MA 4




1.05 linear feet (3 boxes) photographs, oversize material


F.C.W. Kuehn, a leading Midwestern architect, is known primarily for the 175 public schools he designed for the South Dakota Department of Public Instruction between 1912 and 1953. Composed of architectural drawings created for various projects including rural school plans and county highway maps, and bids and plans for projects.

Historical Note

Frank Charles William Kuehn was born on September 4, 1884 in LeMars, Iowa. His family moved to Dakota Territory when he was 7 months old. They settled on a claim in Jackson Township, Sanborn County, Dakota Territory on March 1, 1885. The family lived in a sod shanty amid an extended family of Kuehn's grandfather and the brothers and sisters of Elizabeth and Frank Theodore Kuehn, Kuehn's parents. On March 1, 1903, the family moved northwest 18 miles to Huron, South Dakota, which continued to be Kuehn's home for the next 67 years. Kuehn married Amelia Johanna Wagner on June 3, 1914. They had three daughters; Jeannette, Lois and Margaret. In October 1950, Amelia died of a heart attack. Kuehn remarried on August 15, 1954 to Florence Dokken Hanson.

Before the age of 21, Kuehn knew he wanted to be an architect. He registered for classes with the International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1907, he began working in the office of Huron architect, George Issenhuth. He continued to work for Mr. Issenhuth throughout all of 1908 and 1909 while he continued his studies with the correspondence school.

On September 9, 1909, Kuehn opened his own office in Huron, SD. He established himself as an architect of schools with a plan submitted for a two-story brick school for Frankfort, SD. With this school, a good example of Prairie-School Style of architecture, Kuehn began a long association with the State Department of Public Instruction, which lasted for 41 years.

In 1918, Kuehn began writing insurance to supplement his income, possibly a result of World War I, which caused a decline of building in SD. He would continue to write insurance in addition to being an architect to the end of his life. In the early 1920s, Kuehn planned a number of homes and several impressive buildings for downtown Huron. He also began drawing county maps for SD, ND, and MN. In the 1930s, he began producing blueprints and created the Huron Blue Print Co. This helped provide for his family during the Depression. He also worked for Home Owners Loan Corp., inspecting homes for financing and writing reports. In the 1940s, Kuehn began to be recognized outside of SD for his Standard Rural School Plans.

During the 1950s, Kuehn worked almost exclusively on his growing county map business. In the 1960s, he expanded to include highway maps for Minnesota counties. He also combined SD, ND, and MN. County maps into books, which sold well.

Kuehn died following an illness in 1970. He had designed and built many projects; too numerous to mention. For more information see F.C.W. Kuehn Prairie Architect which was written by his daughters in 1984. This details his life as an architect and notes many of the projects he worked on throughout his career.

Content Notes

Composed of architectural drawings by F.W.C. Kuehn created for various projects. Included are rural school plans and county highway maps designed by Kuehn as well as bids and plans for projects.

The architectural drawings include work from both Kuehn's years enrolled in the International Correspondence Schools and his career as an architect.

The general items are composed of miscellaneous items related to Kuehn.

The random specifications are composed of construction specifications for projects Kuehn worked on.

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


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