Born in Ontario in 1863, Frederick German attended the University of Toronto and later worked in New York City architectural firms before moving to Duluth. In 1889 he was employed as a draftsman for Oliver Traphagen before taking up partnership with several prominent Duluth architects beginning in 1892.
German’s partnership with A. Werner Lignell, which began in 1905, resulted in many important Duluth buildings and homes, including the downtown YMCA and YWCA, Washington School, the Duluth Curling Club, Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, and St. Anthony of Paduah Catholic Church. From 1913 to 1923 German partnered with Leif Jenssen, and together they designed the Bradley Building and Pilgrim Congregational Church. After that partnership ended, German designed the Amphitheater. German also designed many grand East End homes, including the Henry and Amy Fee House at 2305 East Third Street and Highpoint, the home Bernard Silberstein built as a surprise fiftieth wedding anniversary gift to his wife Nettie at 21 North Twenty-First Avenue East.
Not everyone was pleased with German’s work. In 1906 he and Lignell drew the original plans for Villa Scholastica (today’s Tower Hall on the College of St. Scholastica campus). Mother Scholastica fired the pair of architects and the building contractor in 1908, citing faulty design and construction of the still uncompleted building (it was said to be in danger of collapsing). According to Scholastic historian Sister Agnes Somers, after being released German “tore up their plans” in disgust.
German “served continually” on Duluth’s planning commission until he died in 1936 at his son George’s house just after returning from a walk. He was seventy-three years old.
Architect Frederick German (1863-1937) was a Canadian who came to Duluth in 1892 via New York. He first partnered with John de Waard in the 1890s. Then in 1905, German entered into partnership with A. Werner Lignell. This partnership was responsible for many important buildings in Duluth as well as several residences in the East End. One of the most notable was the circa 1909 Central YMCA Building, which was documented in the trade magazine Western Architect. From 1913 to about 1928 German partnered with Leif Jenssen. German’s 1937 obituary describes his many architectural contributions to the community:
F. G. German Came Here in 1892 PIONEER DIES
Prominent Architect Was Designer of Many Buildings. Stricken with a heart attack as he returned from a walk, F. G. German, widely known Duluth architect, died yesterday afternoon at the home of a son, George B. German, 4631 Jay street. He was 73 years old. Born Nov. 9, 1863, at Bath, Ont., he attended the University of Toronto and later worked in New York architects’ offices before settling here in 1892. Among organizations of which Mr. German was a member at the time of his death were the state board of registration for architects, to which he was appointed by Governor J. A. O. Preus at its inception in 1921; the Duluth city planning commission, on which he had also served continuously, and the American Institute of Architects. Mr. German gained recognition throughout this area for his work in designing numerous public buildings, churches and offices. Among those in Duluth for which he drew plans were the Central YMCA and YWCA, the boys’ Y, the Pilgrim Congregational church, the Glen Avon Presbyterian church, St. Anthony’s Catholic church, the Bradley Building, the new Marshall-Wells building and many large homes. He designed as well the new Virginia Memorial Recreation building and city hall, the Chisholm junior high school and the Green bay post office.