Bourgeois, Louis Jean Baptiste

BOURGEOIS, Louis Jean Baptiste (1856-1930), an architect from rural Quebec who left Canada in 1884 and who would later become famous for his design of a single building, that of the Bahai Temple of Peace located in Wilmette, Illinois, near Chicago, built 1920-1953. Bourgeois was active in the following firms in Canada and the United States:

L.J.B. Bourgeois, Trois Rivieres, Que. 1878-1880
L.J.B. Bourgeois, Quebec City, 1881-83
Ostling & Bourgeois, Chicago 1885 to Nov. 1887
Donnellan & Bourgeois, Chicago, Dec. 1887 to May 1888
Maxon & Bourgeois, Omaha, Nebraska, Jan. 1890 to Aug. 1890
Maxon, Bourgeois & Cooke, Omaha, Nebraska, Sept. 1890 to Dec. 1890
L.J.B. Bourgeois, Omaha, Nebraska, Jan. 1891 to Dec. 1892
L.J.B. Bourgeois, Chicago, Jan. 1893 - to 1894
L.J.B. Bourgeois, Los Angeles, Calif. 1895-1904

Born in St. Celestin, Nicolet County, Que. on 19 March 1856, Bourgeois lived and worked in Trois Rivieres and later maintained an office on St. Pierre Street in Quebec City (Journal de Quebec [Quebec City], 13 June 1881, 3, advert.). In 1878 he prepared a Gothic Revival design for the Bishop's Palace in Trois Rivieres, but the scheme was never realised (R. Gauthier, Trois Rivieres disparue, ou presque, 1978, 151, illus.). In 1880 he received First Prize at the Provincial Exhibition for his drawings of the Roman Catholic church at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Que. (La Minerve [Montreal], 29 Sept. 1880, 3)

Bourgeois left Canada in 1884 and moved to Chicago, and it was there that he became a pupil of Louis Sullivan, a leading architect who had begun his own career in 1881. In late 1885, Bourgeois formed a partnership with Erick J. Ostling, as Ostling & Bourgeois, Architects. They were active for two years, until late 1887. In late December 1887 Bourgeois was invited by James J. Donnellan to form a new partnership in Chicago (see list of works under Donnellan & Bourgeois). Their collaboration was all too brief, and was dissolved within 6 months, partly because Donnellan seemed to be incapable of sustaining a business partnership with anyone. In May 1888, Bourgeois opened his own office on LaSalle Street (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 27 May 1888, 18), but within a few months he had moved to Omaha, Nebraska to work in the office of Francis M. Ellis, a leading architect in that city. It was Ellis who assigned Bourgeois with the task of completing the design and interior decoration of the new Commercial National Bank In Omaha (1889-90), a building which Bourgeois later claimed to be his own design (Omaha Daily Bee, 4 Jan. 1890, 6, descrip.). This false claim was disputed by Ellis in June 1890, when he stated that Bourgeois was merely one of a half-dozen draftsmen employed in his office, and that the overall design for the bank was produced by Ellis alone (Omaha Daily Bee, 3 June 1890, 2, Letter to the Editor).

A brief biography of Bourgeois published in 1890 claimed that Bourgeois was "....a graduate of Des Bourse Arts of Paris" [sic], an obvious reference to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, yet this claim cannot be substantiated because the name of L.J.B. Bourgeois is absent from the records of students at the Ecole as published by Augustin Delaire, Les Architectes Eleves de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts 1793-1907. In January 1890 Bourgeois was invited by S.E. Maxon to form a partnership in Omaha as Maxon & Bourgeois; they were joined by H.E. Cooke in July 1890., but their collaboration ended later that year. Bourgeois then continues to work under his own name in Omaha from early 1891 to late 1892.

In early 1893 Bourgeois returned to Chicago, and he remained there until 1894 when he decided to move to California. There, his best-known work was the Electric Tower, erected in San Francisco for the sanctioned World’s Fair called The California Mid-Winter International Exposition (1894-95). This landmark, modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, was a colossal 280 foot high steel tower lit with 5,000 incandescent lights intended to provide night time illumination for the exhibition grounds. The base of the tower was surrounded with four pavilions designed by Bourgeois in the Moorish style, his favoured style which he was to later use in the lavish mansion for Paul de Longpre, the famous American painter who lived in Hollywood, Calif. (built 1901; demol. 1927).

Bourgeois appears to have left California in 1905 and moved to New York City where he took up the study of the Bahai faith. He submitted a design in 1909 competition for a new Bahai Temple, but it would not be until 1920 when his scheme, in competition with 15 others, was selected by the Bahai committee. His nine-sided building, dubbed The Temple of Light, would take another 30 years before it was completed and formally opened and dedicated in 1953. Bourgeois died at Wilmette, Illinois on 19 August 1930 (obituary Daily Republican [Belvidere, Illinois], 20 Aug. 1930, 4; obit. Illinois Society of Architects Monthly Bulletin, xv, Aug. 1930, 4). A biography on the career of Bourgeois was published shortly before his death in the Detroit Free Press, 5 Aug. 1930, 9.

