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Male, born 1869-03-02, died 1942-12-08

Associated with the firm network

Kahn, Albert, Associates, Incorporated, Architects and Engineers

Professional History


Office Boy, John Scott and Associates, Architects, Detroit, MI, c. 1883; Apprentice Draftsman/Designer/Chief Designer, Mason and Rice, Architects, Detroit, MI, 03/03/1884-1895; Partner, [Geroge W.] Nettleton, Kahn and [Alexander B.] Trowbridge, Architects, Detroit, MI, 1895- 1897; Partner, Nettleton and Kahn, Architects, Detroit, MI, 1897-1900; Partner, Mason and Kahn, Architects, Detroit, c. 1901-1902; Principal, Albert Kahn, Architect, Ernest Wilby, Associate, Architects, Detroit, MI, 1903- ; Principal, Albert Kahn Associates, Detroit, MI, 1895-1942.

Albert Kahn collaborated closely with his younger brother, Julius (1874-1942), an engineer, throughout his career. Albert paid for Julius's college education at the University of Michigan. A biography published by the Bentley Library at the University of Michigan, stated of the collaboration between Albert and Julius: "1903 was also the year that Kahn's brother Julius became chief engineer of the firm and began his ground-breaking collaboration with Albert on the use of reinforced concrete in industrial design, which would have global impact. Albert had helped educate Julius, who received his B.S. and C.E. degrees at the University of Michigan. Having served as an engineer for the U.S. Navy and the U. S. Engineering Corps from 1896 to 1903, Julius brought technical expertise in structural design to the firm. Thus began Albert's revolutionary practice of joining the multiple disciplines of architecture and engineering under one professional roof, just as he would incorporate multi-functional operations into his subsequent designs of assembly-line factories." (See Bentley Library, University of Michigan, "Albert Kahn Papers 1896-2014: Biography," accessed 01/07/2016.)

Professional Awards

Honorary degrees, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MIm 1933 and 1942. Honorary degree, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, 1942. Chevalier Legion D'Honneur, Republic of France, 1937; Gold Medal, International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life, Paris, France, 1937. Special Award, American Institute of Architects, 1942. Frank P. Brown Medal, (posthumous award), Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1943.


Albert Kahn's papers were donated to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, and comprise the collection, "Albert Kahn Papers 1896-2014."



Kahn's formal schooling ended at the seventh grade. Like many less-privileged men of his time, he learned the profession of architecture through the apprentice method.

College Awards

Kahn was awarded the $500 American Architect and Building News Scholarship for foreign travel in 1890. On this grand tour, Kahn made the acquaintance of the architect Henry Bacon (1866-1924), with whom he traveled in Italy and France. (It is known that Kahn traveled in 1891 to Genoa, Florence and Paris.) According to the web site, "United Architects-Great Architects," "Kahn credited Bacon with furthering his education; the two discussed architecture while sketching farmhouses and public monuments, gathering decorative motifs that would be re-used in their revival style buildings of the 1910s-30s." This web site relied heavily on Grant Hildebrand's authoritative book The Architecture of Albert Kahn, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974).



Kahn was born in Rhaunen, Prussia, but spent extended periods in Echternach, Luxembourg as a boy, The eldest of eight children in a disadvantaged family, Kahn moved to the US in 1880. His family first settled in Baltimore, MD, before moving to Detroit. He demonstrated considerable skill at the piano and in drawing as a boy, and his family, though poor, paid for drawing lessons that could cultivate this artistic talent.


Both of his parents had been born in Germany. His father was a teacher and rabbi, Joseph Kahn (1845-1935). His mother, Rosalie (1843-1912), managed the household and displayed interest and skills in the arts. She arranged for Albert to receive drawing lesson from Julius Theodore Melchers (1829–1908), a Prussian immigrant sculptor who attended the École des Beaux-Arts, studying with the well-known sculptors Antoine Étex (1808-1888) and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875). Melchers developed a significant reputation in the Detroit area between 1855 and 1908.


He married Ernestine Krolik (1869-1957) in 1896. Both Albert and Ernestine were born in 1869 (he was five months older) and were the eldest children. Her parents, Adolph Krolik (1839-1893) and Sarah Ewell Krolik (1841-1921), operated a dry goods store, A. Krolik and Company, and became comfortable financially. Encouraged to continue her education, Ernestine graduated from the University of Michigan at a time when few families supported women receiving higher education degrees. By all accounts this was a happy and productive marriage. According to the Bentley Library's biography on Kahn, she "...was a talented gardener and interior designer, who often advised Albert on matters of color and fabric selection." This assistance was particularly important as Albert was color blind.


Albert and Ernestine had three children, three daughters, Rosalie Kahn Butzel, Ruth Kahn Rothman (1904-1963), and Lydia Kahn Winston Malbin (1897-1989), and a son, Edgar Adolph Kahn (1900-1985). Edgar would become a physician, the head of neurosurgery at theUniversity of Michigan Hospital.

Biographical Notes

Kahn was best-known for his pioneering designs for factories, particularly for auto manufacturers in the Detroit, MI, vicinity, but his firm designed industrial buildings around the world. Kahn's firm was even engaged by Joseph Stalin to design 512 tractor and automotive factories in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s-1930s. In regard to the scope of Kahn's work, Alan H. Belmont quoted Antony C. Sutton’s 3-volume work, "Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development 1930-1945:" "In 1938 the [Kahn] company handled 19 percent of all architect-designed industrial building in the United States, in addition to projects in most major countries elsewhere in the world. Prior to 1939 the company designed and supervised construction of about $800,000,000 worth of industrial buildings in the United States alone. This included the famous River Rouge plant of Henry Ford, plants for the Chevrolet, Packard, Hudson, General Motors, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Chrysler, and De Soto automobile companies, Kelvinator, United Air Lines, Burroughs Adding Machine, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, the Glenn L. Martin Company, and dozens of similar firms. For one customer alone, General Motors, the Kahn Company designed 127 major structures prior to 1939." (See Antony C. Sutton, Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development, [Stanford, Calif., Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, 1968-73], p. 249-252.)

Associated Locations

  • Rhauen, Westphalia Germany (Architect's Birth)
    Rhauen, Westphalia Germany

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PCAD id: 2988