Architect Nelle Peters left her mark on Midtown

The Ambassador Hotel, designed by Nelle Peters. Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

This week in history, it is good time to look back at architecture of Nelle Peters, a prolific Kansas City architect did much to shape the way Midtown looks today. Peters designed almost 1000 local buildings in the 1920s.

The Kansas City Public Library has a story on Peters on its website. Peters birthdate was Dec. 11, 1884.

Photo courtersy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

Peters struggled in her early career because few developers wanted to hire a female architect, the library article says. But in 1913, developer Charles Phillips of the Phillips Building Company hired Peters. She specialized in apartments buildings and hotels, but also designed corporate offices and single family homes.

“Peters developed a reputation not just for the fact that female architects were extremely unusual, but for her talent. Her signature designs placed apartment complexes around a central courtyard. Her careful attention to detail brought her some national recognition within the architectural profession. She was capable of minimizing the total area taken up by her designs while still giving them an open feeling and functional spaces inside, especially with her usable kitchenette designs,” the article says.

Peters’ architectural career came to a stop in the Depression and World War II.

“She remained in the business, but had to work as a seamstress to augment her income. She finally retired in 1967, although by that year it appears that she had not had a contract in nearly 11 years. Little else is known of Nelle Peters, who was at once one of the most prolific architects and a very obscure figure in Kansas City history. When she died on October 7, 1974, at the age of 90, virtually no one acknowledged the significance of her accomplishments. While Nelle Peters herself remains largely invisible, many of the buildings she designed still contribute to the beauty of the city’s landscape.”

Notable Nelle Peters buildings in Midtown:


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