Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918
U. G. CHARLES. One of the oldest of the refining and civilizing agencies of man is architecture, the art which constructs for beauty or utility or combines both. While it has necessarily been regulated by natural conditions and configuration of the country in which it is exercised, the development of a modern palace, either for residence or business, step by step from the ancestral cave or tent, is one of the great and interesting romances of civilization. Of the masters of this art who have contributed much to the past of Wichita, and who, because of their superior equipment and talents, may be counted upon to share in the development of the future of the city, more than passing mention is due U. G. Charles, than whom there is to be found no more talented man in the profession in the state.
The Mentholatum Building was the first complete reinforced concrete building to be erected in Wichita, and is now known as The Home of Mentholatum. The style of architecture is the Spanish Mission style. This building contains a steam heating plant and also a cooling device for hot weather, the interior being designed especially for the compounding of Mentholatum, and all business connected therewith. It was constructed in 1908, and has stood as an excellent monument for reinforced concrete work. It is only one of many such structures that Mr. Charles has designed.
U. G. Charles was born March 10, 1865, near Salem, the county seat of Washington County, Indiana. His early education was secured principally in night schools, for his boyhood and youth were largely given over to serving a long and thorough apprenticeship to the trades of cabinet maker and general mechanic in two of the leading passenger coach works of the United States. His duties included the inside finishing of passenger coaches, a work which required workmanship of the greatest exactness and perfection. In this line he eventually became so proficient that in 1894 he was made master mechanic for the Northwestern Car and Machine Works, at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he had full charge of the designing department.
Mr. Charles remained with that plant for some time and gave the utmost satisfaction, but finally resigned to become an architect with offices at Oshkosh. Not long thereafter, he was tendered and accepted a position with The Morgan Co., the second largest manufacturers of sash, doors and blinds in the United States, and for five years was engaged with this concern in doing special detail and art design work, in which he gained experience that has been of the greatest assistance to him in his profession. When he left The Morgan Co. he accepted a like position with the Radford Company, who also conducted a large plant of the same kind. In 1901 Mr. Charles decided to begin independent operations, and accordingly came to Wichita, where he opened an office as an architect. During the sixteen years that he has been engaged in the practice of his profession at Wichita, Mr. Charles has achieved a phenomenal success, and his business now extends to practically every state in the Union. In Wichita he has designed about 100 of the beautiful residences for which the city is noted and upwards of forty of the city's business blocks. He specializes in residences and important construction work in iron, steel and cement, and his accomplishments also include the designing and erection of many large school and other public buildings. Recognized and acknowledged as an expert and authority in his profession, Mr. Charles has been called frequently into court to give expert opinions along lines of mechanical engineering and structural work in the settlement of court matters. His contributions to various magazines and periodicals on technical subjects have been of the greatest value to the profession, and for about two years he was the publisher of a monthly architectural magazine at Wichita which attracted great interest among architects everywhere. He is interested in several business enterprises of Wichita. Mr. Charles has identified himself with measures of great public usefulness, having realized that public improvements are the outcome of intelligent and concerted effort on the part of progressive citizens who recognize the debt a community owes as a whole to its people, and thus endeavor to discharge it in a way that will benefit the majority.
In 1890 Mr. Charles was married to Miss Rosa M. Yazel of Wichita. They have one son, Merlin Y., who is interested in his father's professional business and his assistant in the office. Merlin Y. Charles married Clara Alma Fay August 9, 1916. Since the beginning of Mr. Charles' business in Wichita, Mrs. Charles has been his constant and capable co-worker, and the attainment of his success is to a great extent due to her intelligent co-operation in the handling of the office work.
Transcribed from volume 4, pages 1781-1782 of A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; originally transcribed 1998, modified 2003 by Carolyn Ward.
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