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Philip Olmstead Company business papers

Call Number: RH MS 956


P.D. Olmstead owned and operated a contracting business in Lawrence, Kansas from 1925-1968. He built several buildings on the University of Kansas campus. This collection encompasses his business records, predominantly client and vendor account files filed by individual or business name, as well as architectural drawings and plans related building projects and personal family photographs.


  • Creation: 1890-1975 (bulk 1920s-1966)


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Biography of Phillip D. Olmstead

Phillip Dudley Olmsted was born on July 27, 1894 in Douglas County, Kansas to Archibald Richardson “A.R.” Olmsted and Ruth (nee Dudley) Olmsted. He was the oldest of 6 siblings: Faith Hope Lackey (1899-1997), Collin Olmsted (1902-1985), Florence Eleanor Gibson (1904-2001), Ruth Elizabeth Scofield (1908-2001), and Irma Armina Brooks (1911-2005). Phillip and his siblings were raised on a farm just outside Lawrence, Kansas, and most of them remained in Lawrence for the majority of their lives, though Collin moved to Oregon.

In 1908, at the age of 13, Phillip encountered a near-death experience in the barn on his family’s farm. While working with a friend, he attempted to throw a pitchfork up to his companion – the fork instead deflected off of a wall and pierced Phillip in his side, probably narrowly missing several vital organs.

In 1912 Phillip married Grace Ottilia Smith (1891-1984), another Douglas County native and the granddaughter of early Lawrence settlers George Washington and Caroline Millie (nee Beaman) Knight. Phillip and Grace had 3 children together: Paul Kermit Olmstead (1916-1953), Richard Franklin Olmstead (1921-1943), and Katherine Phyllis Lavery (1925-2020).

In 1915 Phillip was working at Lawrence Paper Manufacturing, then in 1917 he was employed as a tanner and carpenter at the "Olmsted Brothers" contracting firm (no familial affiliation). At this point Phillip began making plans to open up his own contracting business, which he ultimately achieved in 1925, the same year that his daughter Katherine was born. Around this time Phillip also began using the spelling "Olmstead" consistently for his surname, likely due in part to differentiate from the competing Olmsted Brothers firm. He successfully operated his contracting business for over 40 years in Lawrence, KS, contributing significantly to the development of the town and the University of Kansas campus located in Lawrence.

Phillip endured several personal tragedies during the mid-20th century. His son Richard passed away in a car wreck in 1943 when he was just 22 years old. Ten years later Phillip’s other son Paul passed away suddenly at the age of 36 due to an acute illness, and finally in 1956 Paul’s son Phillip (born 1938, Phillip Sr.’s grandson) was killed at the age of 17 in a drowning accident while fishing.

Phillip passed away on September 28, 1972. He was survived by his siblings, wife, daughter, 7 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Grace later passed away in 1984. They are buried in Lawrence, KS with their two sons.

[Information retrieved from federal census records,, newspapers, and]


19.5 Linear Feet (36 boxes + 89 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of Philip Olmstead's business records from his contracting business. Files may include building specifications, correspondence, and photographs, and are mostly grouped in loose chronological order.

Photographs in the collection, located at RH MS-P 956, are a mix of images of Olmstead's work and personal family photos. There are additionally architectural drawings, plans, and specifications located at RH AD 1, mostly for residences Olmstead's business built in Lawrence, Kansas, as well some commercial projects.

Physical Location

RH MS 956

Physical Location

RH MS-P 956

Physical Location


Processing Information

Previously shelved at RH MS 179.

Guide to the P.D. Olmstead Collection
Philip Olmstead Company business papers
Finding aid prepared by st, 2007; revised by cl, 2010. Finding aid encoded by st, 2007. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020; kls, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Philip Olmstead Company business papers, RH MS 956, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States