Charles (or Carl) T. Biswanger was one of a flourishing group of German-American architects working in Philadelphia, a group which included Oscar Frotscher, Jacob Herold, and Albert Schenck. Biswanger's father, Erhard Oskar Biswanger (1820-1892), was from Weisenburg, Bavaria. He came to the United States in 1840 and established a carpet mill in Philadelphia, with a specialty in ingrain carpet. Charles T. Biswanger was the son of Erhard's second wife, Caroline Sigel (1841-1892).
After graduating from Philadelphia's Northeast Manual Training School in 1897, Biswanger enrolled in the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art and then the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his Certificate of Proficiency in Architecture in 1904. In 1903 Biswanger's talents had been recognized by the T-Square Club with its membership scholarship prize. Both before and after his graduation, Biswanger worked for Henry D. Dagit, primarily with Catholic church and school buildings. In 1906 Biswanger journeyed to Paris, but before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in January, 1907, he traveled to Germany. Biswanger returned, according to the Philadelphia city directories, in 1909 and apparently began working again for Henry D. Dagit, where he remained until 1914. While associated with Dagit, Biswanger was responsible for the design of the interior of St. Francis de Sales Church at 4623 Springfield Avenue in Philadelphia.
Independent work following Biswanger's time in Dagit's office produced commissions which he might have acquired through family contacts within the German community of Philadelphia, i.e. several breweries, including that for Weisbrod and Hess. In the 1920s, Biswanger was employed for a time as an architectural engineer in the Philadelphia Department of City Transit where he was responsible, according to family sources, for the design of the stations on the Frankford Elevated line. By 1924 Biswanger was employed by the Ballinger Co., then known chiefly for its industrial and commercial architecture. He remained with Ballinger until the Depression. One project for which he was responsible while with the Ballinger Co., according to family history, was the interior of the Church of the Transfiguration at 56th & Cedar Streets, Philadelphia. (This attribution has not been verified, but Ballinger use of Biswanger's skills with church architecture leads to the speculation that Biswanger's role in the Ballinger Co. was one in which he replaced Emile G. Perrot, who had withdrawn from the firm in 1920, and who had been chiefly responsible for church commissions.)
Biswanger was a member of the Architectural Society of the University of Pennsylvania, the T-Square Club and the Masons. In 1904 he won the prize membership for the T-Square Club.
Sandra L. Tatman.
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- University of Pennsylvania
- Ecole des Beaux-Arts
- Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art
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