by Emmett R Smith
MANKATO Architect Albert Schippel was an eight-months' babe-in-arms at the time he was carried to safety by his mother Wilhelmina Frohrip Schippel, together with his three-year-old brother Henry, at the time of the August 1862 Dakota Conflict. This is the story as I first heard it when I was seven, in the hot summer of 1956, from my Great-Aunt Leona Magly, herself a niece of Albert Schippel:
“WELL, Buddy, their Dad was away and the Indians came and told Mommy that others were coming and there was trouble, because the Sioux were on the warpath. So Mommy got the kids in the wagon and harnessed up and they headed for the fort.
“Some other Indians rode up and they wanted my grandmother’s rubber ladies’ overshoes. [Then, sometimes: “These Indians were drunk!” But not always, although liquor was one of my great-aunt’s megrims.]
“She wasn’t having any of that, Buddy, and she said 'None of that now and whipped up the horses and galloped away. The one Indian had a rifle pointed at her, but it wasn’t much and he shot her as she shook the reins….
“It hit her in the face but healed up after.
“Anyway, she got away with the kids, and when Albert Schippel grew up he became an architect and designed half the buildings in Mankato!
AND It would not be the last mad gallop to save his life that Albert Schippel would make!
Our late mother Naomi Jacobson could remember as a three-year-old in 1921 touching the scarred-over birdshot in her great-grandmother’s cheek. And Albert Schippel is next mentioned in his twenty-fourth year in the Mankato 1885 city directory, as boarding with Architect George Pass (b 1848) and working as a carpenter. By 1888 Schippel is in his own home at 804 N 6th Street at Vine, and in 1892 at 518 Vine Street he has a workshop by his house.
And, there, in the 18 March 1892 Free Press Weekly it is reported that Schippel sawed off accidentally three fingers of his left hand while doing scrollwork with a “buzz saw.” After being carried in a wagon-bed at a dead run to the dispensary of Dr Andrews, just as he was rescued by his mother thirty years before, Schippel, weak with blood-loss, was “skillfully” treated. The good doctor that same year also would deliver Maud Hart (Lovelace), not a block from where I write this account in January 2003, today.
Schippel was then put up at the home of George Pass “out of the goodness of his heart.” The article also says that Schippel had learned the trade of architect “of George Pass” but lately had been working as a carpenter. This suggests that Schippel, already trained as an architect, had to “root hog or die!” during an early-1890’s downturn. The entries and report above mark the first local references to the Pass-Schippel relation.
IN The 1895 directory, then, one sees adverted the firm of “Pass and Schippel.” However, the Minnesota Historical Society “Historic Architecture” inventory credits Pass and Schippel with the 1890 North Mankato School at 442 Belgrade Avenue. Pass and Schippel then are cited as architects of the 1896 Mapleton, MN, Troendle house. Altogether, Schippel’s intervening carpentry-excursion seems to have been painfully brief….
In 1901 the record shows that Pass and Schippel designed the “Oleander Saloon” building on N Front St (today “Riverfront Drive.”) Then from January 1903 Schippel was in business for himself, his first major commission being to design the 1903 Immanuel Lutheran School, now the “Wesley” building, on N Broad at Washington Street. This building is an understated and beautiful, pure, instance of the palladian “renaissance” style. Interestingly, as he went on to greater professional success in the new century, Schippel later would leave the evangelical covenant of his boyhood for the Presbyterians, and his end was Glenwood (cemetery.) This was viewed disapprovingly by Schippel’s country-relatives, condemned as “social climbing” said my great-aunt.
1904 is the year of the Schippel-designed Brandrup house, now on the National Registry, and by 1906 Schippel is listed as having not only an office telephone but a number at home on Vine Street as well. 1907 was a major year for Schippel, who designed the “Centenary” Methodist Church (long since wrongly pulled down!); Dr Andrews is credited in reports with having helped raised so much money that the congregation entered into its new temple debt-free!
