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George Francis Trapp was one of several architects active in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the mid-twentieth century, a period of relative prosperity and growth that included much public and private building. Two qualities consistent throughout his career were sensitivity to siting (judging how a building’s design and material related to the site) and boldness in setting shapes against each other.
George Trapp was born on March 20, 1900, in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles C. and Fanny Trapp. The family moved to Little Rock in 1914, and Trapp’s father worked for the Otis Elevator Company and the Big Rock Stone Company. Trapp’s interest in architecture might have been inspired by some of the new tall buildings in Little Rock, such as the seven-story, steel-framed Southern Trust building, now known as Pyramid Place, and the eleven-story State Bank Building, now known as the Boyle Building—both of which had been designed by George R. Mann.
Trapp began working as a draftsman for John Parks Almand in 1917 or 1918. Almand had been educated at Columbia University, and it was likely that this connection led Trapp to go to Columbia in 1922 to study drafting. He won some awards and began to think seriously about completing an architectural degree, but, lacking funds, he returned to work for Almand for two years.
In 1924, Trapp, certain he wanted a degree in architecture, went to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he completed the basic curriculum in one year. He then returned to Columbia, completing a bachelor’s in architecture in 1926. Upon graduation, Trapp received the Alumni Medal. Although an impressive achievement, it was not the top prize he had hoped for, which would have allowed him to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, and tour the great architectural sites of Europe. Trapp wanted this experience so badly that he decided to work in New York and save money to fund his grand tour. Trapp worked for Harvey Wiley Corbett, a strong defender of the skyscraper and a design consultant for Rockefeller Center.
In 1927, he left for France. Among his colleagues in Paris were Arkansan Edward Durell Stone, who had won a scholarship upon graduation from Harvard, and Louis Skidmore. Trapp received a diplome from the École and toured cathedrals and other sites, making many drawings.
By the early 1930s, Trapp had returned to New York. He again worked for Corbett (as did Stone, with whom he shared a drafting table) and assisted him on the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Trapp returned to Arkansas in 1934 as chief engineer of the Public Works Administration of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the state. In 1937, the year he married Linda Wiles, Trapp designed Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock (later significantly altered inside). In 1945, after a period as chief designer for Eugene John Stern, he became a partner in the firm Trapp and Clippard, later Trapp, Clippard and Phelps. Major works associated with Trapp are the Arkansas State Education Building (1948), Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church (1957), Hall High School in Little Rock (1958; auditorium, 1965), and other schools, churches, and residences in Little Rock and elsewhere in Arkansas. As a designer, he was able to incorporate traditional elements based on classical and medieval styles with clean and streamlined forms associated with modern architecture of the mid-twentieth century.
After he retired from active practice in 1966, Trapp used presses at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock to make etchings from some of his drawings of forty years earlier. A set of these are held by the School of Architecture at UA; some impressions of the prints are held by the Arkansas Arts Center. The Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects honored him in 1971 for fifty years of service.
Trapp died on February 18, 1980, and is buried in Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock.
For additional information:Gane, John F. American Architects Directory. 3d. ed. New York : R. R. Bowker Co., 1970.
Obituary of George Francis Trapp. Arkansas Gazette. February 20, 1980, p. 8A.
Floyd W. MartinUniversity of Arkansas at Little Rock
Last Updated 6/4/2007
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