George E. Kessler, pioneer city planner and landscape architect, was born in Frankenhausen, Germany, in 1862 and in 1865 was taken to Dallas, Texas, by his widowed mother, who taught French and art to support them. Later he worked as a cashboy at Sanger Harris Dry Goods. He moved to Europe and studied civic design in Germany, France, and Russia. By 1882 he moved to Kansas City and designed a railroad-owned amusement park. In 1893 he drew up a plan for the development of the city's park-boulevard system. He designed and landscaped the St. Louis World's Fair grounds in 1904. The same year he redesigned the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas, but his biggest contribution in Dallas, the "famous" Kessler Plan, came five years later. In 1909 the Chamber of Commerce established the City Plan and Improvement League and hired Kessler to draft a design for a long-range plan of civic improvements. Kessler drew up his plan to solve many of the city's problems, including the uncontrollable flooding of the Trinity River, the dangerous railroad crossings, and narrow, crooked downtown streets. The plan was not implemented at the time because it was not believed to be practical, but it became increasingly clear that changes were needed. Kessler returned in 1918 to act as consulting engineer for the Dallas Property Owners' Association and in 1919 began working for the Metropolitan Development Association of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. He remained in Dallas until January 3, 1922, when he returned to St. Louis. The Trinity River was improved and the levee system was completed in the 1930s. In addition to a plan for Dallas, Kessler drafted city plans for Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Cleveland, El Paso, Denver, and Syracuse. He designed Camp Wilson, the national army cantonment near San Antonio. On March 20, 1923, he died in Indianapolis, Indiana, survived by his wife and son.
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Dallas Morning News, March 20, 1923. Darwin Payne, Dallas: An Illustrated History (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor, 1982). William H. Wilson, "Adapting to Growth: Dallas, Texas, and the Kessler Plan, 1908–1933," Arizona and the West 25 (Autumn 1983).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lisa C. Maxwell, “Kessler, George E.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kessler-george-e.
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