany for a visit and remained abroad a number of months. During this time he visited the French Exposition in Paris and points of interest in Germany, Holland, Austria and Italy.

On the 15th of November, 1887, Mr. George was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth M. Wilke of Utica, who survives him and who enjoys an extensive and favorable acquaintance throughout the city.

Although he came to America in mature years, Mr. George entered extensively into the fraternal and social life of the community and became quite prominent in it. He was a member of Faxton Lodge No. 697, F. & A. M.; of Oneida Chapter No. 57, R. A. M., in which he had served as high priest; a past commander of Utica Commandery No. 3, K. T., in which he had been generalissimo. He was a Noble of Ziyara Temple of the Mystic Shrine and also of the Arab Patrol, or drill corps, connected with it, and served as secretary of this patrol. Mr. George was thrice potent master of Yahnundasis Lodge of Perfection and a member of Syracuse Consistory, being a thirty-second degree Mason. He was a member of the Masonic Craftsman Club and while abroad visited Masonic lodges in every city and country. Mr. George was also prominent in the Improved Order of Red Men, having been chief of records in the St. Regis Tribe No. 188 since its organization, on the 1st of July, 1891, and having served it twice in that period as sachem. He was a member and treasurer of the Past Sachems Club. Ever since coming to Utica, Mr. George had been a member of the Utica Turn Verein, now the Utica Turners Society. When he passed away, one of the local newspapers published a review of his career, concluding with the following tribute: "He was a very intelligent man, of excellent address, and stood high in the community, being esteemed by all who knew him."

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