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Nelle Peters: The groundbreaking Kansas City architect

Nelle Peters
Posted at 4:00 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 07:39:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The appearance of Kansas City, Missouri, can be credited in part to the design of buildings by Nelle Peters.

"She was really a Kansas City architect, so she really shaped the way that city looked," Elizabeth Engel, with the State Historical Society of Missouri, said.

According to the State Historical Society of Missouri, Peters was born in Niagra, North Dakota, on December 11, 1884.

According to Engel, Peters' experienced difficulty starting her career in a male dominated industry.

"She went to different firms, but they all turned her down. But she was persistent. She just went back," Engel said.

Peters eventually was hired by an architectural firm and later started her own business, spending more than 60 years designing numerous buildings in the Kansas City area.

In a 1925 article from the Kansas City Journal obtained by the State Historical Society of Missouri, Peters explained her motivation in building design.

"I want each building to be as perfect, as economical and practical, as if I were building it for myself," Peters said in the article.

The height of her success was in the 1920's.

Several buildings she designed in the decade include apartment buildings like the Ambassador on 3560 Broadway Boulevard, Valentine on 3724 Broadway Boulevard and the Luzier at 3216 Gilham Plaza.

A restaurant and office space currently occupy the Luzier. The building originally housed the Luzier Cosmetics Company until it moved to another location.

Developer Butch Rigby redeveloped the building.

"We purchased the building in 2016 and went through a lot of historic tax credit work, things like this to get it on the national register for protection and some tax credits," Rigby said.

Features of the Luzier building were preserved such as the brick facade, terracotta and roof. Inside, pictures of the building's past as the home of a cosmetics company and Peters can be found as a tribute.

"This building reflects not only Nelle Peters, a pioneer a hundred years ago. A woman in a man's field. And one who not only survived, but she thrived," Rigby said.

Peters retired in the 1960's and died in October 1974 at the age of 89.