A. G. Bauer (December 4, 1858-May 11, 1898), architect, designed some of North Carolina's most imposing and ebulliently stylish buildings of the late 19th century. He came to North Carolina in 1883 as assistant to architect Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia at a time when the state was embarking on major postwar projects but had few professionally trained resident architects. After Sloan's death in 1884, Bauer completed some of his former employer's projects, and subsequently established his own practice that included edifices from Wilmington to Morganton and, chiefly, in Raleigh.
Bauer was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (present West Virginia), the youngest son of Frederick and Sophia Bauer, immigrants from Hanover, Germany. Soon after 1870, the family settled in Bellaire, Ohio, where he spent the remainder of his youth. He was graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia in 1879. After working in Pittsburgh for two years and studying at the Iron City Business College, he entered the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. There he met Samuel Sloan (1815-1884), an important Philadelphia architect then struggling to maintain his practice. Sloan hired him as his draftsman in 1881.
In 1883 Bauer accompanied Sloan on a trip south to assist on commissions under way in North Carolina. Sloan established an office in Raleigh in 1884. In a personal memoir, Bauer recalled that as Sloan's draftsman, he produced all or part of the working drawings for such important North Carolina projects as the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill, and the Western North Carolina Hospital for the Insane in Morganton.
In July, 1884, Sloan died unexpectedly of sunstroke, leaving Bauer to handle the projects then under construction and others only in the planning stages. To finish the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, Bauer worked closely with contractor William J. Hicks, architect and superintendent of the state penitentiary, and he finished up work on the Chapel Hill and Morganton jobs. In Raleigh, he planned and supervised the Centennial Graded School (1885), originally a Sloan commission, and he took a role in designing other buildings in the capital in association with Hicks and others.
In 1887, he set off for the burgeoning port city of Wilmington, where he assumed the role of contractor as well as designer. There he displayed his growing propensity for highly irregular and dramatic forms, as in the Queen Anne-Shingle style Rufus W. Hicks House (1887) and the Gothic Revival style St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (1887). In 1889, in the midst of a disagreement over the unfinished Hicks project in Wilmington, Bauer left North Carolina. He first embarked on a six month tour of Europe. After returning to the United States in March, 1890, he worked briefly as a draftsman in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Lexington, Kentucky (for local architect Herman L. Rowe), and Atlanta (for architect Gottfried L. Norrman, master of an extraordinary range of styles and forms). In the fall of 1890, Bauer moved to establish his own practice and opened an office in Chattanooga.
In 1891, however, he returned to North Carolina at the invitation of Governor Daniel G. Fowle. He promptly took on two major state-sponsored commissions, both in Morganton: the Western North Carolina Hospital for the Insane to expand the complex he had completed from Sloan's designs; and, one of his largest and best known works, the North Carolina School for the Deaf. With these projects and added experience under his belt, Bauer entered a new chapter in his career in North Carolina. In the 1890s he designed some of the state's premier examples of the nationally popular Queen Anne style, including large and complex buildings replete with towers and turrets and irregular and dramatic plans and forms. Although many of his buildings of this creative period have been lost, a few survive as prime landmarks of their era.
The North Carolina School for the Deaf, a grand, towered edifice, displayed Bauer's flair for the Queen Anne style as well as his ability to organize a complex and highly specialized facility, using an E-plan scheme similar to the plan Sloan had employed at the asylum. The school is among the most important examples of late 19th century architecture still standing in the state, remarkable as a survivor from a period and mode of architecture almost entirely lost.
The Morganton projects were soon followed by other major commissions in various cities. In Raleigh, Bauer planned edifices in the High Victorian modes (all now lost), which did much to transform the architectural character of the city: the Park Hotel (1892) and the Academy of Music (1892) for Cary railroad man and contractor Alison Frank Page; the Pullen Building (1894) for Raleigh developer Richard Stanhope Pullen; the Raleigh Fire Headquarters (1895); and the huge, multi-porched Baptist Female University (1895-1899), a fitting neighbor to the Sloan's and Bauer's Executive Mansion just across the street.
By 1895, the maturing architect was at the height of his powers. His patrons included many prominent institutions and people, and with news and images of his projects appearing regularly in the Raleigh newspapers, he was something of a local celebrity. Meanwhile, in his personal life, after returning to Raleigh in 1891, he fell in love with the beautiful young Rachel Blythe, the daughter of a Cherokee mother and a white father. Because of state law forbidding marriage between whites and Indians, the two married in a secret ceremony in 1894, and then, after Rachel became pregnant, held a more official service in Washington, D. C. in June, 1895. After the second wedding, they lived openly and happily as man and wife, together with their daughter, Owenah, who was born in October, 1895.
In 1896, however, Bauer's fortunes took a sudden turn for the worse. On May 2, he was riding in an open carriage in Durham along with contractor Charles N. Norton to visit a building site (Durham's First Baptist Church). Their carriage was struck by a fast-moving train at a railroad crossing, and both men were severely injured. After the accident and a period of hospitalization at the North Carolina Hospital for the Insane (Dorothea Dix Hospital) in Raleigh, Bauer suffered continually from spells of dizziness and depression and was unable to concentrate long enough to design new buildings. He wrote to his sister in July, 1896, "Last May, when the accident occurred, it seemed to me I was going to do a better years business than ever. I had a great many orders on hand, but when people read from the papers that I was dying, or if I did not die, I would never be able to do work again, they all went to other Architects, and so when I got well enough to get out and try to do work, there was nothing to do but a couple of jobs. If I had them on hand, however, I [would] not feel competent or able to attend to them."
A suit against the railroad company proceeded slowly and without results. Rachel, who had been ill much of the fall, gave birth to their second child December 27, 1896. On January 9, 1897, Rachel died at age 26. Bauer was forced to disperse their "little family" by sending their infant children to live with Rachel's relatives. Settling with the railroad company for a reduced sum in order to erect a memorial for Rachel, Bauer created a lovely monument in Raleigh's Oakwood Cemetery, with a little Classical temple and Rachel's wedding photograph in a porcelain plaque. Over the next year, despite intensifying headaches, dizziness, and amnesia, Bauer managed one last flurry of public and residential work in Raleigh. Continuing his favored Queen Anne style, he planned the Lucy Catherine Capehart House (1897), one of Raleigh's best examples of the late Queen Anne mode; the remodeling of the William H. Worth House (1898); and additions to the Colored Deaf and Dumb School (1898). On May 11, 1898, alone in his room, Bauer killed himself with a single gunshot.
As he desired, Bauer was buried beside Rachel in Oakwood Cemetery. Though dying before he was forty, he left a legacy of some of the state's most dramatic "New South" buildings, displaying the eclectic styles of the day at their most ebullient. Many of his buildings were destroyed in the mid-20th century, some of them only a few years before the pendulum of taste swung back to appreciation of the architecture of the Victorian era. These survive in photographs, complementing the standing monuments of his short, creative, and restless life.