Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

Bernard Vonnegut  



Bernard Vonnegut's father was Clemens Vonnegut, Sr., the founder of the Vonnegut Hardware Company and one of the most powerful German businessmen in Indianapolis in the 1800s. Bernard's son Kurt also became an architect, and his grandson Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., is a world-famous author.


From a very young age Bernard could draw and paint with skill. Bernard was extremely modest and retiring; unsociable; and evidently unhappy in Indianapolis most of the time.

He attended the public schools, the German-English school, and then the Indianapolis High School then situated at Pennsylvania and Michigan Streets.

Recognizing his talents as an artist, Alexander Metzger, a friend of his father, suggested that Bernard be given a higher education. He was then sent to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, where he studied architecture. He later studied in Hannover, Germany at the Polytechnic Institute, and then worked as draftsman, for a couple of years, with a leading firm in the office of George B. Post in New York City.
In 1883 he returned to to Indianapolis engaging in the practice of architecture, first in his own office and later founded the noted Indianapolis architectural firm of Vonnegut and Bohn in 1888 with Arthur Bohn, whose successors are in practice today. This firm designed and supervised construction of many fine residences and public buildings and local landmarks in Indianapolis, including the first Chamber of Commerce, the Athenaeum formerly called The German House or "Das Deutsche Haus" (1893-98), the John Herron Art Museum (1902), the L. S. Ayres store, the Fletcher Trust Building, Methodist Hospital and Shortridge High School (now Jr. High). He also designed the Federal Building in Vincennes and the Students Building at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Bernard Vonnegut also taught drafting and descriptive geometry to students at the Industrial Training School, a public trade school that was started by the Freethinkers.

He was highly cultivated in the arts - reading the poems of Heine, but his sympathies and inclinations were definitely Germanic. He was attached to his profession and participated very little in the social or civic life of the community; confining his activities to the arts

He and his family frequently lived abroad, and he sent his two sons to school in Strasbourg abroad, when they were quite young.






Indiana and Indianans : a history of aboriginal and territorial Indiana and the century of statehood Chicago: American Historical Society, 1919, pg. 2173-5

Clemens Vonnegut... on January 24, 1853 married Miss Catherine Blank, who died April 13, 1904. They were the parents of four sons, three of whom are still living.
    The eldest, Clemens, Jr., born November 19, 1853,...

    The second son was Bernard Vonnegut,who was born August 8, 1855, and died in August 1908. After a short trail of the mercantile business he entered an architects office, but after a year sought to restore his failing health by working as a carver with mallet and chisel in the Ittenbach Contracting Company's stone yard. Then after an apprenticeship with a manufacturer of mathematical instruments he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Boston, of which he was a graduate, and took advanced work in the School of Technology in Hanover, Germany, and later in a similar institute in Berlin. On returning to Indianapolis he entered upon a long continued and career as an architect, establishing the firm of Vonnegut & Bohn. He married Nannie Schnull. They had three children: KURT married Edith Lieber. They have two children... Bernard and Alice. IRMA is unmarried. ALEX married Ray Dryer.

    ... Franklin Vonnegut, the third son of Clemens Vonnegut, was born October 20, 1856...

    The fourth son, George Vonnegut, born October 22, 1860, ...







Greater Indianapolis : the history, the industries, the institutions, and the people of a city of homes Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1910, Pgs. 965-6

Bernard Vonnegut. Throughout the State of Indiana are left many enduring monuments to the technical skill and professional ability of Bernard Vennegut, who attained marked distinction as an architect and who was a man signally leal and loyal in all the relations of life. Apostacy from the strictest principles of integrity and honor never marked the career of this worthy and honored citizen of Indianapolis, and his standing in the community was such as to render most consistent a brief tribute to his memory in this publication, devoted as it is to the fine city to whose civic and material upbuilding he contributed to the fullest of his splendid powers. He died at his home in Indianapolis, 618 East Thirteenth street, on Friday after noon, August 7, 1908, and on the following day he would have celebrated his fifty-third birthday, so that he was called from the scene of life's endeavors at the very zenith of his strong and noble manhood. He was a native so of the Indiana capital, and its every interest ever lay close to his heart.


