Rudolph F. Fischer Sr., 92, longtime architect, builder

April 11, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Rudolph F. Fischer Sr., a Baltimore architect and builder for more than 50 years, died Tuesday of a stroke at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. He was 92.

For most of his life, Mr. Fischer resided in Parkville in the house he built in 1932 for his bride, the former Marie L. Scheeler, who died in 1969. Two years ago, he moved in with his daughter in Fork.

Mr. Fischer started Rudolph F. Fischer Architect and Builder in 1932 and began building homes in Wiltondale, Stoneleigh and Parkville. In 1940, he became a partner of William J. O'Meara, a banker. Their work together hit a snag with the outbreak of World War II, when building supplies became scarce.

During the war, Mr. Fischer was a plant manager for Baltimore-based Owens Yacht Co., which built landing craft for the Navy. After the war, Mr. Fischer hopped on the housing boom and built homes on Deepwood Road and the Alameda.

In the early 1950s, he and Mr. O'Meara acquired the 40-acre Swansea Farm, which was the last working farm in Baltimore, and built 562 homes on the site.

Kathryn Towson lives in the Northeast Baltimore house that Mr. Fischer built for her in 1942.

"He had a real gift at making a house look as though it had grown out of the ground and that it really belonged there," said Mrs. Towson, a friend of Mr. Fischer. "He was one of the most honest men I've ever come across."

After moving the business to Glen Arm in 1956, he changed the company name to Homes By Fischer and began building custom homes. At his retirement in 1979, he estimated that he had built more than 700 homes. His son now operates the business.

"He taught me everything I know," said Rudolph F. Fischer Jr. of Glen Arm, who went to work for his father in 1965. "He used to say, `Do the job right and worry about getting paid later.' His other admonition was, `Do the job as if you were doing it for yourself.' "

The elder Mr. Fischer demanded that his workers emulate his working habits. The hallmark of a Fischer house, said his son, was "simple straight lines and good design."

Born and raised in a log house on Bird River Road in Middle River, Mr. Fischer attended school through the eighth grade. At 14, he went to work full time as a carpenter's apprentice.

He attended night school for 11 years and studied mathematics at the Polytechnic Institute. He also studied structural engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and completed a four-year course in architectural drafting at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

He designed and built a pair of cabin cruisers in the back yard of his home. One of them, the Shirley Lou, was a 25-foot vessel the Fischer family enjoyed from its launching in 1939 until 1979.

Mr. Fischer also enjoyed vegetable gardening and completing an extensive family genealogy.

He was a member of St. John's Lutheran Church, 8808 Harford Road in Parkville, where services were held yesterday.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his daughter, Shirley L. Snyder of Fork; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

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