Q: When my wife, Holly, son, Noble, and I moved to Allentown three years ago upon my appointment as the director of the Allentown Art Museum, we bought a beautiful old home on S. 16th Street. The house came with its original architectural drawings, which were designed by the firm of Jacoby and Weishampel.
Recently, while working on expansion planning for the museum, I learned that the oldest part of the museum at Fifth and Court streets was designed for the First Presbyterian Church by Jacoby, Weishampel & Biggin. Is it correct that it is the same firm? Do you know what other buildings in Allentown they designed?
David R. Brigham
A: You are fortunate in having Jacoby & Weishampel as the architects of your home. The firm had a long and distinguished history under a number of partners and names. And its roots went back to the early days of the city's architectural history.
The firm designed many homes in Allentown and Bethlehem. Perhaps the best known was 1227 Hamilton St., built in 1897 for George Ormrod, a wealthy industrialist. From 1920 to 1933, it was the home of Gen. Harry C. Trexler, and for a number of years thereafter was the headquarters of the Trexler Trust.
After some adaptive changes by local architect Ben Walbert in the 1990s, it has become the Marilyn Custom Shop, a custom dressmaker.
Jacoby & Weishampel also designed many churches, offices and schools across the Lehigh Valley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Firm founder Lewis Schelly Jacoby was born on his family's farm near Springtown, Bucks County, in 1848. He was educated at the Springtown Academy.
After teaching school one term in Upper Saucon Township, Jacoby came to Allentown in 1868. He joined the office staff of Gustavus Adolphus Aschbach, the city's leading civil engineer, who also did architectural work. Following the unsuccessful 1848 revolution in his native Germany, in which he took part, Aschbach fled to Switzerland, where he studied civil engineering. He came to Allentown in 1854.
In 1871, Aschbach named Jacoby a partner and moved the business to New York. While there, Jacoby took an architecture course at the Cooper Institute. In 1873, Aschbach and Jacoby returned to Allentown. Aschbach died two years later after being plagued with frequent illnesses since building fortifications for the Union Army in Kentucky and Ohio during the Civil War.
Jacoby was now on his own. In 1889, he became Allentown's municipal engineer.
But on Feb. 7, 1895, he entered into a partnership with S. Addison Weishampel, a Philadelphia architect. Biggin was Frederic C. Biggin, a Bethlehem architect who was with the firm from 1899 to 1904.
In 1896, Jacoby & Weishampel produced a pamphlet titled ''With T Square & Pencil,'' which listed the projects in which they had been involved. A copy is in the files of the Lehigh County Historical Society.
''We make all kinds of plans, designs, [etc.], in a complete and careful manner,'' they wrote. ''When you arrive at the 'thinking stage' give us a call and talk 'building' to us.''
As the firm was barely a year old, almost all of the structures listed must have been the work of Jacoby. There were many homes in Allentown, Bethlehem and Catasauqua on the list. Among them was the Victorian mansion of Charles Ziegenfuss of Dorney Furniture at 16th and Hamilton, now the J.S. Burkholder Funeral Home.
In 1888, Jacoby designed Allentown's Zion's Reformed Church, the church with the Liberty Bell. The Breinig & Bachman building at the southeast corner of Sixth and Hamilton, with its terra-cotta animal heads and rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1893, was an example of the firm's office work. The Central Market Hall, the building whose interior later was transformed into the Lyric Theater now Symphony Hall also was by Jacoby. It was built in 1894.
The firm also designed some buildings for Bethlehem Iron, later Bethlehem Steel Co., and Lehigh University's first science building.
After Weishampel died in 1916, Jacoby continued as a solo office until 1919 when Herbert F. Everett joined him as a partner.
Jacoby died at 80 of a heart attack on March 14, 1929. The last major building known to bear his name along with Everett is the Allentown Post Office, which Everett designed in the 1930s. Jacoby & Everett are listed as the architects on the cornerstone.
After Jacoby's death, Everett formed H.F. Everett and Associates, with Robert Ochs, Warren Oswald and Paul Frankenfield. His son, Leroy C. Everett, joined the firm in 1946. It was still in existence in the 1970s, but sold by the 1980s.
Ask Frank appears on Wednesday. Have a question on local history? E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters can be sent to Frank Whelan, 101 N. Sixth St., Allentown, Pa. 18105.Copyright © 2015, CT Now