Remembering Architect Henry Fernbach (Died November 12, 1883)
by Samuel D. Gruber
On this day in 1883, architect Henry Fernbach, one of the first successful Jewish architects to practice in the United States and a favorite architect of the New York City Jewish community, died suddenly in his New York office. Fernbach was also an early member of the American Institute of Architects.
Fernbach was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1828. He graduated from the Building Academy in Berlin and came to the United States in 1855. His early death at age 55 deprived Jewish New York of one if its most successful and creative talents. Fernbach had designed three important Manhattan synagogues, as well as the Hebrew Orphan Asylum on 77th Street. He also was active as a commercial architect, often for Jewish patrons, such as the Stern Brothers, for whom he designed an impressive store on Ladies' Mile at 32 West 23rd Street.
New York, NY. Congregation Shaaray Tefila, 127 West 44th Street. Henry Fernbach, arch. (1869). Photo: Moses King, King’s Handbook to New York. Boston: Moses King, 1893 (2nd edition), 403.
Among other secular buildings Fernbach designed were New York's Germania Savings Bank (1870), the Statts Zeitung building and cast iron loft buildings at 69 and 71-73 Greene Street (1877) and 114 Greene Street (1881). The Germania Savings Bank was a magnificacne strucutre that dominated its corner site at 14th Street and 4th Avenue, where it stood until 1962.
Tom Miller writes on his excellent blog Daytonian in Manhattan of the building that:
"Five stories tall, its regimented façade featured the arched openings, separating pilasters and cornices at each level made popular by the French Second Empire style currently all the rage. Ferbach used the corner plot to visual advantage, placing the entrance on a chamfered point and crowning it with a faceted dome. Architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler pointed to the building as an example as to why Fernbach “is one of the most accomplished practitioners in this country of academic Renaissance.” A year after the building’s completion Fernbach would design a near-clone in Philadelphia with his New York Mutual Insurance Company building. "