Nathan Kelley bigraphy, stories - American architect

Nathan Kelley : biography

February 26, 1808 - November 19, 1871

Nathan B. Kelley (February 26, 1808 in Warren County, Ohio – November 20, 1871 in Columbus, Ohio) was a United States architect and builder. He was a prolific architect whose designs dominated the cityscape of Columbus, Ohio at the middle of the 19th century.

Personal life

An historical interpreter in character as Nathan B. Kelley accompanies two children during a public event on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse. The columns in view at the background are part of the west face of the building, fronting on High Street. Kelley married the former Malinda Hufford in 1832, shortly before they moved to Columbus. The Hufford family was of Swiss extraction, having originally settled in Virginia before coming to Ohio in 1831. Kelley is listed as head of household in the 1840, 1850 and 1870 U.S. censuses as residing in Columbus, and he and his family are enumerated three times in 1860 :in Columbus, the 6th ward of Cincinnati and in Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky. Census records, burial records and city directories make it possible to state that Kelley had two sons, William George (1843–1867) and James H (1847–1876). He had at least one daughter, perhaps two, but records are contradictory. Martha Jane Kelley (1835–1836) is buried in Green Lawn beside her father and brothers. A Maria Kelley, aged 3, is part of the 1850 census listing, but appears in no other census listings, and is not mentioned in probate records when Kelley died.

James H. Kelley is listed in city directories as clerk to his father, or architect in his own right. The very real possibility that there are no direct descendants of Nathan B. Kelley is evidenced by the fact that his wife is mentioned as having resided with her brother Daniel Hufford for six years in his obituary dated 1891. It is unlikely that Malinda Kelley would have had to rely upon the charity of her brother if any of her own children had been able to provide for her. This is confirmed by the fact that probate records for the estate of Nathan Kelley indicate he died intestate, Malinda Kelley requested not to serve as executor, and James H. Kelley requested that duty as the only child and heir. Malinda Hufford Kelley died in 1893.

Kelley was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a fraternal organization devoted to the welfare and betterment of its members and society at large. He was a founder of the first IOOF lodge in Columbus, the group for most of its life meeting in a building at the corner of High and State Streets that also contained a bank and Kelley's offices.

Life and work

Little personal information exists about Kelley before he began a major commission in 1835 for the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum, when he was 27 years of age. At about the same time, he was named as (construction) superintendent of the State School for the Blind. In the 1840s, city directories list him as surveyor and engineer for the city of Columbus.

Ohio Statehouse His most significant works are the interior space and mechanical systems of the Ohio Statehouse. This massive government building was erected between 1839 and 1861, with Kelley serving as one of four principal architects between 1854 and 1858. When he came to the project, Kelley basically began from scratch, as his predecessors had taken all plans and working drawings away with them. Walls and some flooring were in place, and first steps in erecting iron trusses for the roof had begun. Undaunted by the great scope of work before him, he saw it as fitting challenge for his abilities, stating the project was "a rare field for the exercise of ingenuity and invention in the correction of mistakes, careless conclusions and want of foresight." Seeing the building had no provision for heating or ventilation, Kelley designed an innovative steam heating system that was highly effective, at a time when central heating was a rare and expensive luxury. He was responsible for the finishing touches on the exterior of the building, as well as the design and engineering of most of the interior spaces.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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