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Shaping Saginaw: J. Fred Beckbissinger, Architect

Born in 1870, J. Fred Beckbissinger started his career - and training - working as a draftsman for Saginaw manufacturing companies and architectural firms. City directories and correspondence indicate that he worked briefly in Detroit and Grand Rapids. In 1910, he opened his own office in Saginaw and four years later, formed a partnership with William T. Cooper. When Michigan instituted architectural registration requirements in 1915, J. Fred Beckbissinger’s registration number was 19. The firm of Cooper and Beckbissinger lasted until Cooper’s retirement in 1923. After Cooper’s retirement, Beckbissinger continued to practice on his own and is listed as an architect in Saginaw City Directories until 1958. He passed away in 1963.

Beckbissinger’s work includes residential, commercial and industrial buildings - all attest to his interest in both the American Arts and Crafts Movement and the Colonial Revival style. He was able to combine influences from both schools to create a unique, personal design vocabulary. Simple, elegant and meticulously detailed, all of his buildings underscore the pragmatic nature of his on-the-job training. He is quoted as saying, “It’s fine to have a lot of theory behind you, but you’ve got to be enough of an engineer and a bricklayer and lot of other things to know how to put a building together.”

Although his office records have been lost, many of his distinctive designs have been identified and still help define Saginaw’s streetscapes.

Liebermann exterior and interior photographs

• 614 South Jefferson Avenue, Mautner residence • 505 Thompson, Liebermann residence

Wiechmann Exterior Blueprint

1555 S. Washington, Wiechmann residence  • Holland Court grouping 1, 2, 4, 5, & 6 Holland Court, c. 1911 • 915 Holland • Modart Corset Factory, 1920 southeast corner of Lapeer and 2nd Street

Buildings designed by J. Fred Beckbissigner that have been demolished include:

• The Germania School

• Kroger Store on the southwest corner of Federal and Genessee Avenues

• Building for William C. Wiechmann Department Store on South Jefferson Avenues

• Liebermann Store, East Genessee Avenue


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