(Although the good Doctor's feelings are not recorded, about the fact that the congregation straightaway went into hock for a $3-5000 organ!)
Another major project of Schippel’s was his design of the 1910 German Evangelical “Ladies’ Seminary,” now the Mankato Bethany Lutheran College “Old Main” building. Since this was a Lutheran church-commission, it would be interesting to learn more of how–and, exactly when?–Schippel 'timed' his religious move, which occurred in this same period:
"It was all daughter Mayme's doing–prestige-reasons!" my Great-Aunt Leona sniffed….
IN These same years Schippel also designed part of the old Immanuel Hospital, then on N 4th Street, incorporating solaria at the end of each ward. One way or the other Schippel was by way of becoming a regional architect now, with some cachet as an institutional designer. The 1910 romanesque-revival Rice County jail (now the human services building) and the 1914 New Ulm Armory, on the National Registry, are two examples. The 1916 W J Paffrath house in Springfield, MN, also is Schippel’s, and he would re-design the storm-damaged LeSueur County courthouse in 1919, according to MNHS records.
Be it noted, Schippel and his young partner from the early 1920’s, Ernest H Schmidt (d 25 February 1971,) designed the Mankato Armory on N 2nd Street. This last of course is now target of the usual post-modernist and correspondingly non-historical, wrongheaded, demolition plans….
TO My eye the most intriguing of Schippel’s surviving buildings is the 1913 “Kruse terrace” on Parsons Street, just off Clark Street, or as it is now called, “East Pleasant.” The Parsons rowhouses are based on the Phillipines “bungalow” style, popularized first in California at the San Diego exposition by the architect-brothers Greene & Greene. Schippel incorporates “bungalow” detailing, four-by-four beams and brackets, and exposed drip-beams, with elements of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1910 “Prairie School Houses,” including separate entrance porches and outside ice-doors (for the iceboxes just inside), on the back porches. Also, the broad expanse of the south wall allowed Schippel to use contrasting brick-patterns, interlarded with limestone-detailing, to relieve an otherwise monotonous visual field.
This is as far as I have been able to bring matters concerning Albert Schippel, to date.
I would just add that I’ve been much helped by Blue Earth County Historical Society-staff and archives; and, notably, by Mr Ron Affolter of this place; and, Virginia-based Schippel-researcher and geneaologist, Katharine R Dokken.
Now there remain a number of 1920’s Schippel “possibles” to be verified, in Mankato; and, the whole goal of my researches is to produce a documentary film of Albert Schippel’s legacy to us. It is all part of the ongoing work to answer my small boy’s question of nearly fifty years ago:
WHO Was Albert Schippel?
THERE Remain years of records to be explored, of course, but Albert Schippel did one day die as must we all. His had been a successful life, the best life a member of the last full modern generation could live, perhaps:
He enjoyed professional and social success, and about his private life we may say that it remains largely, well, private! Privacy was a hallmark of the now-ended modern age says Historian John Lukacs, something we now barely remember in our “postmodern,” or credit-card, era. About the Schippel family, two daughters there were, one of whom at least tarried long at home, aspired to art, became indeed a singer of light opera.
My great-aunts (Alma, as well as Leona, Magly) told jealousy-stories against their city cousin and spoke darkly of people at parties “chain-smoking,” and of “social drinking;” and, of an elopement with a minor German “count” (or “dook” sometimes). Perhaps the father and his beloved daughter had quarreled over her more artistic ambitions…or maybe not:
We shall never know, and it’s none of our affair.
In the end in December 1934 Albert Schippel went away to Dallas for the winter—a very early “winter Texan!” Mercifully the trains were wonderful then, and frequent, and motorized “homes” were not yet invented to fray the nerves in everybody’s way….
Albert Schippel, who of course did not design “half of the buildings in Mankato,” died in Dallas in his seventy-third year, on 22 January 1935.
[Emmett R Smith ALL rights reserved 4 June 2003]