Bernard Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis on the 8th of August, 1885, and was a son of Clemens and Katrina (Blank) Vonnegut, the former of whom was a native of Prussia, whence he come to America when a young man, becoming one of the pioneer German settlers of Indianapolis, with whose business interests her was long identified. The father was a man of ability and sterling character, and he played well his part as a citizen of his adopted country. Both he and his wife continued to reside in Indianapolis until their death. Bernard Vonnegut was indebted to the German-English schools of his native city for hie early educational discipline, and later he continued his studies in what is now the Shortridge high school. He early manifested a high artistic appreciation and marked creative talent, and he was signally favored in that he was afforded the best of opportunities for preparing himself for the work of his chosen profession. He studied architecture for several years in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the city of Boston, and supplemented this by an effective course in the Polytechnic Institute of Hanover, Germany. Concerning his work as a student the following pertinent statement has been made: "At both of these schools he worked with distinction and developed fine ability as a technical as well as an artistic draughtsman. He was strong as an architectural water-colorist."

After his return from Germany Mr. Vonnegut entered upon the practical work of his profession, and he wisely initiated the same in New York City, where he had the best opportunity to expand and mature his powers. In the national metropolis he entered the office of George B. Post, one of the leading architects of the east, and under the preceptorship and directions of Mr. Post, he had opportunity to work on the famous Vanderbilt houses, the Produce Exchange and other important buildings. After remaining in the east for several years Mr. Vonnegut returned to Indianapolis, where in 1888, he entered into partnership with Arthur Bohn, under the firm name of Vonnegut & Bohn. This grateful alliance continued until it was severed by the death of Mr. Vonnegut, and the firm attained to high rank, even as its senior member achieved marked distinction in his profession, as architect of his firm. He was the designer of many of the most ornate and important buildings in Indianapolis, as well as in other parts of the state. Among those that stand specifically as monuments to his genius may be mentioned the L. S. Ayres building, the German House, Pembroke Arcade, the Hollweg & Reese buildings in South Meridian street, and the Indianapolis Star building, all in Indianapolis, as well as the student's building of the University of Indiana, and Eliza Folwer hall, at Purdue University. All of his work was caref ully detailed and bore evidence of his scholarly tastes as an architect as well as of his superior technical ability. In a brief review of his career published in the Indianapolis Star at the time of his death were found the following words of appreciation: "Personally he was highly esteemed among the men in the building trades, by reason of his honesty and his honorable methods of practice." He was a member of the Architectural League of New York and the American Institute of Architects. Loyal and liberal in his attitude as a citizen. Mr. Vonnegut took a deep interest in all that touched the welfare of his native city, and while never an aspirant for public office he accord a stanch allegiance to the cause of the Republican party. He was identified with various civic and social organizations of representative character in Indianapolis. In all of its expressions he was a lover of art, and he was more of a connoisseur than a dilettante in this connection, aside from the specific work of his profession, which represents one of the noblest forms of art expression. In personality he was genial, democratic, and companionable, and he drew to himself inviolable friendships in his association socially and in a busineds way.

On the 19th of Septmeber, 1883, Mr. Vonnegut was married to Miss Nannie Schnall, who was born and reared in Indianapolis and she is a daughter of the late Henry Schnulll, who was a long a prominent wholesale merchant and influential citizen of the Indiana capital and metropolis. Mrs. Vonnegut still retains her residence in Indianapolis, as do also the their children, - Kurt, Alex and Irma.






Indianapolis City Directory, 1889. Indianapolis, IN: R.L. Polk and Co., 1889 & 1890:

Name: Bernard Vonnegut
City: Indianapolis
State: IN
Year: 1889 & 1890
Business Name: Vonnegut & Bohn
Location 2: 231 Davidson

Name: Bernard Vonnegut; Arthur Bohn
Location 1: 62 Vance Block
City: Indianapolis
State: IN
Occupation: Architects
Year: 1889
Business Name: Vonnegut & Bohn

Name: Bernard Vonnegut; Arthur Bohn
Location 1: 62 and 63 Vance block
City: Indianapolis
State: IN
Occupation: Architects
Year: 1890
Business Name: Vonnegut & Bohn






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