Albert Kahn, architect for Henry Ford, designed landmark Stambaugh Building

By MARK C. PEYKO | Metro Monthly Editor

The skyline of Detroit and the development of American industry would have been much different without Albert Kahn. As the leading industrial architect of the 20th century, Kahn’s revolutionary engineering helped Henry Ford streamline the assembly line and achieve mass production.

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Kahn’s pioneering use of reinforced concrete allowed for wider expanses of open, unobstructed space in factories and public buildings. His brother, Julius, patented the process and Albert used it in thousands of factories and public buildings in the U.S. and abroad.

Although his 1903 Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit was the first major factory to use reinforced concrete, Kahn’s Highland Park plant for Ford was a turning point for both the auto maker and modern American manufacturing. In addition to creating efficient production spaces for automotive clients, Kahn’s designs also considered the comfort and safety of workers. Factories typically had large, operating windows that allowed light and ventilation into the workplace and the buildings were fireproof.

Although Kahn embraced modern technology, he also created residential, commercial and institutional architecture that was rooted in history. Like many of his contemporaries, Kahn used classical elements in his public buildings and his homes for Detroit’s auto elite were often steeped in traditional English architecture.

Although Kahn remained in Detroit, his brother and the Trussed Concrete Steel Co. relocated to Youngstown in 1906. Around this time, Albert got some of his earliest work in the Mahoning Valley. In 1906, he built the Stambaugh Building, which became the headquarters of Youngstown Sheet and Tube.  It was one of the earliest skyscrapers on Central Square. Another local Kahn design, the Mahoning National Bank Building, was built in 1910 and expanded in the mid-1920s. Other structures in Youngstown included the Trussed Concrete Steel Co. (later Truscon) on Albert Street and Julius’ Youngstown home on Tod Lane.

© 2014 Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.


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