Dickey, George E. (1840–ca. 1900)

By: Stephen Fox

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: January 25, 2017

George E. Dickey, architect, was born in Wilmot, New Hampshire, on October 29, 1840, the son of James and Sebra Dickey. He received his academic education in Wilmot and New London, New Hampshire, and his professional training in Boston. From 1870 to 1872 he maintained a practice in Manchester, New Hampshire; he also listed himself as having practiced in Waltham, Massachusetts, in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Dickey moved to Toronto, Ontario, in 1873 and practiced there until 1878, when he moved to Houston, Texas.

He was the architect of numerous public, commercial, and residential buildings in Houston. His first major project there was the design of the five-story Capitol Hotel (1883, demolished), built on the site of the provisional capitol of the Republic of Texas. Of the retail and office buildings he designed, only the Sweeney, Coombs, and Fredericks Building (1889) remains standing in Houston. All three of his large Houston churches-Shearn Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church (1883), the First Baptist Church (1884), and the First Presbyterian Church (1894)-have been demolished, as have all but one (the Allen Paul house, 1899) of the large houses built to his designs in Houston. Dickey was the architect of Grand Central Depot (1887), the Houston Light Guard Armory (1891), Elysian Street School (later C. Anson Jones, 1893), and the third Houston City Hall and Market House (1904) in Market Square. None of these buildings is extant.

Outside Houston, Dickey was responsible for churches in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Bangor, Maine. In Texas he designed churches in Brenham, Bellville, Brownwood, and Hempstead; the Grand Opera House (1878) in Brenham; the Masonic Temple and Opera House (1880) in Sherman; a school in Angleton; county courthouses in Richmond and Centerville (1886); and a county jail in Liberty. The George Schneider (1886) and H. A. Landes (1887) houses still stand in Galveston, where Dickey also completed the interior of the extant First Presbyterian Church (1889).

During the course of his career, Dickey maintained short-lived partnerships with I. B. Samuels in Boston (1872) and in Texas with Henry J. Simpson (1884), S. A. Helmich (1886–87), J. Arthur Tempest (1894), Frank E. Rue (1896), and the Waco architect Glenn H. Allen (c. 1899–1902). Dickey was a charter member of the Texas State Association of Architects, organized in 1886, and a member of the American Institute of Architects. He also was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston.

His personal history is obscure. He was married three times; first to Mary Messer of New London, New Hampshire, in 1862, then to Maria Watier of Montreal, Quebec, and finally to Georgia W. Dickey. With each of his first two wives Dickey had three children; with his third wife he had two children. As early as 1890 his eldest son, Dura Anderson Dickey, worked with him professionally. Between 1895 and 1899 Dickey and his son maintained an office in New Orleans, where Dickey lived from 1896 to 1899, the year he returned to Houston. He and all members of his family are last listed in the 1905–06 Houston city directory. Since no mention of his death can be found, it is presumed that he left Houston permanently before the next city directory was made.

Dickey's work followed prevailing trends in American architecture of the 1870s and 1880s, evident especially in his transition from the picturesque eclecticism of American High Victorian design to a fuller, more shapely approach to massing and a less exaggerated treatment of detail. His best buildings were the large houses he designed in Houston for S. K. Dick (1889), Charles Dillingham (1890), Alexander P. Root (1893), J. T. Campbell (1899), and Samuel F. Carter (1899).

History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). Houston Post, February 26, 1899.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stephen Fox, “Dickey, George E.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 20, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dickey-george-e.

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December 1, 1994
January 25, 2017

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