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Lehman A. Ferris


Lehman A. Ferris, Architect [1893-1996]

Lehman Ferris's [†] career as an architect started in 1908 when his father became ill and asked his son to help out in his architectural office. In the mid-1920s, the partnership of George A Ferris and Son was established, and Lehman's design work expanded to include the Las Vegas High School in 1928,5 high schools in Austin and Eureka, several school buildings in Wells, and an office building in Reno. Lehman Ferris opened his own office during the depression after the partnership with his father was dissolved due to financial difficulties. In 1935, he became the City of Reno's first building inspector, while conducting his architectural practice in the evenings. Ferris held the city inspector job for ten years, during which time he was involved in the effort by the International Association of Building Inspectors to enact a uniform building code throughout the country. Lehman Ferris was also the first chairman of the Nevada State Board of Architecture that was created in 1949, and he held Nevada Architect license #1.

Lehman "Monk" Ferris designed the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at the University of Nevada. Mr. Ferris was a lifetime member of the fraternity, one of the founders of ATO's predecessor organization, Phi Delta Tau, and the son of prominent Nevada architect George A. Ferris. Lehman Ferris, who acquired the nickname Monk as a small child, came to Reno with his family in 1906. He entered the University of Nevada in 1911 to study electrical engineering. He left the University in 1915 without graduating to work in Elko as an electrical engineer. It was while working at the McGill Copper Smelting Plant in 1914 that Ferris first began designing structures. During World War I, Ferris worked on the development of underwater detection devices for the military, and after the war, he went to work for his father and architect Frederick DeLongchamps writing specifications.

In 1945, Lehman Ferris quit his city inspector job to return full-time to architecture. In 1946, he took as his partner Graham Erskine a New York architect who had come to Reno for a divorce. Erskine sought a job to carry him through his six-week residency period and was hired by Ferris to do drafting. Upon his return to New York, Erskine discovered that the preliminary drawings he had prepared of the Reno High School had been accepted and he immediately returned to Nevada and a partnership with Lehman Ferris.

With his experience in engineering, Ferris was qualified to be an architectural engineer and as such was involved with nearly all of the aspects of building design including plumbing, electrical, and structural. Some examples of Lehman Ferris's buildings include Reno High School (which Graham Erskine drafted for him), Proctor R. Hug High School, Wooster High School, and Harold's Club Casino Tower in Reno, the original Student Union Building and the original education building at the University of Nevada, the Civic Auditorium and Nevada State Legislature buildings in Carson City, First National Bank buildings statewide, and National Guard Armories in several cities (White 1991:A30-A31). Ferris retired at the age of 77 in 1970, and died in 1996 at the age of 103.

Mella Rothwell Harmon and Erin Lankowsky, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity House, Washoe County, NV, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.


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