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Mind chum number 11, The designer of a nation
Posted to Open Discussion Forum on 2/11/2017 8 Replies

Well good day to you all,I know many of you look forward to these stories and i hope not to disappoint.

I am signed up to get regular e-mails from the Maine business weekly. I was reviewing an article on an old mill from Lewiston ,Maine,the Bates mill no.5. Now I will give all of you a break from the mills of New England and go onto another venue.

A name was mentioned in my reading of the article and the name was that of a Mr. Albert Kahn. Who was an industrial architect responsible for most of the factories and headquarters in Detroit Michigan.

An immigrant to the U.S. from Prussia ,Albert came to the this country in the year 1880 at the impressionable young age of 11. Born on March 21, 1869. In his teen aged years young Albert apprenticed at an architectural firm by the name of Mason & Rice As he worked and learned the finer points of being a designer and architect.The winner of a scholarship he went to Europe for a years study. He eventually struck out on his own and in the year 1895 founded his own firm with his younger brother Julius.

The use of poured reinforced concrete for building construction, was a new way of building. And it rapidly became accepted for its ease and speed of which buildings could be erected. As an added bonus, was the aspect of fire proofing. No wooden floors were required. A lot of catastrophic fires where buildings were a total loss, was because of oil soaked wood floors that caught fire.

His first huge project was undertaking the design of the Packard assembly plant in Detroit. After it was completed in 1903, a young Henry Ford took notice of how quickly the plant was finished. Albert's firm was to be rewarded with numerous contracts for the Ford motor company.

These were to include Ford's huge River Rouge assembly plant. The Rouge plant was noted for being the first assembly plant where raw materials went into one end and finished product, in this case Model T automobiles came out of the other. Albert also designed Ford's Willow run assembly plant. Willow run was to gain it's fame during the second world war. The buildings huge scale made it ideal for the assembly of B 24 bombers under license from Consolidated aircraft. at it's peak of production 650 bombers a month were being built by the famous "Rosie the Riveter" gang

Now during this time The Kahn brothers were also busy designing everything from temples and corporate headquarters as well as residential housing .Most notably the Fisher building ,and General motors headquarters. These became the symbols for the defining silhouette of the City of Detroit, and won the firm several design awards.

Not one to rest on his laurels Albert's other brother Moritz,who was also a noted architect ,and won the firm a contract for helping the fledgling soviet nation with designs for factories .In the month of May 1929, Moritz designed the Stalingrad tractor factory and soon helped the Soviets design and build over 500 factories across the Russian country side.

During the second world war ,the Kahn's were an indispensable firm in the design of Air and Navy bases for the US military.This was the beginning of the Military Industrial complex that we know today. Known as the Arsenal of Democracy. The United States was Motivated as never before for the change over from producing goods for civilian use, to now producing goods for the war effort.

Albert Kahn died in October of 1948, but many of his buildings remain to this day. A few have been torn down due to the elements of time and neglect. The Bates Mill number 5 which will be my next story. This was designed and built by Kahn in 1912 and still stands strong and proud to this day.

As an add on during my research i found an advertisement In the Springfield Republican newspaper, from a brick mason dated from 1868.Rewarding a prize of $50.00 cash, out of his own pocket, to any other brick masons , the exception being three others that he considered his peers. And named them as such.

In his challenge, Mr. Martin Denete challenged A Mr. Homer Bates. To the winner go the spoils. And let's see who's work is the better. Now in the age of todays trades,would we ever see something like this? I can now see and have a better understanding,of all of the spectacular brick work in these parts. This was how it came to be. A pride in workmanship and skills that is severely lacking with today's trades people.

And before i get jumped upon for this,there are lots of trades people that do good competent work.but the above advertisement ,that was a no holds, hands down, lets see who is the best of the best ,laying fancy and decorative brick work.I have never seen anything like this before. I do wonder who won! Until my next installment, thanks for reading,Bruce.

Bruce Caron
Educator/Instructor/Technician
Robison Service Company
Springfield, Massachusetts, USA

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