Kahn, Albert

KAHN, Albert (1869-1942) of Detroit, Mich. was a dominant force in the field of industrial architecture in North America in the 20th century. No single designer was more influential than Kahn when it came to planning automotive assembly plants both in the United States and Canada. Born in Rhaunen, Germany on 21 March 1869, he was raised in Luxembourg and was brought to the United States by his family in 1880. With the advice and assistance of the sculptor Julius Melcher he learned to draw, and at the age of fifteen he joined the Detroit office of Mason & Rice in 1884. His training there was considerably enhanced when he was awarded a traveling scholarship in 1890, enabling him to visit Europe, accompanied by another young and talented American architect Henry Bacon. In 1896 Kahn became a partner in a new Detroit firm of Nettleton, Kahn & Trowbridge, and in 1902 he opened his own office in that city with Ernest Wilby, an English-born architect who had been educated and trained in Toronto.

Wilby was a talented designer in his own right, and had capably demonstrated this while he was with the Detroit firm of Mason & Rice. It is likely he met Kahn while training there, but the nature of their future collaboration on Canadian projects is unclear. Many of the sumptuous residences which they designed for members of the Walker family in Walkerville, Ont. are jointly credited to 'Albert Kahn Architect and Ernest Wilby Associate'. With the growing demands of industrial clients on Kahn's office in Detroit, it seems likely that Kahn may have delegated the smaller Canadian commissions to Wilby, who contributed much to the designs for banks, residences and commercial projects in the Windsor area. This patronage of the Walker family was significant for Kahn, and it must have been particularly surprising when, in 1912, the family passed over Kahn and awarded the prized commission for Hiram Walker's lavish mansion in Walkerville to Marcus Burrowes, a Sarnia, Ont. architect who later moved to Detroit and was active there in the firm of Burrowes & Wells.

In Detroit, Kahn was one of the first American architects to use the innovative technology of reinforced concrete construction for automobile plants, designing the Packard Motor Car Co. plant in Detroit (1905) and the Pierce Auto Plant (later Pierce-Arrow) in Buffalo, N.Y. (1906). He exploited the concept of bringing natural light inside the production plant, using saw-tooth profile sloping skylights covering vast areas of assembly lines in plants for the Ford Motor Car Co. in Detroit and Highland Park, and later in production plants for the same company in Windsor (1910-11) and Toronto (1923-24). His Canadian clients also included General Motors Ltd at Oshawa, Ont. (1924), and Chrysler Corp. at Walkerville, Ont. (1929).

By the 1920's Kahn's firm had grown substantially, and had obtained commissions for tractor factories in the USSR, for an aircraft plant for Glenn Martin (now Lockheed-Martin), for dozens of automotive and parts assembly plants in the USA, and for major commercial and institutional projects in the Detroit area. His important works there include the General Motors Headquarters Building (1917-21) and the Detroit Athletic Club (1913-15). The latter was modelled on a classic Renaissance palazzo, and the refinement of this design rivals the work of McKim, Mead & White. Kahn remained active until the time of his death in Detroit on 8 December 1942 (obit. & port. Windsor Daily Star, 8 Dec. 1942, 5; obit. Detroit Free Press, 9 Dec. 1942, 21; New York Times, 9 Dec. 1942, 27; Architectural Record [New York], lxxxiii, Jan. 1943, 14, 16; Architectural Forum [New York], lxxviii, Jan. 1943, 36; biog. National Cyclopedia of American Biography, xxxiii, 264-5; MacMillan Encylopedia of Architects, 1982, ii, 535-7; Grove Dictionary of Art, 1994, xvii, 721-2). An extensive article on the Canadian buildings designed by Kahn was prepared by Prof. Gerald T. Bloomfield in 1985 and published in the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Bulletin, x, No. 4, Dec. 1985, 4-10, illus. An illustrated monograph on the work of Kahn entitled Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., by George Nelson, was published in 1939. An early photographic port. and biography of Kahn can be found in The Brickbuilder [Boston], xxiv, May 1915, 127.

