Brief biography | Son of a Craftsman | The Political Man | Engineer | Architect | Inspector of Public Buildings

Ellis Island, immigrants in 1893
Ellis Island, immigrants in 1893
Credit: Library of Congress

U.S. Government Building, Columbian World
U.S. Government Building, Columbian World's Exposition, Chicago 1893
Credit: Library of Congress

Inspector of Public Buildings, Office of Supervising Architect, U.S. Treasury Department

Cluss closed his architectural office in June 1889 to accept an appointment as Inspector of Public Buildings for the United States government. Traveling throughout the country to inspect newly constructed federal buildings such as courthouses, post offices, and customs houses, Cluss tried to ensure that they met the structural and materials standards and schedules established in contracts with the government. Cluss also inspected older buildings, often recommending repairs, additions, or planning for a new building.

In his first six months on the job in 1889, he completed 54 site visits, and 80 the following year, traveling to widely scattered towns and cities from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains. When projects were not going well, he made repeat visits, for example, returning to Greenville, South Carolina, once a month for four months in 1890-91 or to New York for four monthly trips to supervise the Ellis Island immigrate arrival building in 1892.

One project that lagged very far behind schedule, and was plagued with labor problems and uncooperative contractors was the United States Government Building for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Cluss assumed control of that project in February 1893 and remained in charge of construction until the Exposition opened in June, when he was still dealing with "unsettled conflicts," "complaints," and "costs."

His travel schedule took a heavy toll. Cluss was far from home when family members became seriously ill. Cluss rushed back to Washington from Chicago when his son Richard died in April 1893 and from Iowa a year later when his wife Rosa died. Cluss also became ill in 1894 with malaria. Still, Cluss hoped to continue in his position, one, like many government jobs in the 19th century, without civil service protection. After the Democrats won the presidency, Cluss solicited letters of support from Senator Henry Teller, former senators Carl Schurz and Justin Morrill, General John A. Wilson, and piano manufacturer William Steinway, all to no avail. He was fired from his position in September 1894, and replaced by a Democrat.



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