Alumni Profile: Herman J. Jessor, BSE 1917
Herman J. Jessor graduated from the Cooper Union Night Engineering School in 1917. He immigrated to New York when he was 12 years old from Russia. He studied at Stuyvesant High School and at The Cooper Union. After his graduation from The Cooper Union, Herman Jessor worked for the architectural firm of Springsteen and Goldhammer, George W. Springsteen and Albert Goldhammer are also Cooper Union alumni. While working for Springsteen and Goldhammer, Herman Jessor worked on the United Workers Colony housing at 2846 – 2870 Bronx Park East. This which was built between 1926 and 1927 (United Worker Cooperative Colony Landmark Application, 1992).
Herman J. Jessor made his career in construction of large scale housing units. He helped build more than 40,000 units of cooperative housing in New York City. He designed many large-scale cooperative middle and lower income housing developments including Seward Park Houses, Hillman Houses on Grand Street, East River Houses on the Lower East Side of NYC, Penn-South complex from 23d to 29th Streets between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Manhattan, CO-OP City in The Bronx, Starrett City in Brooklyn and Rochdale Village in Queens (New York Times 4/10/1990.) Herman J. Jessor included the following design touches: Entrance foyers, eat-in kitchens with windows, and bedrooms with cross-ventilation. The cross ventilation was important to Herman, because he knew the working-class families who would occupy these units could not afford air-conditioning (New York Times 4/10/1990.)
In 2012, Michail Kimmilman, who writes for The New York Times Art and Design Critic’s Note Book, observed that Penn South is a cooperative that has stayed relevant in New York. He said,”It thrives within a dense, diverse neighborhood of the sort that makes New York special (NY Times Jan. 25, 2012).”
One Project that Herman Jessor began but was not able to finish is Starrett City. According to the New York Times, that development originally went under the name of Two Pines Village and was delayed by 10 years because one of the private developers pulled out of the deal because of financial difficulties. The United Housing Foundation also withdrew its support of Starrett City and put its resources behind Herman Jessor’s other project, Co-Op City in the Bronx (New York Times, 10-14-74).
Herman Jessor was awarded the CUAA Alumnus of the Year in 1972, Cooper Union Presidential Citation in 1976, The CUAA Augustus Saint Gauden’s Award in 1985, and was inducted into The Cooper Union Hall of Fame in 2009.
Hermon Jessor died in Manhattan on April 8, 1990.
Obituary in the New York Times: Herman Jessor, 95, New York Architect for NY CO-OP Buildings, April 10, 1990. Link
NY Times article from 1974 describing Dedication Ceremony for Starrett City: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E05E6D91E38E13ABC4851DFB466838E679EDE
NY Times article, Architects Score CO-OP City Design, Feb. 20 1965. Link
NY Times article, Society of Architects To Hold Dance, November 19, 1967. Link
United Worker Cooperative Colony Landmark Application, Designation list 245-LP-1795 , June 16,1992. Link
NY Times article, Towers of Dreams: One Ended in Nightmare, describing why Penn-South complex succeeded while Pruitt-Igoe complexes in St. Louis failed. JAN. 25, 2012. Link