Edmond Jacques Eckel was born in 1845 in Strasbourg, in the Alsace Region of France. He studied architecture at L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris, graduating in the late 1860s. In 1868, Eckel traveled to the United States, staying in New York for a short time before heading west. In the summer of 1869, Eckel was traveling to Kansas City, but was delayed in St. Joseph due to a bridge being washed out. While he waited for repairs, Eckel explored the town. After witnessing the city’s post-Civil War economic boom, he decided to stay. He began working as a draftsman for P.E. Meagher, joining the firm of Stigers & Boettner in 1872. It was during his time at this firm that he designed many of the mansions in St. Joseph, including the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion at 1100 Charles.
In 1880, Eckel formed his own architectural firm, soon entering into a partnership with George R. Mann. This was the first of many partnerships for Eckel. Over the next 65 years, Eckel or his business were responsible for the design of numerous structures, including schools, churches, and government buildings, as well as private homes. It is estimated that he or his firms are responsible for 75% of the public and private buildings in St. Joseph. His work wasn’t limited to St. Joseph either; examples of his architecture can be found in many parts of the Midwest.
Some of Eckel’s best known work in St. Joseph includes, the German-American Bank Building (now Mosaic), the Downtown Branch of the St. Joseph Public Library system, the Corby Building (the tallest building in St. Joseph), First Presbyterian Church and Sunday School, the News-Press Building, Central High School, and the City Hall.
Outside of St. Joseph his firm was responsible for the Library Building at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, the former Administration Wing of the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, and the Courthouse and “Squirrel Cage” Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Edmond Eckel died in 1934 and is buried at Mount Mora Cemetery.