Baumann Brothers, Knoxville’s first professional architects, was founded in 1887 by brothers Joseph Francis Baumann (1844-1920) and Albert Benjamin Baumann, Sr. (1861-1942). William Baumann, the father of Joseph and Albert, was born in Bavaria and immigrated to America in the 1830s. In 1837, he married Catherine Schneider. The family briefly lived in Savannah, Georgia, where William worked as a shipbuilder. By the 1840s, the family had moved to East Tennessee, where Baumann found ample work as a carpenter and house builder in various growing towns around the region. The Baumann family moved to Knoxville in 1855.
During the Civil War, the Baumann house, located on what was then the outskirts of town, was occupied by both Union and Confederate soldiers and suffered considerable damage. After the war, William and his sons continued working as carpenters and helped to rebuild Knoxville.
Joseph Francis Baumann, the second son of William and Catherine Baumann, was born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, on January 16, 1844. He initially worked in the carpentry trade alongside his father and began listing his services as an architect in 1872. That year, he designed two important Knoxville landmarks, the Second Empire home of financier Charles McClung McGhee on Locust Street and Staub’s Theatre, the city’s first opera house, on Gay Street.
In 1875, Baumann designed Odd Fellows Hall (now called the Kern’s Building on Market Square) for confectioner Peter Kern, as well as the Third Presbyterian Church, of which the Baumann family were members. Other major commissions during this period included the Hattie House Hotel on Gay Street (1879), the East Tennessee National Bank on Gay Street (1886), and large mansions for businessmen such as C. J. McClung and James D. Cowan. One of Baumann’s most well-known projects, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was completed atop Summit Hill in 1886.
Joseph’s younger brother, Albert Benjamin Baumann, was born in Knoxville on August 30, 1861. He joined Joseph’s firm as a draftsman in 1882, and upon his promotion to full partner in 1887, the firm began operating under the name “Baumann Brothers.”
This firm’s early work included several large warehouses with ornamented storefronts on Jackson Avenue, campus buildings and elaborate houses such as Westwood (1890) on Kingston Pike, and a number of homes in the Fort Sanders, Fourth & Gill, and Old North Knoxville neighborhoods. The Baumann Brothers are responsible for the design of the iconic Knoxville High School (1910) on E. Fifth Avenue. In the 1880s, Joseph Baumann helped renovate and expand Knoxville’s first Market House, a one-story shed-like structure that occupied much of Market Square. The Baumann’s subsequently designed an imposing two-story replacement for this building, which was completed in 1897. That same year, the Monroe County Courthouse in Madisonville was completed, one of several courthouses designed by the firm. Later courthouses included the Blount County Courthouse (1906) in Maryville and the Washington County Courthouse (1912) in Jonesborough.
Joseph Baumann left the firm in 1913 and retired from the profession altogether in 1916. He died on April 20, 1920. Albert Sr. continued as the firm’s sole principal for several years. His commissions included the expansions of Knoxville High School (1914 and 1920), the original design of which the firm provided in 1910. He also remodeled the Charles McClung McGhee House (which had been one of his brother’s first commissions in 1872) as a Masonic Temple in 1915. In 1922, Albert Sr. and his son, Albert “A.B.” Baumann, Jr. (1897-1952), founded the architectural firm, Baumann & Baumann, which remained in practice until 1952.
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