George M. Beal
George M. Beal

George Malcolm Beal was a Kansan from Topeka, where he was born in 1899 and graduated from Topeka High School in 1918. Beal immediately entered World War I and served in the United States Navy from 1918 to 1920. He attended the Naval Academy but decided to study architecture and returned to his native state to enter the Dept. of Architecture under the direction of Goldwin Goldsmith. Beal graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture in 1923 and was appointed an instructor of architecture. After he completed a Master of Science degree in Architecture in 1925, he was appointed assistant professor of architecture. He completed a diploma at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1927 and in 1928 was promoted to associate professor at KU.

The Beaux Arts training in some ways was a red herring because in the late 1920s Beal was very instrumental in changing KU into a modern school of architecture and away from the French model of education. Indeed he befriended Frank Lloyd Wright and became an early Taliesin Fellow in 1934. Wright and Beal were friends until Wright’s death in 1959. Beal was especially influential in Curtis Besinger’s decision to join the Taliesin Fellowship in 1939. Beal introduced Besinger to Wright and drove him to Wisconsin to begin his 17-year stint in the Fellowship. Wright visited KU several times because of his friendship with Beal.

While Beal designed notable buildings, his greatest influence was in architectural education. He was named full professor in 1936 and five years later his career was interrupted by World War II when he again served in the Navy. After the war, Beal chaired the Dept. of Architecture from 1945 to 1962, when he became KU’s director of architectural service until 1967. He retired in 1970 to pursue his many interests, especially psychology and his inventions. In 1939, he had created the Inside-Outside Heliodon, which, Beal explained in an essay, “is an instrument which gives artificial light rays paralleling the apparent angle of the sun’s rays for any day of the year and for any latitude.” In retirement, he invented the “Mental Functions Complexity Model,” an intricate electrical instrument to demonstrate how parts of the brain relate to each other.

George Beal was an avid reader, fisherman, and teacher who saw his mission as helping “people better understand themselves and their world.” He died on March 8, 1988.

Dana N. Dowd
Dana Dowd with granddaughter, Jessica

Dana N. Dowd was born in Lewis, Kansas on December 4, 1931 and entered the University of Kansas architecture program when he was 15, graduating with a B.S. in Architecture in 1956. After obtaining his architect’s license in 1957, he set up a private practice in Lawrence, designing (and in some cases building) several residential and commercial properties. A cluster of Dowd’s modern houses line the south side of 15th Terrace Road, a dead-end street off Iowa St. Nearly all of his houses were built on steeply sloped, challenging lots. Finding it difficult to make a living as an architect in Lawrence, Dowd returned to Kansas City in 1967 and briefly joined a multiple-partner firm designing commercial properties. Fiercely independent, he established his own firm in the early 1970s, added a partner, and landed a major commission designing stores for the O’Reilly Auto Parts franchise in the early 1980s. He later became the corporate architect for the Minsky Pizza and Chartroose Caboose restaurant chains, and designed many other commercial properties in the Kansas City metro area.

Dowd was recognized by his peers for his humble demeanor and deep knowledge of both design and construction. A colleague, Robert Andrews, President of M.A.C., a design-build firm in Blue Spings, Mo., recalls that Dowd was an old-school architect who did everything by hand, and like Frank Lloyd Wright, knew how to translate what a client wanted into a two-dimensional document. “Dana put more information on a drawing than any man in history,” he says. “He was a good artist who really knew the field side of the equation.” Dowd passed away in 1999.

Robert W. Hess
Robert W. Hess

In 1930, Bob Hess was a four-year-old going to kindergarten in a church basement in Hiawatha, Kansas when his grandfather, who ran a lumberyard in Tescott, brought him two house plan books to look at one day. Fascinated with the colored perspectives and the drawn floor plans, Hess decided then and there he wanted to be an architect. After serving briefly in the Army Air Corps during WWII, he entered the Architecture Dept. at KU in 1945. In his senior year, he designed his first house for his parents, a modern-looking one-story on the southwest corner of campus near what is now the Jayhawk Towers. After graduating KU in 1949 with a B.S. in Architecture, Hess moved to Seattle to live with his brother and found work with noted Olympia architect G. Stacey Bennett. Unable to acclimate to the Seattle weather, he returned to Kansas the following year. Hess secured a job working with the State Architect in Topeka before obtaining his Kansas architecture license in 1951. He practiced in Lawrence until 1955, designing 14 houses for clients with names still familiar on campus: Hal Barrett, Frank Burge, J. Eldon Fields, E.L. Jordan, Richard & Marion Howey, Milton Steinhardt, Edna Hill, and others.

