Ralph Gerganoff

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Ralph Stephens Gerganoff (19 January 1887 - 25 November 1966), born Rashko Stoyan Gerganoff, also frequently referred to as R.S. Gerganoff was an American architect.

Gerganoff was born in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria on 19 January 1887[1] and emigrated to the United States via Boston, Massachusetts on 14 Oct 1905.[2] He graduated from high school at Fredonia State Normal College, Fredonia, New York in 1913 and moved to Michigan shortly thereafter where he studied architecture at the University of Michigan, one of nine architecture graduates in 1917.[3] His classmate Robert B. Frantz (1894 in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania – 1971 in Saginaw, Michigan), who began his career with a similar design aesthetic, formed the firm of Frantz and Spence with James A. Spence Sr. (1899 in Saginaw, Michigan – 1970 in Higgins Lake, Michigan) which prospered in Saginaw from 1925 through 1960,.[4] Classmate Lynn W. Fry (1894–1976) formed the Ann Arbor firm of Fry and Kasurin, and produced some of the University of Michigan architectural drawings held in the collection of the Bentley Historical Library.,[5] and a number of notable structures such as the Women's Athletic Building[6] and the First National Bank Building. Classmate Chester G. Henninger designed the 1930 Boca Raton Depot in Florida.[7]


Gerganoff worked for several years in Detroit, became a naturalized U.S. citizen on 22 January 1920,[8] then in 1927 opened an office in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In time he was to erect many buildings in Ypsilanti, and nearby Ann Arbor.

From the late 1920s through the 1950s, Gerganoff was to become the unofficial architect of the city of Ypsilanti and its surrounding townships, designing virtually all the public schools, firestations, the hospital, and other public buildings, as well as Cleary College, the Washtenaw Country Club, numerous churches, business, factories, union halls, and the Salvation Army headquarters in Ypsilanti. He also designed many private dwellings, ranging from small Cape Cod cottages to large Eclectic and Tudor styled mansions, and apartment buildings.

Alexander Hall

For the Michigan State Normal College (later Eastern Michigan University) located in Ypsilanti, he designed the President's Home, at least six resident halls, the Frederick Alexander Music Building, the 1938 football stadium, laboratory and greenhouse, the Administration Building, the Rackham School for Handicapped Children as well as a Service and a Shop building. Some of these structures have since been razed.

He was responsible for designing around two dozen service stations in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas, after heavy use many of them have been demolished and replaced.

In Ann Arbor he designed several landmark buildings including the Wolverine Building, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Kingsley Apartments.[9]

Early in his career Gerganoff developed what could be termed a Low Style Art Deco vocabulary. He frequently employs the stepped pyramid shape of Art Deco as well as the rounded corners of the Moderne. He continued designing in the manner well into the 1950s. Following the end of World War II Gerganoff managed to bring his two nephews Steven and Zach Gerganoff to America from Bulgaria and see them trained as architects. Both were to become part of his architectural practice and probably were responsible for his International Style designs of the 1950s and 60s.

At times Gerganoff employed Detroit architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci to create sculpture for his buildings.

R.S. Gerganoff suffered a heart attack while working in the same office that he had worked in since 1927, and died two hours later, on November 25, 1966. He is buried in Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti.

Selected commissions[edit]

  • Huron Hotel Washington & Pearl streets Ypsilanti, c. 1924
  • Wolverine Building, Washington & Forth streets Ann Arbor, c. 1926
  • Materials Unlimited, East Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, 1926
  • Washington Apartments Washington Street & Washtenaw Avenue Ypsilanti, c.1928
  • Kingsley Apartments, East Kingsley Street, Ann Arbor, 1929 [10]
  • St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 414 N Main Street, Ann Arbor, 1935 (abandoned by 2011)
  • Rawsonville Elementary School, Rawsonville, Michigan, c.1938
  • Salvation Army Citadel, East Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, c. 1940
  • Davis Motors, E. Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, c. 1940
  • Beyer Hospital, Ypsilanti, 1942
  • Kiddie Korner, South Main and Madison, Ann Arbor, c. 1947
  • George School, Ypsilanti, c.1950
  • Ypsilanti Township Center, Ecorse Road, Ypsilanti Township, c. 1950
  • Washtenaw County Court House, Huron and Main streets, Ann Arbor, 1954
  • Gillespie Service Station and Sporting Goods Store, West Michigan Avenue and Carpenter Road, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan c. 1955, (destroyed)
  • St. Clement Ohridski Macedonian-Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Dearborn, Michigan, c. 1966
  • Residence Halls, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti
Gerganoff designed his first residence quadrangle at Michigan State Normal School (now EMU) in 1939 as part of a WPA funded project. The school was later to reuse his designs for additional buildings, thus considerably reducing his commission for them.
King Hall, 1939
Goodison Hall, 1939
Munson Hall, 1940
Jones Hall, 1948
Brown Hall, 1949
Goddard Hall, 1955 [11]
  • Other EMU buildings [12]
Football stadium, 1938 (destroyed)
Pierce Hall, EMU, Ypsilanti, Michigan 1954
Alexander Music Hall, EMU, Ypsilanti,1939 (destroyed)
Rackham School of Special Education, EMU, Ypsilanti, 1938
Hover Laboratory EMU, Ypsilanti, 1941 and Greenhouse in 1942
University President's House, Forest Avenue, 1949


  1. ^ The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Michigan, 04/27/1942 - 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 623283; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147
  2. ^ National Archives at Chicago; Chicago, Illinois; ARC Title: Declarations of Intention, 1856 - 1989; NAI Number: 1137682; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21
  3. ^ Michiganensian Yearbook photographs of the 1917 graduating seniors (Ancestry.com paid subscription site)
  4. ^ Frantz & Spence
  5. ^ University of Michigan Architectural Drawings 1838-1979
  6. ^ University of Michigan Women's Athletic Building (1923 – ca. 1975)
  7. ^ National Park Service: FEC Train Station
  8. ^ National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Detroit, 1907-1995; Microfilm Serial: M1917; Microfilm Roll: 92
  9. ^ Photograph of the Kingsley Apartments
  10. ^ Reade & Wineberg, ‘’Historic Buildings; Ann Arbor, Michigan’’, Ann Arbor Historical Foundation and the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission, Ann Arbor, MI 1992, P. 84
  11. ^ Eastern Michigan University, ‘’Vital statistics Regarding Campus Buildings’’ August 24, 1964, document in EMU Archives.
  12. ^ Eastern Michigan University, ‘’Vital statistics Regarding Campus Buildings’’ August 24, 1964, document in EMU Archives.