Civil Engineer and Civil War Photographer


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George T. Lape

New York, New York

George T. Lape was born April 18, 1835, in Lutheranville, Schoharie, New York, the tenth child of Samuel and Lany Neer Lape. His father, Samuel Lape, Jr., served in the War of 1812 while living in Rennsselaer County, New York, and married Lany Neer in 1819. He was a registered Republican and was a founder and member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lutheranville.

George was baptized on July 5, 1835, nine years before the anti-rent troubles of 1844 and 1845 when a deputy sheriff by the name of Whittaker was taken by anti-rent settlers while in the performance of his duties in the collection of a debt and treated to a good coating of tar and feathers. After this, Lutheranville for many years was known as "Tar Hollow."


Since those exciting times, no place can be found where more law-abiding citizens live than throughout this neighborhood. George grew up in Lutheranville, attending the local school and then the New York Conference Seminary, in Charlotteville, Schoharie, New York, in 1855.

In 1858 Lape enrolled in Union College, Schenectady, for the "university course." He became a member of the Class of 1860, graduating as a civil engineer then. He later moved to Manhattan and then to Brooklyn, New York City, where he set up permanent residency.

There he took up photography, opening a studio first at 130 and then 146 Chatham Street, now Park Row. Across the street from these buildings, munitions were loaded onto ships, as were soldiers onto military transports. Many of these men would run into Lape's studio for a "remembrance picture," taking "not more than fifteen minutes," before they sailed off to war. Lape advertised his cartes de visite at $1.50 a dozen, with duplicates at $1 a dozen.

Lape was also an inventor.  Among other things, he patented or described for Scientific American Magazine cast iron arches for bridge, tunnels, etc., in 1866; a carpenter's gage in 1867; a railroad station indicator in 1867; and a folding "extensible" stepladder in 1882.

Lape worked as a civil engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge and was chief engineer of the Brooklyn Railroad.

Little more is known of his life. He married Emma Claxton on June 27, 1867, in Manhattan. A daughter, Emma, died of tuberculosis meningitis on July 17, 1869, when she was three years, five months, and seven days old, while they were living at 223 West 27th Street in New York. Their daughter Mabel was born at 340 Sackett St., Brooklyn on September 23, 1877. On Mabel's birth certificate Lape's occupation was listed as a commercial traveler.

His wife died on March 24, 1885, 46 years old, of ventricular disease of the syncope and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn. A single parent, Lape lived and worked as a civil engineer in Brooklyn until 1900 when he retired to Mount Vernon, New York, dying there on May 5, 1921 of senility, chronic myocarditis, and nephritis.

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