Strongly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Hess developed an affinity for the site and working with existing contours. A number of his houses in Lawrence were built on problem sites, where he learned engineering lessons that would serve him well in his later work designing houses on steep hillsides in Southern California. His career took off in Los Angeles with the development of the Pacific Palisades architecture firm Pollack, Drazen and Hess. After becoming a licensed architect in the State of California in 1965, Hess started his own private practice, and spent more than 25 years designing and renovating homes for clients in the entertainment industry and working on commissions in the commercial sector. On architecture: “It’s about knowing how to use light and space and then knowing how to transfer how you feel about it to the client, and then getting the permits for it,” he said. Hess semi-retired in his 50s and moved to Santa Barbara, where he built his own house overlooking the city and Pacific Ocean. A lifelong Mason, Hess was an accomplished pianist who regularly played at the Santa Barbara Masonic Lodge until his death on September 10, 2013 at age 87.

Warren C. Heylman
Warren C. Heylman

Warren C. Heylman, FAIA, the best known and admired modernist architect to leave his mark in Lawrence, knew he was going to be an architect since he was five years old and his highly permeated practice continues to thrive in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, where he was born in 1923.

World War II, which began when he was 18, was pivotal in his life and career. In 1942 he entered the Navy, which took him to the University of Kansas to study architectural engineering, a degree he completed in 1945 under the tutelage of architecture professors such as “Little Joe” Kellogg and Verner Smith. After graduation he entered active service as a gunnery officer as a member of Douglas MacArthur’s occupation forces in Japan, where he came to admire Japanese building practices. When he was discharged in 1946, he returned to Spokane, only to be recalled four years later for the Korean War. He started his architectural practice, now Heylman Martin Architects, in 1952 after his second discharge.

Heylman was named a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects in 1983 and was nominated for his design work of more than 1,000 projects, which include the Parkade Plaza City Center Parking and Retail Center, the Spokane County Public Heath Center, the Spokane Juvenile Justice Center, the Spokane International Airport, the County Courthouse of Spokane, Cathedral Plaza, Pioneer Square, and Canterbury Court, all design award winners. Heylman kept his office small for six decades, which allowed him to continue his personal involvement in design and also to incorporate houses and housing into his business. One of these units was the Zimmerman house in Lawrence, which he designed by mail while he was in the Navy.

Heylman was a modern architect throughout his life. “There was no other choice,” he said in an interview in Lawrence in 2011. “I’ve always been pretty logical and a minimalist. I did what I did.” In addition to recognition he received for his architecture, Helyman was recognized for his civic leadership. In 1975, he received the Rotary International Distinguished Citizen Award. On August 10, 2022, he died at age 98.

John C. Morley
John C. Morley

John C. “Jack” Morley was born in 1914 and completed an undergraduate degree in economics at Rockhurst College in 1936 and a Bachelor of Science in architecture at the University of Kansas in 1939. His architecture career was interrupted by World War II in which Jack served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, reaching the rank of captain in 1963 in the Navy Reserve. During the war, Lt. Morley was a flight instructor and saw extensive combat on the U.S.S. Saginaw Bay in the South Pacific in Leyte Gulf. He was shot down twice and for his bravery and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals.

After the war, Jack was appointed assistant professor of architecture at KU in 1947, and promoted to professor of architecture in 1963. Morley had an extensive international career in education, received a Fulbright Fellowship to Denmark in 1955, received a Diploma in Civic Design from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1962, and was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by the School of Architecture and Urban Design in 1978. Morley was named a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects in 1982, and professor emeritus in 1985 at the University of Kansas. While in academia, Morley also had an active design and urban planning practice involving several hundred projects. Jack was an inveterate modernist architect and planner and his completed projects include schools, numerous churches, banks, professional buildings, commercial buildings, medical facilities, houses, governmental offices, university buildings, and master plans for cities and parks. John Charles Morley died on September 11, 2001 at age 87.

