The architectural firm of Carl Alfred Breitung (1868-?) and Theobald Buchinger (1866-1940), partners from only 1905 to 1907, provided Seattle with several buildings reflecting their German and Austrian heritage. Seattle’s German and Roman Catholic communities were their primary patrons.
Born in 1868 near Munich, Germany, Carl Breitung studied architecture in Munich and Rome. Theobald Buchinger was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1866, and studied at Vienna’s Polytechnic University. Their backgrounds set Breitung and Buchinger apart from their contemporary Seattle colleagues, most of whom were schooled on the East Coast or in England. At that time, many Seattle architects received no official education and learned the trade through apprenticeships.
In 1887, Buchinger traveled to the Puget Sound area, where he apprenticed in Seattle and Tacoma. Until 1904, the Austrian architect practiced as an assistant designer, as well as in partnership with established local architects. Among these were Willis A. Ritchie (1864-1931) and Paul Bergfeld.
With Bergfeld, Buchinger designed a number of small Seattle area buildings including a hotel and business blocks in Ballard. From 1903 to 1904, the team built a number of Germanic looking breweries for the Hemrich Brothers. These were simple masonry structures with castle-like roofs (known as crenellation).
Carl Breitung moved to the East Coast from Europe in the 1880s, worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and by 1900 had set up an architectural practice in Seattle. Like Buchinger, Breitung’s early Seattle commissions included a brewing house. His Capital Brewing and Malting Company Building (now the Jackson Building on 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle) still maintains its elaborate, so-called “German Renaissance” stuccoed saloon.
Once Breitung and Buchinger became partners in 1905, the pair received numerous large commissions from the local Roman Catholic Archdiocese. These included:
- The House of the Good Shepherd (1906-1907, now the Good Shepherd Center in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle)
- The Academy of the Holy Names (1906-1908) on First Hill at 728 21st Avenue E
- Saint Joseph Church (1906-1907), destroyed
- Saint Alphonsus School in Ballard (1906-1907)
The firm also designed a building for the local German gymnastics club (1905-1906; destroyed) and a school building for Ellensburg’s Lourdes Academy (1907-1908; destroyed).
One of their most impressive works for the Catholic Church, the Academy of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (728 21st Avenue E) is one of Seattle’s few examples of the Baroque Revival style. The style and layout of the building points to its Catholic function; Catholic Rome blossomed in the Baroque period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the style was often revived for its papal associations.
Baroque architecture grew from the Renaissance, and shares many of the classical elements of that period. The Academy’s high dome, with its light-colored ribs, is a common element of Baroque Revival buildings. Other Baroque characteristics include the building’s massiveness, opulence, and its relatively symmetrical format (two wings flanking a central impressive entrance). Baroque buildings often have dramatic curving lines and surfaces.
Although the Baroque style is linked to Catholic Rome, parts of Catholic Europe embraced the style with regional variations. Some of the most spectacular examples of Baroque architecture appeared in seventeenth and eighteenth century Germany and Austria. Breitung and Buchinger certainly brought this awareness to the Academy of Holy Names design.
In 1907, after their parade of works for the German and Catholic communities, the firm suddenly received no new, large-scale commissions. In May of that year, after only two years of their successful partnership, Breitung and Buchinger parted ways. The reasons for this are unknown.
After their curious separation, Buchinger worked independently and Breitung finished the firm's commissions in his name.
Until 1922, Breitung maintained a Seattle practice. His only notable commission was the Odd Fellows Temple (1908-1910) located at 915 E Pine Street. He also designed the Triangle Hotel (1909-1910), still standing on 1st Avenue S in downtown Seattle. The architect left Seattle in 1922, and most likely relocated in San Antonio, Texas.
Buchinger continued working in Seattle, alone or in partnerships, designing small houses and commercial buildings, occasionally remodeling existing structures. From 1924 to 1929, he worked with Louis Leonard Mendel (1867-1940). His most substantial work postdating his partnership with Breitung was the Saint Mary Catholic Church (1911-1912), located at 611 20th Avenue S.
Working alone, neither Breitung nor Buchinger received commissions matching the scale or importance of their partnership.