A.G. Bauer, Raleigh’s Architect

Romantic Raleigh Architecture

November, 10, 2008 , by Ladye Jane

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The Pullen Building

Unfortunately, there’s not much left in Raleigh that represents the creative mind of one of the city’s most influential architects, A.G. Bauer.  Most of his buildings are long gone due to the rejection of the ornamental design in the 1960s and 70s, but one of his most heartfelt projects is still standing in Oakwood Cemetery—his wife’s tombstone—which marks the end of this amazing architect’s short career.


The Capehart House

Bauer’s career began as an assistant and draftsman for prominent Philadelphia architect, Samuel Sloan. The two designed several buildings around North Carolina, the most notable in Raleigh being the Executive Mansion (the one that is still standing today). After the death of Sloan, Bauer went out on his own, struggling to find business without Sloan’s name behind him.  He left Raleigh for an extended period, but when he returned, he worked on a few of his most notable designs, the Academy of Music (1892) and the Pullen Building (1894). Perhaps one of his most quirky designs, the Pullen Building resided on the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets. The building housed offices on the conservatively adorned street level, with the top level looking more like a bric-a-brac palace. The Queen-Anne style of leave-no-surface-undecorated paired with the first floor was a strange combination, but it worked.


Baptist Female University

It was around this time that Bauer met the love of his life, Rachel Blythe, while both were boarders at the Branson House. Rachel was a Cherokee Indian who had made a name for herself as a hard working stenographer. The two quickly fell in love, and in 1895 ran off to Washington, D.C. to get married because interracial marriages were illegal in North Carolina. Upon their return to Raleigh, they were met with scorn and were shunned by members of the community (partly due to the interracial marriage, partly because Rachel returned 6 months pregnant after only four weeks of marriage). It was later discovered, however, that the two had actually been secretly married in 1894, but had kept it quiet since it was illegal. It was this year that Bauer began the building he was best known for, Baptist Female University. The building was not finished until 1899, which was after his death.


The Academy of Music

In 1896, one event caused the downward spiral that would eventually lead to Bauer’s death. A carriage in which he was riding was struck by a train, causing him serious mental and physical problems. He was hospitalized in an insane asylum for two weeks due to “traumatic insanity,” which permanently damaged his reputation as an architect. He consistently suffered from stress-induced ranting and raving, depression, and delusional behavior.  He never fully recovered. During this time, Rachel was pregnant with their second child, but a previously existing condition paired with the pregnancy proved too much for her body to handle, and she later died at the age of 26.  This devastated Bauer, and he fully retreated into himself, withdrawing from all projects but one, his wife’s tombstone.  He spent the last of his money designing a Temple of Diana to send a message to the people of Raleigh about the virtues of his wife. He also had the saying “True worth is being, not seeming” engraved as an ironic jab at the state’s motto. When the tombstone was complete, he sequestered himself in his room for days, reading Shakespeare and writing letters, then shot himself in the head. He was found with a revolver in his right hand, and a picture of Rachel in his left.

He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his wife in Oakwood Cemetery. It was not until 1986 that A.G. Bauer’s grave was finally marked with a tombstone.

All images courtesy of Raleigh City Museum








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  • Matt
    11/10 02:08 PM

    Very nice piece. Didn’t know that.

    You can view the Bauers’ grave in the West Branch of the cemetery: http://www.historicoakwoodcemetery.com/map_template.asp?section=14

  • roi
    11/10 02:16 PM

    The Capehart House was originally located on Wilmington Street.  In the 70’s The Office of State Personnel Classification and Pay Section was housed in the house for about 10 years. I was fortunate enough to have an office in one of its wonderful airy rooms….good times and wonderful memories
    The Capehart House is now located on Blount St.

  • Matthew Brown
    11/10 03:54 PM

    Thank you for this lovely piece. It is a shame so few of Bauer’s creations remain. One other is Norburn Terrace, the beautiful old Queen Anne style house at 212 Lafayette Road, barely visible from Wake Forest Road, behind the office building at 1110 Wake Forest Rd.

    A blurry photo is at the bottom of this page:

    http://services.wakegov.com/realestate/Photo.asp?id=0052253&stype=addr&stnum;=&stname=lafayette&locidList=1527&spg=1&cd=01&loc=212++LAFAYETTE+RD&des=212+LAFAYETTE+ST&pin=1704946183

  • Aaron
    11/10 11:21 PM

    My it’s a shame indeed! I’m somewhat of an architecture buff, so I think these buildings are very beautiful. What happened to the Pullen Building?

