George Mann Niedecken was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
on August 16, 1878, the son of a merchant. By age 12 he had begun taking classes at the
Wisconsin Art Institute, and at age 19 had enrolled in classes at the Art Institute of
Chicago to study decorative art under Louis Sullivan's friend Louis Millet. Soon
afterwards he had an exhibit at the annual show of the Chicago Architectural Club, in the
company of Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Closson Spencer Jr. and Dwight Heald Perkins. In
1899 he left for Europe to study art in Berlin, Austria, Paris, England and Italy until
1902, only returning home briefly in 1900 after the death of his father.
Soon after his return to his hometown in 1902, he began to teach a
class in decorative arts at the Wisconsin School of Arts. In 1909 he entered another
exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute, showing his designs for jewelry, wallpaper and
architectural decorations. His presence at these exhibitions provided him the with
introductions to the original architects of the Prairie School of architecture, namely,
Perkins, Wright, Spencer and Hunt. These associations led to work in the studio of Frank
Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, Illinois. He collaborated on twelve of Wright's commissions
including murals for the Meyer May, Avery Coonley and Dana houses. He was also responsible
for the furniture and rug designs for the Dana, Coonley, Robie, May, Gilmore and Tomek
houses, and also for the furniture designs and murals in the Amberg and Irving houses,
which were commissions executed by Marion Mahony for Wright after he left his studio in
On October 2, 1905, Niedecken married Mary Thayer from Milwaukee and
they had one child, who died shortly after birth. But it was the need to support his new
family that led him to start his own firm with his brother-in-law, John Walbridge.
In October of 1907 the Niedecken-Walbridge Company, Interior Architects, opened shop at
436 Milwaukee Street, in the same building as Frank Bresler, the man who was responsible
for the fabrication of many of Niedecken's furniture designs. Soon afterwards the firm
began working on designs of the furniture, rugs and murals of Wright's Avery Coonley
commission. Even though construction of the house was completed in 1910, Niedecken
continued to work on the project until 1913.
As his reputation grew for providing exquisite interior detailing,
Niedecken decided to end his association with Bresler in February of 1910 and established
his own furniture factory run by the Dutch woodworker Herman Tenbroeke. About the same
time Wright had left his Oak Park studio to travel to Europe and in his absence, Herman
Von Holst and Marion Mahony assumed control of the studio. This presented Niedecken with
an opportunity to expand his business by taking on more work with other Prairie School
Besides providing interior designs for some of Marion Mahony's
commissions including the unexecuted design of the Henry Ford home in Dearborn, Michigan,
he provided furniture for William Drummond's Brookfield Kindergarten commission. Niedecken
continued the impressive list by adding designs for the Denkmann house in Rock Island,
Illinois for Robert Spencer, the Fredrick Babson house of Riverside, Illinois, the Edison
Phonograph Shop in Chicago, Illinois and the Edna Purcell house in Minneapolis, Minnesota
for Purcell & Elmslie, the Henry Babson house in Riverside, Illinois for George
Elmslie, the Downers Grove Kindergarten in Downers Grove, Illinois for Dwight Perkins and
the Gustavus Babson house in Oak Park, Illinois for Tallmadge & Watson.
By 1916 Wright was back in the United States and Niedecken collaborated
with him for the last time on the Fredrick Bogk house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the
Henry Allen house in Wichita, Kansas. During this period he relocated his shop to 449
Jefferson Street where he completed the furnishings for the houses in 1918. For the next
two decades he periodically provided furnishings and decorations for former clients.
He subsequently served a six year term as a trustee of the Milwaukee
Art Institute and in 1932 was elected to the presidency of the Wisconsin Chapter of the
American Institute of Interior Decorators. In 1938 Robert Jacobson joined the
Niedecken-Walbridge Company and the firm was renamed Robert L. Jacobson Interiors.
Niedecken died on November 3, 1945.