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Frank B. Miller

Frank B. Miller, architext, [1859-1939]

Frank B. Miller was born in 1859 in St. Joseph, Missouri, son of Sinclair Miller, state Representative from Buchanan County. The family was forced to leave St. Joseph due to their Southern sympathies and moved to live with relatives in Manchester, Missouri. Frank's mother Margaret Basye Miller died there in 1866, resulting in Frank and his two brothers and a sister relocating to Jefferson City to live with their aunt, Elizabeth Basye. The family lived in the former Sunrise Hotel, which had been owned and operated by their grandfather but converted to a residence before their arrival. This home on Madison St. was across from the Governor's Mansion, completed in 1871, possibly influencing Miller's early interest in architecture. It is not known if Miller received any formal training in architecture or began as a builder and transitioned into designing buildings.

Miller's career as an architect in Jefferson City spanned at least 39 years, from 1883 to 1922. A number of his commercial and institutional buildings continue to function as important components of Jefferson City's downtown Missouri State Capitol Historic District. Two of Miller's downtown designs (the Cole County Courthouse and Central Bank) are significant components of the city's skyline. Many of his buildings are listed on the National Register and are Local Landmarks and are described in greater detail below. Miller's works were designed to meet his clients' desires and reflect a number of architectural styles that were popular at the time they were constructed. Several of his commercial and institutional designs were built using the Romanesque Revival style and Classical Revival style. A number of his residential designs show an affinity for the Prairie style and several were built as Colonial Revival style houses, with the Craftsman style represented as well.

Frank Miller worked independently in the beginning of his career, then became partners with architect Charles Opel by 1904, as the services of "Miller and Opel, Architects, Jefferson City and Columbia," were advertised in the 1904-1905 city directory as having an office at 201 E. High Street. The 1911‑1912 directory lists the firm as "Miller, Opel and Torbitt, Architects," with offices in Jefferson City, Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri. Miller and Opel collaborated on designs for St. Mary's Hospital and the Louis Lohman House, both since demolished. Charles Opel moved to Kansas City in 1914 where he built a home, but died in January 1915. After this partnership dissolved, Miller designed the city's "first skyscraper," the seven story Central Trust Bank (now Central Bank at 238 Madison Street), where he had an office, although by 1921 his office was in the Dallmeyer building. Miller moved to Kansas City in 1922 at age 63 to oversee manufacture of a school locker he had designed. He applied for a patent for this locker in 1924 and received the patent in 1926. No newspaper or other references have been identified to verify if this locker design was ever manufactured. Miller would have been 67 when he received the patent and may have lost interest or been deterred by ill health from pursuing manufacture of the locker. By 1938 Miller had moved to Silver Spring, Maryland to be near his daughter, where he died in 1939. Frank's funeral was held at Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City, followed by burial in Woodland Cemetery.

No list or archive of Frank Miller's designs has been discovered during research for this nomination. No previous research or scholarship developed on Frank Miller has been identified, other than the research provided below. Miller was known as an architect and as a builder, working with successful masons Henry Wallau, Fred Buehrle and Joseph Schmidli. Some clues to buildings he may have designed can be obtained from articles written about the buildings Wallau, Buehrle and Schmidli worked on, as they all worked to construct a number of Miller's buildings. But these builders worked for other architects as well. Frank Miller designed houses for wealthy members of Jefferson City society, who had a variety of connections between them, ranging from business interests to church membership to an interest in golf. Just as people today often share the name of a favorite painter or car mechanic, they probably recommended Miller's services as an architect to their friends. Miller was a cousin of Ann Dewey, owner of 1431 Green Berry Road, and may have had other connections to his clients. While Miller may have designed other buildings besides those described below, only those where written confirmation of his involvement could be found have been included. The following list has been developed from National Register nominations, articles and books on Jefferson City history, newspaper articles, census data and a 1995 article by Karen Grace. This sampling of Miller's work includes commercial, institutional and residential buildings from 1883 to 1920. While perhaps not all-inclusive, it is sufficient to allow for a review and comparison of buildings designed throughout his career. A table with photos of the majority of these buildings follows the list below.