Richard Peters
Richard Peters

Born in Frankfurt, Kansas in 1928, Richard Peters moved to Kansas City at an early age and grew up near the Nelson Art Gallery, where his mother enrolled him in various art classes. He had dreams of becoming an artist, but eventually decided that architecture would be a better profession. In 1946, he joined the Army and served for two years as a draftsman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Aleutian Islands while taking correspondence courses in architecture. After leaving the Army, he entered KU in 1947, where he became heavily influenced by the modernist approach of professors John C. Morley, Tom Geraughty, and George Beal. In 1949, he took a road trip with some KU architecture students to Texas and shook hands with Frank Lloyd Wright after Wright received an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal Award. That same year Peters received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and in 1951 married his first wife, Kathleen, who he says strongly supported his ambition to become an architect.

After being recalled to the Korean War, which delayed his graduation from KU, Peters obtained a B.S. in Architecture in 1954. He got his first job at the Wichita, Kansas-based architecture firm of Thomas, Harris and Calvin designing schools, airport buildings, and other commercial properties. He returned to Lawrence in 1957 and worked briefly for Robertson and Erickson, a local firm, then started his own firm, which merged to become Treanor Architects. (When Peters retired in 1990 it was called Peters, Kubota and Glenn.) His firm has designed more than 1,000 projects, including the (old) Lawrence Public Library, Babcock Place, City Hall, the Edgewood Homes subdivision, Deerfield School, Commerce Bank on Iowa St., and Haworth Hall at KU.

Peters lived with his second wife, Carol, in the residence he designed until he passed away in December, 2020 at age 92. The house remains on the Baker’s Dozen list of top midcentury modern houses in Lawrence.

Jim Williams

Born in 1936 in Seminole, Oklahoma, James “Jim” Williams developed a strong artistic identity at an early age. His mother, Marion, was a schoolteacher who enrolled him in piano and voice lessons and his father, Scotty, was a blacksmith and a welder. By the time he was in the 6th grade he was drawing buildings and cars and knew that he was destined to become a designer or an architect. He was fortunate to come of age when Oklahoma was swept by the winds of modern architecture, thanks largely to Bruce Goff, who chaired the architecture department at the nearby University of Oklahoma. While a student at Oklahoma State University, Williams got the chance to meet Goff at his studio in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower and got a personal tour of Goff’s houses in the Bartlesville area. “That was quite an inspiration,” Williams said. It was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with Goff’s organic, unconventional architecture.

After graduating Oklahoma State in 1960 with a B.A. in Architecture, Williams joined the Air Force Reserve, where he worked as a draftsman in a civil engineering squadron in Kansas City. It was there that he met his future friend and business partner Dick Peters. In 1962 he moved to Lawrence and joined Peters and Sid Harrison to form Peters Harrison Williams. He earned his Kansas architectural license in 1966. While in partnership with Peters, Williams was heavily involved in the design and/or construction of Haworth Hall at KU, Commerce Bank building (University State Bank), Deerfield Elementary school, First Baptist Church, Lawrence City Hall, Lawrence Public Library, Babcock Place, and numerous buildings on Massachusetts Street as part of the 1972 Renewal Project. He designed single-family residences in Lawrence for Al and Ann Thomas, Jack Graham, Chuck and Yvonne Hedges, Bill Muggy and Louis and Phyllis Copt.

In 1982, Williams left his partnership with Peters and formed Williams Huber Team. In 1994 he became an independent architect and continues to practice out of his Lawrence home, which he enjoys with his wife, Virginia. Over a career that has spanned nearly 60 years, he has designed hundreds of buildings, from one-off mountain cabins to large-scale complexes such as the Webster Center for the Kansas Convention of Southern Baptists, a project he has been sole architect on for more than 30 years. Soft-spoken and humble, he credits his design skills for his longevity. “Design is design,” he said. “If you’re a good designer, you can design anything. I’ve always felt I was a pretty good designer.”


  1. Posted January 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I am wondering if any of Curtis Bessinger’s dwellings are in any danger at this moment in time of being demolished. He did such wonderful work it would be a travesty to loose anything designed by him. He was also gifted in his music skills as witnessed by many at Taliesin where I knew him as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright. Would like to hear about his work if at all possible. Thank you. Earl Nisbet – Aptos, California.

    • Lawrence Modern
      Posted January 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Nisbet, thank you for commenting. Prof. Domer would like to respond to you since he is familiar with your work. Could you provide any contact info.?

    • Scott Smed
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Having lived in a Curtis Besinger Usonian for the last 13 years I can say that it is a wonderful environment that I cannot imagine being without.
      I think many of the attendees of the recent FLW Conservancy meeting in Mason City, Iowa would say the same.

      • Lawrence Modern
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Smed,

        You are a lucky man indeed.

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