  • ladye jane
    11/11 10:06 AM

    The Pullen Building was razed in 1942.

  • Raleigh Boy
    11/11 12:58 PM

    The former Durham Life Insurance Building, completed in 1942,occupies the site of the Pullen Building. The Insurance Building is now a Wake County office annex.

  • arthurb3
    11/12 11:44 AM

    My grandmother attended Kings when she moved here from Goldsboro. She met my grandfather in Raleigh during that time.

  • Ryan
    11/12 07:39 PM

    LJ…

    I look forward to all your articles.  They anchor me to our city and make me love it even more.  Keep them coming!

  • ladye jane
    11/13 10:08 AM

    aww, thanks!

  • roi
    11/13 10:29 AM

    Ladye jane email me.  I have a suggestion for your next article.

  • jz
    11/14 09:36 AM

    Great article LJ. Why do architects always seem to die tragically (see:  Gaudi, Le Courbusier, Scarpa, Kahn and Wright)? 

    If I may however, deviate from the main thrust of your article to emphasize a subtle point you infer in the early part of your piece:  “Most of his buildings are long gone due to the rejection of the ornamental design in the 1960s and 70s…”  Bauer’s buildings were only a small percentage of what was razed in the spirit of progress and growth.

    It appears that man’s plight is to to be limited to vision not beyond the end of his nose.  Take the Garland Jones Office Building as the most recent example of a building from that era, th ‘60s in which Ornamental design was not in vogue.

    While there is much debate over its appearance, much of that distaste comes from the present Zeitgeist and nothing more.

    If we allow ANY building from ANY era to go down without an intelligent discussion, its a terrible loss for the community and a terrible waste of resources already spent.

  • CJT
    11/14 11:50 AM

    Great article!!!
    -
    The Capehart-Crocker house will be available for purchase in the coming year (if Blount Street Commons continues as planned).
    -
    What a great opportunity to be part of the story above and the regeneration of history.

  • Marshall Wyatt
    11/24 06:49 PM

    Ladye Jane, Thanks for bringing A.G. Bauer into focus. I’ll say this, the man loved turrets! His architecture seems to match the romance and melodrama of his own life- somebody should write a screenplay. One of his buildings I remember quite well was the Park Hotel at the corner of Martin & McDowell (aka The Raleigh Hotel, aka The Park Central). I took some photographs of the hotel back in 1975, not long before it was torn down. Like so many other Raleigh landmarks, its site is now a parking lot. I also remember Norburn Terrace back when it was divided into four low-rent apartments. I had friends who lived in one of them, so I got an inside look. It was run-down and drafty, but beautiful nonetheless, with huge rooms and the tallest ceilings I’d ever seen in a residence. And I even got to go up into the turret!

  • Ian Lowry
    03/02 12:17 PM

    Thank you so much for this lovely article. Mr. Bauer is by far my favorite architect and a personal role model of mine (for the pretty buildings he designed, not for the whole suicide thing, you know). Such a romantic story- truly and utterly Victorian, isn’t it?

    Currently, I’m on the hunt for some evidence that Mr. Bauer designed one of our structures here in Elizabeth City. The Lowry-Chesson building, orignially known as Lowry’s Acadamy, was built in 1897 in the Italianate style. While there’s no current record available saying Bauer was the designer, I think itsquite possible. For one thing, it was originally entitled an “Acadamy of Music,” just like the one he built in Raleigh (it looks like it too). It certainly would have been towards the end of his life, of course, but certainly not impossible.

    P.S. The E.C. Acadamy was built for my great (3x) uncle, so I’m pretty interested in learning about it.

  • CJT
    03/02 12:24 PM

    Ian, ,

    Send me an email, I can probably give you some information that will help:

    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  • Raleigh Boy
    03/10 12:12 PM

    Ian—You may have already got this info from CJT, but everything you would ever want to know about A.G. Bauer was published in an article in the July issue of the N.C. Historical Review in 1983: ‘A.G. Bauer, North Carolina’s New South Architect,’ by William Bushong. There is a wealth of information there, including a list of Bauer’s North Carolina commissions. He was active in the state 1883-1898. Any library will have copies of the NCHR. call no. F251.N892

    Carmine Prioli, an English professor at NC State, also published the story of Bauer and his ‘Indian Princess’ wife in the same issue.

    I don’t know that anything has been written or published on him since 1983.

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