(works in Quebec Province)

CAP DE LA MADELEINE, QUE., Roman Catholic church, 1879-80 (La Minerve [Montreal], 21 June 1879, 2)
NICOLET, QUE., major alterations to the old Seminary to create an ecclesiastical residence, 1879 (La Minerve [Montreal], 30 Aug. 1879, 1)
ST. WENCESLAS, QUE., Roman Catholic church, 1880 (La Minerve [Montreal], 23 Oct. 1880, 3)
ST. STANISLAS, QUE., Roman Catholic church, 1881 (La Minerve [Montreal], 12 March 1881, 3)
TROIS RIVIERES, QUE., steeple for l'Assomption Roman Catholic Cathedral, Bonaventure Street, 1881 (La Minerve [Montreal], 16 July 1881, 3; R. Gauthier, Trois Rivieres disparue, ou presque, 1978, 146-7, illus.)
STE. ANNE DE LA PERADE, QUE., exterior towers and interior decoration of the Roman Catholic church, 1881-82 (La Minerve [Montreal], 6 Aug. 1881, 3; Canadian Centre for Architecture [Montreal], Use of Models: Nineteenth Century Church Architecture in Quebec, exhibition catalogue pub. 1994, 18-19, illus.)
TROIS RIVIERES, QUE., boarding school for the Ursuline Sisters, 1883 (R. Gauthier, Trois Rivieres disparue, ou presque, 1978, 108, 178, illus.)

(works in Chicago and area)


TOWNSEND STREET, Chicago North Side, residence for John S. Lund, 1885 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 28 June 1885, 7)
EVANS AVENUE, residence for Mr. Boyle, 1885 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 19 Dec. 1885, 7)
WASHINGTON BOULEVARD, residence for J.D. Everett, 1886 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 27 March 1886, 7)
JACKSON STREET, block of stores and dwellings for Conrad Warnecke, 1886 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 24 July 1886, 7)
ERIE STREET, at May Street, block of flats for N.J. Ek, 1886-87 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 Dec. 1886, 6)
LAKE VIEW, residence for T. Scully, 1886-87 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 Dec. 1886, 6)
RACINE AVENUE, at Wrightwood Avenue, block of stores and flats for John Dethko, 1886-87 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 Dec. 1886, 6)
RACINE AVENUE, near Wrightwood Avenue, block for flats for G. Peterson, 1886 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 12 Dec. 1886, 10)
WRIGHTWOOD AVENUE, mansion for Dr. Williams, near Lincoln Park, 1886-87 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 12 Dec. 1886, 6; 21 Aug. 1887, 6)
OAK STREET, three storey apartment block for Charlotte Lindstrom, 1887 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 13 March 1887, 23)
WEST CONGRESS STREET, at Laflin Street, residence for Miss Mary Curie, 1887 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 13 March 1887, 23, descrip.; Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10)


(works in Chicago)

WASHINGTON BOULEVARD, near Ashland Avenue, a mansion for William Gilman, west of Union Park, 1887 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 21 Aug. 1887, 10; 29 Jan. 1888, 10, descrip.; Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 Aug. 1887, 6, descrip.)
PRAIRIE AVENUE, residence for E.F. Getchell, 1887-88 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10)
WASHINGTON BOULEVARD, residence for G.D. Everett, 1887-88 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10)
LATIN STREET, at Congress Street, residence for Miss Mary Carle, 1887-88 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10)
DOUGLAS PARK, block of two houses “in the Moorish style” for J.L. Lombard, 1887-88 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10, descrip.)
LAKE VIEW, residence for the architect L.J.B. Bourgeois, Melrose Street, with a matching house beside it, 1887-88 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 29 Jan. 1888, 10, descrip.)
ST. CECILIA'S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, 45th Street at Wells Street, designed in 1888; built in 1889-91 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 24 June 1888, 10, descrip.; Harry C. Koenig, A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 1980, Vol. 1, 180-81, illus.)

(works in Nebraska)

OMAHA, NEB., interior design and decoration of the Commercial National Bank, Sixteenth Street at Farnham Street, 1889-90 (Omaha Daily Bee, 4 Jan. 1890, 6, descrip.). The overall design of the bank was by Francis M. Ellis of Omaha.


LINCOLN, NEB., High School, entry in an architectural competition against 12 other architects, 1890 (Lincoln Daily Call, 27 March 1890, 1, list of competitors)
OMAHA, NEB., Hanscom Park Pavilion, a commission won in a competition, 1890 (Omaha Daily Bee, 21 June 1890, 8)
OMAHA, NEB., Sweeny Block, Sixteenth Street at Jackson Street, a five storey commercial block, 1890 (Daily Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln], 19 July 1890, 2, descrip.)


