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Massillon History: Architect Herman Albrecht

Herman J. Albrecht, Architect 1885 -1961

The Baldwin Museum, 1937
The Baldwin Museum (later renamed Massillon Museum) opened to the public in 1933 in the old James Duncan homestead (built 1833). The Museum closed from 1936-1937 for remodel and expansion. The Duncan house remains on the right-hand side, and Albrecht designed the adjoining rotunda and left wing. In 1937 the Museum and Library re-opened to the public in this building. Today the building houses the Massillon Public Library. The Massillon Museum moved to its current location down the street in 1996.

The strikingly handsome buildings which house the Massillon Museum (121 Lincoln Way East) and the Massillon Public Library (212 Lincoln Way East) were designed by the late Herman J Albrecht.  Had these been two of only several major works by an architect, its distinguished design would have been reason enough to consider further the man’s life work; but an astonishing output of over 700 commissions of great artistic and technical merit can be credited to this one man. 

Gensemer Brothers Dry Goods Store, designed by Herman J. Albrecht, opened in 1931
This building now houses the Massillon Museum.

In fifty years as an active architect Herman Albrecht was responsible for numerous public buildings other than the local Library and Museum.  These include the West-side Library;  the Orville Public Library;  Lorin Andrews Junior High School;  Whittier, Emerson, York, and Horace Mann Grade Schools;  Tiger Stadium;  Grace United Church of Christ;  St. John’s United Church of Christ;  the Salvation Army Citadel;  the former Stark Dry Goods building (Massillon Museum today);  the Howenstine Nurses’ Home; Radio Station WHBC, Martin Luther Church, and Aultman Hospital in Conneaut.  

However, Mr. Albrecht often confessed that he enjoyed more than any other kind of work the designing of fine homes in the traditional styles. “You really get a chance to live in a home before the owners do,” he would say.  “You live with the plans for months, changing and developing them, and sometimes you hate to give them up to the owner.  Each house is a different and separate piece of planning.  The owner’s tastes and mode of living, the setting, and his interest in economy are reflected in the completed plans.”

Of the 500 residences in Mr. Albrecht’s portfolio, at least 75 of them were built in Massillon, and there are more than fifty houses in the Hills and Dales and Avondale sub-divisions of Canton.  In Hills and Dales is found the architect’s master work, the stately Georgian baronial mansion built for T. K. Harris in 1930.  A hundred other dwellings are located in Canton, with many in the Ridgewood and Market Heights areas.  And there are Albrecht-designed homes in Lakewood, Rocky River, Shaker Heights, and other Cleveland suburbs, as well as in Dover, New Philadelphia, Mansfield, Wooster, Alliance, and Warren.

Virtually all of Massillon’s fine major houses were originated by Herman Albrecht.  Consider for a moment the dignity and symmetry of the Anthony Hammersmith home, built in 1919 for Chauncy Albright;  the fascinating details and unusual brickwork of the Elizabethan-style city house constructed in 1924 for Miss Bessie Skinner (on historic Fourth Street);  the magnificent proportions of the Georgian manor house built in 1924 for Mrs. Kathryn Albrecht;  the excitingly raked heavy-slate roof of the former Elmer Vogt residence, 1926;  the stunning hip roof and central chimney of the former Dr. R. J. Pumphrey dwelling, 1928;  the commanding placement and inviting doorway of the Dr. J. S. Williams home, 1928;  the picturesque roof and tower of the Willard Boerner residence, built in 1939 for Mrs. R. P. L. McLain; the stone façade and imposing row of dormers found in the former home of Dr. R.R. Reynolds in 1941.

Herman J. Albrecht was born in Massillon in 1885. He graduated from Massillon High School in 1902 and from the School of Architecture at Ohio State University in 1908. He was elected to the American Institute of Architects in 1924. During two years of free-lance work after his graduation from college, he was engaged by the firm erecting the McClymonds building in Massillon, at a time when steel-frame construction was being pioneered. Soon after associating with Howell and Thomas in Columbus, he went to Cleveland with several men from that company to supervise a development of better homes in Fairmont Boulevard-Cedar Road area.

For a number of years young Albrecht did work in Cleveland in Massillon. Then in 1919 the firm of Albrecht, Wilhelm, and Kelly was formed with offices in both cities, later becoming Albrecht and Wilhelm in 1925. After Karl Wilhelm's death in 1946, Mr. Albrecht continued alone until his retirement in August of 1960. Mr. Wilhelm had been in charge of the Massillon office and supervised specifications and construction. The firm's two principal draftsmen had been Jules M. Franzen, who died in 1965, and Harold J. Rauber, who later served as city building commissioner in Massillon.

Herman Albrecht died in January 1961, and was followed in death by his wife Lucile Schrock Albrecht, whom he married in 1910. Their home was in Lakewood, in a modest but distinctive Spanish-style house designed by Mr. Albrecht in 1920.

Mr. Albrecht's apperceptive use of classical and traditional forms, coupled with his innate sense of proportion and composition, led to a new kind of architectural expression, far removed from the heavy-handedness of his predecessors. Finesse of design, enhanced by subtle and knowledgeable use of detail, was always his stock in trade. Sadly, Herman Albrecht's finest works were of a sort that will never return to the construction scene, but he has left us a vibrant treasury of beautiful buildings to enjoy for years to come.

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