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The Wasserman Block


Frank and Edith Wasserman came to Agincourt just before 1900 with Otto Koehmstedt and bought out an earlier hardware store that had been badly mismanaged. Within three years Koehmstedt, Wasserman & Co. had become the dominant regional supply house for all things practical; from tools, nails, screws, hinges, and knobs to plumbing apparatus and small internal combustion engines, if they didn’t have it, they’d find someone who did. By 1910 Koehmstedt, the senior partner, was ready to retire. So the Wassermans bought out his interest in the business and were ready to replace the jumble of buildings they occupied at the corner of Broad and James.

It’s a longer tale than can be told here; suffice to say architecture in 1900 was in transition. At that point Agincourt didn’t have a resident architect. There’d been several men who called themselves “Practical Architect” during the last quarter of the 19th century, but that usually meant a more pragmatic approach to building–someone who’d begun his career as a carpenter/builder and picked up the rudiments of fashion along the way. So Frank Wasserman (actually, he and Edith had come from Austria, so his given name was Franz Josef, after the Emperor) went to Sioux City for professional services, eventually settling on Joachim& Perlmutter.



I gather J&P (or Hans und Franz, as they were known) didn’t give the best service. Within two years, the Wassermans found themselves in need of remodelling–embarrassing when you consider how new their building was. Luckily for our story, Anson Tennant had just returned from architectural studies in Chicago, ready to become Agincourt’s newest professional.

Since Tennant’s father did a goodly amount of business with Wasserman, it may have been Jim Tennant who leveraged Anson’s first commission: a remodeling of the front suite of offices to become the Wassermans’ apartment. In lieu of fees, Anson negotiated a sweet deal that gave him a five year lease on the space that he adapted as a studio/apartment.



The plan in magenta is Tennant’s studio; in yellow the two-story apartment he designed for the Wassermans.

I thought you might like to see the place Anson lived and worked for four years, until that fateful sailing on the RMS Lusitania.

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