Walter Francis Ballinger
Local ID #: BALLIN~1
King, Moses. Philadelphia and Notable Philadelphians. New York: Blanchard Press, Isaac H. Blanchard Co., 1901.,
Co-inventor of the "super-span sawtooth" type of roof construction, Walter F. Ballinger was born in Petroleum Center, Venango Co., PA, where his father, Jacob Howe Ballinger, operated a machine shop until his death in 1869. Ballinger's mother, Sarah Wolfenden Ballinger, then moved the family to Woodstown, NJ, where they resided for 12 years. By age 13 Walter Ballinger was employed on a local farm. Later he worked in a factory where his abilities were noted and promotions forthcoming. While he worked during the day, the industrious young Ballinger attended a number of classes in the evenings at the local grammar school, the YMCA, and Drexel Institute until he could enroll fulltime in a business school.
In 1889 Ballinger entered the prosperous Philadelphia architectural and engineering firm of Geissinger & Hales, where he was at first employed in a variety of business roles, including bookkeeper, stenographer, and clerk. By 1895 he had established something of an independent partnership with another member of the firm, William B. Brinkworth, but the new partners maintained their office at the same address as Geissinger & Hales. The connection to Brinkworth must have been brief, however, because in 1895 Ballinger replaced Geissinger as a named principal in the older firm; and this successor firm, Hales & Ballinger, operated until Edward M. Hales retired in July, 1901. At that time the chief draftsman Emile G. Perrot became a partner, and the firm continued in 1902 under the name Ballinger & Perrot. In 1920 Ballinger bought out the interests of his partner and revised the name to the Ballinger Co., a name which continues in Philadelphia today.
Throughout its long history, the Ballinger firm has maintained the architectural engineering interests which were engaged in the nineteenth century by Walter H. Geissinger and Edward M. Hales. Concentrating on industrial and commercial structures, the firm during the twentieth century expanded its range of building types to include institutional, ecclesiastical, and residential projects, particularly those associated with housing operations funded by large corporate or federal interests, such as the American Viscose Co. in Marcus Hook, PA, and the Emergency Fleet Shipbuilders housing at Union Park Gardens in Wilmington, DE. In addition, Ballinger & Perrot were pioneers in the use of reinforced concrete, and Walter Ballinger published a book on the subject in 1909.
Ballinger himself was a businessman, engineer, and architect whose membership in professional and business organizations reflected his disparate interests. He was an associate member of the AIA and also a member of the Engineers Club. He belonged to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as the City and Manufacturers Clubs, but he also belonged to the Pen and Pencil Club.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Engineers Club
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Franklin Institute
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- Fairmount Park Art Assoc.
- Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
- Philadelphia Board of Trade
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