Throughout its history, Richland County has produced or been the home to a wide variety of individuals that have made important contributions to the world. We profile these individuals in our Richland Roots series.
Not exactly a household name in 21st century Richland County, Friedrich Schnitzer was much better known 125 years ago.
Schnitzer, son of and father of two other men with the same name, was born in Bavaria and emigrated to America with his parents in 1859, depending on the source. His European home sat on 200 acres, and it was said that the family descended from minor nobility.
Before leaving Bavaria, he was trained in architecture at the University of Berlin.
After living in Delaware, Ohio, Schnitzer came to Mansfield to establish an architecture and construction business. Three monumental buildings in which he was involved are well-known; one in Delaware, which is no longer standing; and two in Mansfield, both of which survive.
In Delaware, Schnitzer drew up plans for the magnificent Delaware City Hall, a huge structure with a four story corner tower that occupied the current site of that city’s municipal building. The upper floor of Delaware City Hall was a large auditorium/opera house, seating well over 1,000 people. That building was lost to fire in 1934.
In Richland County, Schnitzer’s best-known roles was as a supervising architect that took original plans and transformed them into actual designs — one for the Ohio State Reformatory, and the other for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building on Park Avenue West.
His surviving family is in possession of sketches which Schnitzer used for OSR, in which he used his knowledge of Bavarian castles and his training in Berlin to enhance the work of lead architect Levi Scofield. It is said that “Schnitzer brought Scofield’s design to life.” As visitors and passers-by know well, the towers and stone massing of OSR create a very castle-like appearance.
Schnitzer’s name appears on the OSR cornerstone in his role as supervising architect of the institution, an office he continued to hold.
The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building was actually designed by Chicago architect Oscar Cobb, and again, Schnitzer served as supervising architect. More about that building can be found here in a previous post.
Schnitzer died in November 1910 at the age of 70, and is buried in the Mansfield Catholic Cemetery.
Sources: Wikipedia, Find-A-Grave, Waymarking.com, Delaware County Historical Society; Photo: PIxabay