Augustus Bauer was among Chicago’s most prominent early architects. Quoting a Chicago Tribune article published in 1873, Thomas E. Tallmadge, author of Architecture in Old Chicago, notes that in his day, Bauer was considered one of Chicago’s “best educated and most experienced architects.”
A German immigrant, Bauer graduated with high honors from the Polytechnic school in Darmstadt. He emigrated to New York in 1851, where he worked for the firm of Carstensen & Gildmeister on plans for the great Crystal Palace. In mid-1853, Bauer moved on to Chicago at the suggestion of Frederick Baumann, who would later serve briefly as architect for the Chicago Board of Education. Bauer soon joined forces with Asher Carter, the second professional architect to practice in the City. Carter & Bauer designed many residences and public buildings, including Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (1856), now a Chicago landmark. Beginning in 1863, Bauer practiced alone for several years, during which time he prepared a design used for both the old Wells and Dore schools. These buildings, though no longer extant, were described in the 12th and 14th Annual Reports of the Chicago Board of Education.
In 1866, Bauer became associated with Robert Loebnitz. Not surprisingly, they produced a great deal of work between late 1871, immediately after the Great Chicago Fire, and 1874, when Loebnitz retired to Europe. Bauer again practiced solo from 1874 to 1881. Throughout this period, he designed schools for the Chicago Board of Education. The twenty school buildings included two which are still extant: the oldest portions of the Mark Sheridan and James Otis Schools.
From early 1881 through early 1882, Bauer’s role was formalized as Architect to the Board. He experienced political pressures almost immediately upon his appointment. According to a February 25, 1881, Chicago Daily Tribune article, Bauer publicly responded to a strongly worded Board resolution, stating that he could not guarantee that contractors selected by the Board “would faithfully execute their contracts,” and that he would not be held responsible “for the neglect of work” by such contractors. The Board in turn censured Bauer for being “disrespectful” to its members. Not quite a year later, on January 28, 1882, the Tribune reported that Bauer was still embroiled in controversy, this time over whether he was required to work exclusively for the Board. Board members ultimately agreed to retain Bauer, but only until they could agree on the selection of a new Architect who would “give his entire time to the service of the Board.” In February 1882, Bauer was replaced by his old friend Frederick Bauman, who was followed in quick succession by Julius S. Ender and then James R. Willett, all during nine months’ time.
In 1881, Bauer partnered with Henry W. Hill, with whom he practiced till his death in 1894. Bauer was a Fellow of the A.I.A., and served as the president of the Chicago (later Illinois) Chapter from 1879 through 1885.