Joseph R. Pelich, architect, was born in Prague, Austria, on August 9, 1894, and immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, with his parents at the age of five. In 1916 he completed a bachelor of architecture degree at Cornell University. He was awarded the Beaux-Arts Society (1916), Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial (1915), and Clifton Beckwith Brown Memorial (1916) medals. He attended the Sorbonne in Paris on a Cornell University graduate scholarship. From 1915 to 1917 Pelich worked with the Frank B. Mead and Hubbell and Benes architectural firms in Cleveland. When the United States entered World War I in 1917 he joined the United States Army Air Corps and was sent to Canada for the Royal Flying Corps. He was assigned to Fort Worth, Texas, for training under commanding officer Vernon Castle. When Castle (a famed stage dancer before the war) was killed in a training exercise in Fort Worth, Pelich became chief flying instructor at Fort Worth's three army airfields. When he was discharged from the service in 1919 with the rank of second lieutenant, he remained in Fort Worth to start his architectural practice. On August 24, 1923, he married Kathleen Blair of Dallas; the couple had one son.
In 1936 Pelich designed the original circular Casa Mañana outdoor dinner theater for Billy Rose's Fort Worth Frontier Fiesta (seeTEXAS FRONTIER CENTENNIAL). One spectacular innovation was a revolving stage that moved out across a lagoon. Pelich was also known for his numerous residential commissions in the suburban Texas Christian University, Berkeley, Mistletoe, Arlington Heights, and Westover Hills areas, as well as such prestigious projects as the Douglas Chandor residence in Weatherford and the Landreth Lodge on Eagle Mountain Lake. Many of Pelich's most beautiful houses were built in the exclusive River Crest addition, where Fort Worth's elite, with fortunes from oil, cattle, banking, real estate, and mercantile interests, built residences in the 1920s and 1930s. Pelich's designs for cozy bungalows, stately homes, and elegant mansions always incorporated a variety of stylistic details, ranging from American and Spanish Colonial to Tudor, Norman French, and Italian Renaissance. Even in educational buildings, such as the Alice E. Carlson (addition, 1934), Oaklawn (1935), and Carroll Peak (1938) elementary schools and the Polytechnic High School (1938), Pelich's designs were based on styles of the past. His design of the 1938 Fort Worth Public Library, which stood at 915 Throckmorton Street (demolished 1990), departed from this reliance on historical prototypes in favor of the Classical Modernistic style of the 1930s. Two other commercial structures designed by Pelich in the modernist mode that bore striking stylistic similarities to the Fort Worth Public Library were the KFJZ Broadcasting Building at 1201 Lancaster Avenue and the Ponton Clinic at 1307 Pennsylvania Avenue. Pelich designed the Robert Carr Chapel (1953) and the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at Texas Christian University, Eastern Hills Senior High School, St. Joseph's Hospital, WBAP-TV Station (1950), and the William Edrington Scott Theatre. He was supervising architect of the 3,605-bed McCloskey Army Hospital (1942) in Temple, in joint venture with Wiley G. Clarkson, Preston M. Geren, Sr., and Joe Rady. At the time of his death Pelich was working on the design of the Cyrus K. and Ann C. Rickel Building for Health, Recreation, and Physical Education on the Texas Christian University campus. He considered the Greater Southwest International Airport (1953; in association with Preston M. Geren, Sr.) his most significant achievement.
Pelich was a charter member of the Texas Society of Architects and in 1946 served as the first president of the newly formed Fort Worth Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 1967 he became the first architect to receive the Texas Restoration Award from the Texas State Historical Survey Committee for the restoration of the birthplace of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower at Denison. Pelich was a member of the Fort Worth Club, the Fort Worth Boat Club, and the Order of the Daedalians, a fraternal organization of World War I military pilots. He died in Fort Worth on July 19, 1968.
American Architects Directory, 1955. Judith Singer Cohen, Cowtown Moderne: Art Deco Architecture of Fort Worth, Texas (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1988). Fort Worth Press, July 21, 1968. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 20, 1968.
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Judith S. Cohen,
“Pelich, Joseph Roman,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed November 29, 2021,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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