Architect, engineer and inventor, Emile G. Perrot was born in Philadelphia, the son of Emile Raphael and Gabrielle Perrot. After graduating from the Philadelphia public schools, Perrot entered architectural drawing classes at Spring Garden Institute for the year ending June, 1889, when he received third prize in the annual architectural drawing competition. By 1889 Perrot had also enrolled in the Franklin Institute's night classes in drawing, and he received his certificate from that course as well as a Certificate of Proficiency in Architecture with special commendation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1895. (This was later augmented by a B.S. in Architecture for 1897, awarded in 1922.) Perrot also began the mechanical course offered by the International Correspondence School based in Scranton, PA, but did not complete that class.
At the same time that Perrot was enrolled in these academic pursuits, he worked in several architectural offices in an effort to complete his apprenticeship. This began with five months spent in the office of George Plowman in 1888, followed by two years with contractor Charles C. Haines, and two years with Catholic church architect E. F. Durang. When he left Durang's office, he entered the firm of Hales & Ballinger, architects and engineers, where he rose to the position of chief designer. When Hales retired from the office in 1901, Perrot joined Walter Ballinger in the partnership; and the name was changed to Ballinger & Perrot.
Throughout his career with the Ballinger firm, Perrot was interested in the applications of reinforced concrete to the uses of industrial buildings and the use of a concrete frame and stucco system for wall construction in residences. He invented the unit girder system for reinforced concrete which was used in several of the Victor Talking Machine Co. buildings in Camden, NJ; and his 1911 visit to England to study industrial villages bore fruit in Ballinger & Perrot's workers' village development in Marcus Hook, PA, for the American Viscose Co. and in Union Park Gardens, Wilmington, DE, for the World War I Emergency Fleet Housing Corporation.
In 1920, however, Perrot left the Ballinger firm and launched an independent practice which he maintained until his death in 1954. He based much of his later work on Catholic university projects, such as those at Immaculata College and Fordham University, and in 1921 his interest in ecclesiastical building was underscored by The Groundwork of Architecture, in which he intended to publish "an Architectural A.B.C. of Church Building." Within this monograph Perrot's statements regarding architectural design, include "Architecture is the incarnation in stone of the thought and life of the civilization it represents." Had this sentiment been produced 10 years later it might have served as the rallying cry for conservative American architects attempting to hold out against the International Style, but in 1921 it expressed the hope of most architects who based their designs on traditional styles.
Perrot had become a member of the T-Square Club in 1897, but his membership in the AIA and its local chapter became somewhat problematic. From 1905 to 1907 the Minute Books of the Philadelphia Chapter, AIA, report difficulties with Ballinger & Perrot, Stearns & Castor, and Schermerhorn & Reinhold over the issue of the right to advertise. In each case the initial problem concerned the publication of a book based on the firm's designs; and while the other two firms meekly complied with Chapter instruction and withdrew the circulation of their books, Ballinger & Perrot refused. In 1907 Perrot was called to task after an advertisement appeared in the Public Ledger newspaper. At that time Perrot agreed to give up advertising in newspapers, but again refused to withdraw the circulation of the Ballinger & Perrot books as long as the supply lasted. Exactly which book occasioned this flurry of ethical discussion with the Chapter has not been determined. However, since Ballinger & Perrot published a number of books focusing on particular areas of their practice, one of these publications must have aroused ethical warnings from the Chapter. By 1913 Perrot had resigned from the national AIA, but in 1925 he reapplied and was again admitted to membership.
In addition to professional memberships, Perrot maintained a number of connections with organizations having a greater interest in technology, such as the Engineers Club, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Concrete Institution, and the Illuminating Engineers Society, to name only a few. While with the firm of Ballinger & Perrot, Perrot participated in the Symposium on War Housing held in Philadelphia in 1918 under the auspices of the National Housing Association.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Engineers Club
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- Architectural League of New York
- T-Square Club
- Franklin Institute
- American Concrete Institution
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- Illuminating Engineers Society
- University of Pennsylvania
- Spring Garden Institute
- Franklin Institute Drawing School
- International Correspondence School
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