One of very few architects in Philadelphia to be suspended from the American Institute of Architects, Andrew C. Borzner was born in Philadelphia, the son of Louis and Elizabeth Rink Borzner. He graduated from Central High School in 1906 and studied architecture and drawing at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art and the University of Pennsylvania, and is noted in the 1934 Book of the School as receiving a special certificate from the University in 1910 although further documentation for that degree has not been discovered. From 1906 to 1910 Borzner apprenticed with several Philadelphia firms, including Walter F. Price, David Knickerbacker Boyd, Brockie & Hastings, Sauer & Hahn, and John T. Windrim. He then established his own firm, collaborating for a short time with Percy H. Wood in the firm Borzner & Wood.
Like many aspects of Borzner's career, the duration of this partnership is also unclear. It is listed for three years in the Philadelphia city directories (1913-1915) and appears with commissions in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide in 1914, but on his application for membership in the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, Borzner himself writes 1910-1907, perhaps a slip of the pen. About partner Percy H. Wood nothing is known.
However, Borzner's ambitions clearly lay beyond the typical architectural practice devoted to residential commissions. He also served as architectural editor of the Philadelphia Record and in 1916 began publishing a series of volumes entitled The Book of Beautiful Homes which offered moderately priced residential designs. Since this was a national advertising effort on his part, he could not possibly oversee construction in states all across the country. This led to his contacting selected architects who might be interested in "associating" with him for the monetary gain of both. In a 1927 letter preserved in the AIA Archives in Washington, DC, Borzner asks for $250.00 to supply a local architect with the list of 24 people from that state who have purchased his book and, therefore, would be prospective home builders. In another letter from 1927, also in the AIA Archives, Borzner offers a 30-70 split of the commission to the local architect. In a 1928 letter to a brass company Borzner declares that he does not offer stock plans, but that the houses erected from his designs usually cost between $20,000 and $65,000, not really a moderate price for the time.
Unfortunately for Borzner, these enterprising activities caused him to run afoul of the AIA Judiciary Committee, which in 1927 suspended him from membership for one year for attempting to sell the names of potential clients to architects working across the United States. Suspension notwithstanding, during 1927 Borzner continued to list himself as a member of the AIA; and in 1928, following his reinstatement, Borzner continued to circulate letters to architects offering his service via the publication of The Book of Beautiful Homes. Both of these actions resulted in his being considered again for suspension.
During the 1940s Borzner ceased independent practice, working from 1941 to 1943 as a consulting architect for the Bethlehem Steel Co., from 1943 to 1944 as a designer for the Budd Manufacturing Co., and from 1944 to 1945 as an architect for the Cramp Shipbuilding Co. During this time it appears that he continued to publish his book and by 1947 had issued volume 9 as the "Nation's Home Building Guide."
In addition to his beleaguered AIA, national and local chapter, memberships, Borzner was a member of the Undine Barge Club, Sigma Phi Sigma Fraternity, the Poor Richard Club, and the Masons.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Masonic Temple
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Poor Richard Club
- Sigma Phi Sigma
- Undine Barge Club
- University of Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
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