Albert KAHN (works in Windsor & area)

(with Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson) WALKERVILLE, ONT., St. Mary's Anglican Church, with Parish House and Rectory, Niagara Street at Argyle Road, 1903-04 (Evening Record [Windsor], 11 Aug. 1902, 1, illus. & descrip.; C.R., xiii,20 Aug. 1902, 2; C.A.B., xvi, May 1903, illus.; St. Mary's Church Walkerville - 50th Anniversary 1904-1954, 14-16, 18, 21, illus.; Cameron Macdonell, 'Duplicity and the Edwardian Patron', in Journal for the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, xxxi, No. 2, 2006, 23-36, illus.)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., Town Hall & Post Office, Devonshire Road near Assumption Street, 1904 (Parks Canada, Canada's Historic Places, Designation Statement 27 Nov. 1995; Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, 80 for 80: Celebrating 80 Years of the A.C.O., 2013, 168-69, illus. & descrip., but lacking attribution)
(with Ernest Wilby) WALKERVILLE, ONT., King Edward Public School, Victoria Road near Cataraqui Street, 1905-06 (C.R., xvi, 29 March 1905, 4, t.c.; Evening Record [Windsor], 27 May 1905, 7, descrip.; 3 June 1905, 7, illus.; American Architect & Building News [New York], xcix, 28 June 1911, plate illus.; J.G. Hodgins, Schools & Colleges of Ontario 1792-1910, Vol. 1, 276, descrip.)
(with Ernest Wilby) WALKERVILLE, ONT., 'Willistead Manor', a mansion for E. Chandler Walker, Devonshire Road at Niagara Street, 1904-05 (Evening Record [Windsor], 21 Oct. 1905, 7, extensive descrip. & illus.; Western Architect [Minneapolis], xiii, April 1909, illus. plates; American Architect & Building News [New York], xcviii, 24 Aug. 1910, plate illus.; Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 150, 210, 235, 236)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., residence for Isaac Walker, c. 1910 (Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 298)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., residence for Harrington E. Walker, St. Mary's Gate at Kildare Road, c. 1910 (Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 343)
(with Ernest Wilby) WALKERVILLE, ONT., Canadian Bank of Commerce, Devonshire Road at Assumption Street, 1906-07 (Evening Record [Windsor], 21 May 1907, 8, extensive descrip. & illus.; Canadian Banker [Toronto], January 1938, 207, illus.; Money Matters: A Critical Look at Bank Architecture, 1990, 77-8, 148)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., residence for S.A. Griggs, Kildare Road at Niagara Street, 1908 (Western Architect [Minneapolis], xiii, June 1909, plate illus.)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., residence for A.W. Ridout, 1908 (Western Architect [Minneapolis], xiv, Sept. 1909, plate illus.; Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 287)
(with Ernest Wilby) WALKERVILLE, ONT., Ford Motor Car Co., Sandwich Road at the east City limits, major addition to factory complex, 1910-11 (Evening Record [Windsor], 16 Aug. 1910, 1, descrip., but incorrectly credited to "Albert Cahn [sic], Architect"; C.R., xxiv, 21 Sept. 1910, 29; Const., iv, April 1911, 91, illus. & descrip.)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., Canadian Hoskins Ltd., Devonshire Road, factory, 1918 (C.R., xxxii, 19 June 1918, 42; Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 865)
WINDSOR, ONT., Burroughs Adding Machine Co., McDougall Street, factory and power house, 1919-20 (C.R., xxxiii, 17 Dec. 1919, 49)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., Police Station, at Willistead Park, 1921 (City of Windsor Archives, RG4, Plan No. 93)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., office building for Walkerville Land & Building Co., Sandwich Street near Devonshire Road, 1922 (C.R., xxxvi, 26 July 1922, 738, illus.; Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 307)
FORD CITY, ONT., engine plant and machine shops for Ford Motor Co., Sandwich Street East, 1922-23; power house and screen house, 1923; By-Products Building, 1923; Assembly Plant No. 6, 1937 (C.R., xxxvi, 27 Dec. 1922, 155, t.c.; and xxxvii, 8 Aug. 1923, 59, t.c.; and xxxviii, 30 April 1924, 34, illus. in advert; Const., xvii, April 1924, 108-15, illus. & descrip.; Architectural Forum [New York], lxix, Aug. 1938, 113, illus.)

