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Jesse H. and Anna Mulvane Besser House

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1938–1939, Joseph C. Goddeyne. 232 1st Ave.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

This concrete-block house displays inside and out the versatility, durability, and beauty of the blocks made from equipment manufactured by its original occupant, Jesse H. Besser (1882–1970). One of Alpena's leading industrial pioneers, Besser established, along with his father, Herman Besser, the Besser Foundry and Machine Shop in 1904. The Bessers invented a machine for making concrete blocks from the cement produced from the area's rich limestone deposits and promoted the use of concrete masonry worldwide. Today the Besser Company claims it is the world's leading manufacturer of concrete products.

Besser selected Goddeyne, a Bay City architect, whose plans frequently called for concrete construction, to design his modern house. The rectangular-shaped house topped by a flat copper roof employed reinforced-concrete joists throughout. Bands of ribbon windows that wrap around the corners and add to the effect of volume, the unadorned walls of light pink, glazed, and ground concrete blocks made from Wisconsin aggregate, and the characteristic asymmetry echo the influence of architects Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. The most modern and efficient equipment was installed throughout the house.

Across the street is the concrete-block Thunder Bay Junior High School (Alpena High School, 1941), which added to the city's modern architecture.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Jesse H. and Anna Mulvane Besser House", [Alpena, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 462-463.

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