Benno Janssen studied at the University of Kansas, M.I.T., and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and received training in architectural offices in St. Louis and Boston before settling in Pittsburgh in 1905. In 1906, Janssen formed a partnership with Franklin Abbott and practiced under the name of Janssen & Abbott until 1918. Janssen then practiced alone until he formed a second partnership, known as Janssen & Cocken, with William York Cocken in 1922. When Janssen retired in 1939, Cocken continued his own practice but the spirit and clients of Janssen's legacy were passed on to Hoffman & Crumpton, partners who had previously worked in the Janssen offices.
Today, Janssen is best remembered for monumental buildings such as the Pittsburgh Athletic Association (1911), William Penn Hotel (1914-16 and 1927-1928) and Mellon Institute (1931-1937); and the Janssen firms were responsible for many other prominent Pittsburgh buildings as well. But Janssen's lasting significance probably lies in the area of domestic design. A selection of this work was the subject of an article by Montgomery Schuyler, the leading architectural critic of the day, in The Architectural Record of October 1912. Here, as elsewhere, Janssen's sources were many and eclectic, but he developed a warm and sophisticated domestic manner best represented at Longue Vue Country Club -- domestic in concept, if not purpose -- and La Tourelle, the Edgar Kaufmann house. (Janssen received a number of commissions as Kaufmann's architect-of-choice, a role in which he was predecessor to Frank Lloyd Wright.)
The Janssen Collection consists of more than 500 renderings, drawings, blueprints, photostats and photographs documenting more than sixty Janssen projects. These items document projects such as Longue Vue Country Club, Rolling Rock Club and Stables, La Tourelle, many other houses and hotels, and a number of major unbuilt projects. In addition, many items -- from elegant renderings to drawings of ornamental details to portfolios of construction photographs -- represent Mellon Institute, now part of Carnegie Mellon University. The collection also includes blueprints for additions and alterations to a couple of Janssen buildings by Hoffman and Crumpton.
Hewitt, Mark Alan. The Architect & the American Country House, 1890-1940. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
Miller, Donald. "Romancing the Stone: Benno Janssen, Architect of Elegance." Pennsylvania Heritage 26:4 (2000), 14-21.
Miller, Donald. The Architecture of Benno Janssen. Pittsburgh: Donald Miller, 1997.
Schuyler, Montgomery. "Country House Design in the Middle West: Recent Work by Janssen & Abbott of Pittsburgh, Pa." Architectural Record XXXII:IV (October 1912): 336-348.
Van Trump, James D. "Yet Once More O Ye Laurels." In Van Trump. Life and Architecture in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 1983. 111-118.