(works in Chicago area)

PUBLIC THEATRE & PAVILION, 61St. Street at Cottage Grove Avenue, for Capt. C.B. Thompson, 1893 (Chicago Daily Tribune, 7 May 1893, 30, descrip.)
MOUNT HOPE CEMETERY, near West 119th Street, a railway station at Mount Hope Cemetery, on the Chicago Central Railway line, for the Northern Pacific Railroad, 1893 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 21 May 1893, 20, descrip.; Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 May 1893, 30, descrip.)
EDGEMOOR [suburban north side of Chicago], residence for C.W. Spalding, 1893 (Daily Inter-Ocean [Chicago], 21 May 1893, 20)

(works in California)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., The Electric Tower at the California Midwinter International Exposition, a 280 foot tall steel tower with Moorish pavilions at the base, with adjacent concession buildings on the exposition grounds, 1893-94; completed January 1894; later dismantled (San Francisco Call, 13 Sept. 1893, 8, illus. & descrip.)
LOS ANGELES, CALIF, The Edwards Block, Fifth Street at Main Street, 1895-96 (Los Angeles Herald, 22 Feb. 1896, 12, descrip.)
LOS ANGELES, CALIF., The Gray Block, a three storey commercial block with apartments, n.e. corner of Third Street at Main Street, for Mrs. Catherine M. Gray, 1896 (Los Angeles Herald, 18 Oct. 1896, 12, illus. & extensive descrip.)
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF., a mansion for Judge Benjamin F. Thomas “..adapted from the Grecian style”, East Mission Street at Santa Barbara Street, 1897; demol. before 1947 (San Francisco Chronicle, 14 May 1897, 6, descrip.; inf. Chris Erwin, Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIF, mansion for the artist Paul De Longpre, Hollywood Boulevard at Cahuenga Avenue, 1901; demol. 1927 (San Francisco Chronicle, 27 April 1901, 3)

(works in New Jersey)

TEANECK, N.J., residence for Roy C. Wilhelm, with separate 2 storey log cabin adjacent, Evergreen Place near Queen Anne Road, 1907, and now called Wilhelm Bahai Properties of Teaneck (Teaneck Suburbanite, 5 July 2012, 2 & 6)
TEANECK, N.J., residence for the architect, Bogert Street at Alcina Avenue, 1908 (inf. Teaneck Historic Preservation Commission, designation statement October 2006)

(works in Illinois)

WILMETTE, ILL., Bahai Temple of Peace, Linden Avenue, begun 1920; later completed after the death of Bourgeois and opened in 1953 (San Francisco Chronicle, 8 Aug. 1920, 2, illus. & descrip.; Architectural Record [New York], xlvii, June 1920, 501-05, illus. & descrip.; Architecture [New York], xli, June 1920, 183, illus. & descrip.; Chicago Sunday Tribune, 3 May 1953, Grafic Magazine Section, 9 & 12, illus. & descrip.; Bruce W. Whitmore, The Dawning Place - The Building of a Temple, 1984, 92-93, illus. & descrip.)
WILMETTE, ILL., studio and residence for the architect L.J.B. Bourgeois, Sheridan Road "....across from the site of the Bahai Temple", 1924 (Chicago Tribune, 22 June 1924, Section Two, p. 15, illus. & descrip.; Bruce W. Whitmore, The Dawning Place - The Building of a Temple, 1984, 126-28, illus.)
GLENCOE, ILL., residence for Edward Brion, Beach Road near Sheridan Road, 1929; demol. 2011 (inf. Karen Ettelson, Glencoe Historical Society; inf. James Wise, Montreal)


THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS, Peace Palace & Library Buildings, 1905. A two-stage international competition for this landmark complex was announced in 1905, and over 100 submissions were received, including a design prepared by L.J.B. Bourgeois. His proposal for an eight-sided building was passed over by the jury, and he was not among the 21 finalists who advanced to the second stage. However, he later adapted his design to a nine-sided building in 1920 and used this as the basis for his proposal for the new Bahai Temple in Illinois. The eventual winner of the 1905 competition was Louis M. Cordonnier (Cees de Jong & Erik Mattie, Architectural Competitions 1792-1949, 1994, 216-29, illus.)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, The Chicago Tribune Tower, 1922. Bourgeois collaborated with two Chicago architects, Francis E. Dunlap and Charles L. Morgan, to prepare a design for this significant international architectural competition which elicited 263 entries from 23 countries. Their elaborate modern Gothic design was awarded with an Honorable Mention and was published in the folio of designs released the following year in 1923 (The International Competition for The New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune 1922, pub. 1923, illus. Plate 33, and list of competitors, p. 67, 71). The winner of the competition was Hood & Howells of New York City.