Frank E. Hahn was born in Philadelphia, the son of Clara (Heiman) and Henry Hahn, a cloth merchant and longtime member of the Philadelphia Board of Education. After graduating from Northeast High School in 1896, Hahn studied civil engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and received his B.S. in 1900. His early employment reflected his education in engineering, with several years spent as an engineer with the Philadelphia Reading Railroad, the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co. and the Trussed Concrete Steel Co. based in Detroit, MI. However, during those early years, he also attended the T-Square Club's atelier, intended for aspiring architects who maintained jobs during the day. In the years in which Hahn attended the atelier, it was dominated by Paul A. Davis, III, an Ecole des Beaux-Arts graduate, and Paul P. Cret. Thus, by the time Hahn joined Andrew J. Sauer as a partner in 1906, he was well-grounded in the Beaux-Arts principles of design as well as the structural expertise expected of a civil engineer.
For the partnership of Sauer & Hahn, he was primarily responsible for the engineering and construction work of the firm, as well as its business management. The firm of Sauer & Hahn continued until the beginning of 1916, but in that year Hahn separated from the partnership, taking several commercial clients with him. He then practiced independently for several years before being joined in the 1920s by Ecole-trained S. Brian Baylinson. After Baylinson decided to open his own office in 1928, Hahn returned to independent practice, only associating with Aaron Colish from 1947 until his death in 1962.
Hahn's practice was broadly based, but chiefly relied upon commercial structures rather than the residential properties so important to his colleagues in Philadelphia. Among the larger commissions granted to Hahn was Philadelphia's Warwick Hotel, a Hahn & Baylinson design. Hahn's ties to the Philadelphia Jewish community were strong, and he was responsible for the Young Men's Hebrew Association Building (1616-20 Master Street) as well as two Beth Israel Synagogues (32nd Street and Montgomery Avenue, Philadelphia and Coatesville, PA). Hahn maintained his contact with mentor Paul P. Cret; in 1922 he collaborated with Cret on the design of the Young Men's Hebrew Association at Broad and Pine streets. Preserved in The Athenaeum of Philadelphia collections is a postcard which Hahn sent in 1924 from Siena, Italy, in which he regales Cret with his travels to Bologna, Florence, Milan, Padua, Venice, Verona, and Vicenza.
Hahn joined the AlA in 1921 and was also a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Architects, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, the Engineers Club, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Rodeph Shalom synagogue. He was a life director of the YM/YWHA, for whom he designed several buildings. In 1927 he received the gold medal given by the Chestnut Street Businees Men's Association and was, during his lifetime, the recipient of the Congressional Medal.
PLEASE NOTE: A complete, but ambiguous, list of Hahn's projects exists in the AlA Archives, Washington, DC. It is an undated arrangement of buildings by type, marred only by the fact that it includes as Hahn's own work projects actually designed with Sauer & Hahn.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Engineers Club
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- Pennsylvania Society of Architects
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Rodeph Shalom
- Young Men's Hebrew Association
- University of Pennsylvania
- Northeast High School
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