John Latenser, Architect [1858-1936]
John Latenser, Sr., [†] born in Liechtenstien, was a prominent architect in Omaha. Before emigrating to the U.S., he completed studies in architecture at the Polytechnic College in Stuttgard. After his arrival he was employed for seven years as a draftsman in Chicago. In 1887, Latenser set up his practice in Omaha that spanned more than 50 years. This included commissions for many of the city's larger civic and commercial building projects, like Central High School, the Douglas County Courthouse, and the J.L. Brandeis and Sons Store Building. In addition, Latenser served as construction superintendent for Omaha's Federal Post Office building beginning in 1891 and two years later was named Superintendent of Federal Buildings for a six-state territory. (Omaha Bee News, 9 December 1934: Omaha World Herald, 7 October, 1936).
Early in his career, Latenser received commendation from the U.S. government for resolving serious structural problems in Chicago's Post Office Building. The architect's technical skills were also recognized by the Omaha School Board. Newly arrived in the city, Latenser won his first contract for the design of Webster School by pointing out inadequacies in plans offered by 19 other competitors. (Omaha World-Herald, 7 October, 1936.)
Several years later, in 1892, Latenser was salaried as the Omaha School District's staff architect. Citing the importance of "pure air, scientific lighting, and sanitary conditions" as requisites for their buildings.
The fact that many of Latenser's existent school buildings—Columbian, Saunders and Central High School—remained essentially unaltered further testifies to the architect's expertise in schoolhouse design.
† Steven L. Shogrin, Graduate Intern Architect, Alley Poyner Architecture, P.C., Blair High School, Washington County, Nebraska, nomination document, 1990, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.