Albert KAHN (work elsewhere in Canada)

(with Ernest Wilby) HALIFAX, N.S., Canadian Bank of Commerce, George Street at Granville Street, 1906 (Evening Mail [Halifax], 18 Aug. 1906, 1, detailed descrip.; dwgs. PANS, Dumaresq Coll.
KITCHENER, ONT., Kaufman Rubber Co., King Street West at Victoria Street, 1911, additions, 1923, 1925 (C.R., xl, 27 Jan. 1926, 59, illus. in advert.)
ST. ANDREWS, N.B., summer residence for E. Chandler Walker, Reed Street, 1912 (National Post [Toronto], 29 March 2003, illus. & descrip.)
KITCHENER, ONT., Dominion Tire Co., Strange Street at the C.N.R. tracks, a large 4 storey factory complex, 1912-13 (Berlin News Record [Kitchener], 13 Jan. 1913, 1, illus. & descrip.; Daily Telegraph [Kitchener], 13 Jan. 1913, descrip.; Evening Record [Windsor], 25 Jan. 1913, 5, illus. & descrip.; Sault Daily Star [Sault Ste. Marie], 25 Jan. 1913, 3, illus. & descrip.; Vancouver Sun, 25 Jan. 1913, 13, illus. & descrip.; Ontario History, lxxv, Sept. 1983, 234-5, illus.)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., Fisher Body Co., Walker Road at Edna Street, assembly plant, 1912-19 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., 1948, 159-73)
TORONTO, ONT., Ford Motor Co., Dupont Street at Christie Street, assembly plant, 1916 (Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Bulletin, x, No. 4, Dec. 1985, 7, descrip. & illus.)
MONTREAL, QUE., Ford Motor Co., assembly plant, 1916 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., 1948, 159-73)
WINNIPEG, MAN., Ford Motor Co., assembly plant, Portage Avenue at Wall Street, 1916 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., 1948, 159-73)
TORONTO, ONT., Ford Motor Co., Danforth Avenue at Victoria Park Avenue, assembly plant, 1923-24; altered c. 1970, now part of Shopper's World Shopping Centre; still standing in 2023 (C.R., xxxvii, 26 Dec. 1923, 1271-2, illus. & descrip.; Canadian Engineer xlvi, 29 April 1924, 479-80, illus. descrip.)
OSHAWA, ONT., General Motors Co., Park Road South, assembly plant, 1924; head office building, 1926 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., 1948, 159-73)
WALLACEBURG, ONT., Sydenham Glass Co., factory, c. 1925 (Kahn Office Log Book, Job No. 585)
REGINA, SASK., General Motors Co., 8th Avenue at Winnipeg Street, assembly plant, 1928 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc., 1948, 159-73)
WALKERVILLE, ONT., Chrysler Corp. of Canada, Tecumseh Road East, assembly plant, 1929; engine plant, 1938 (list of works in Industrial Architecture of Albert Kahn Inc.,1948, 159-73)
LONDON, ONT., Kellogg Cereal Co. of Canada Ltd., Dundas Street East near Eva Street, major addition to factory, and a large power plant, 1930-31; warehouse, 1933-34 (Owen Sound Daily Sun-Times, 13 Nov. 1930, 11, descrip.; C.R., xlv, 14 Jan. 1931, 55; and xlvii, 8 Nov. 1933, 35; The Nugget [North Bay], 1 Nov. 1933, 11, descrip.)
LEAMINGTON, ONT., H.J. Heinz Co., Erie Street South, major addition to factory, 1932 (C.R., xlvi, 27 April 1932, 60)
MEDICINE HAT, ALTA., office building and warehouse for Kellogg Cereal Co. of Canada, 1933-34 (C.R., xlvii, 29 Nov. 1933, 35)