We have been doing some research on Emil Tessin [1931 – 1983], he lived a relatively short life, dying, not long after his wife who also lived a short life, at the age of 52. We are trying to find out some more details on his background and life story. Where did he come from? Where did he go? We are curious to learn more about this man and what became of him and his career. This is a timeline of what we have been able to find out so far from online research, and from some stories that have been so generously shared with us by relatives:

Family History [shared by a Nephew – Michael Tessin]

Emil’s grandfather was a farmer, John C. Tessin, who was born in the US, the child of German immigrants.  John came to Michigan as a farmer, bought land, cleared it, and farmed it for many years in Richland township in central Michigan [a rural area near the small town of Hemlock, MI].  John’s first wife died of illness after seven years, and then he remarried.  John’s second wife was Augusta Wolfgram Tessin, and they celebrated fifty years together toward the end of their lives.  Augusta was Emil Sr.’s mother.

Emil’s father was also Emil, and he grew up on the family farm, the sixth of seven children, and was the first child in his family to go to college. He had one younger brother who also went onto college.  Emil Sr. attended the University of Michigan from 1910 to 1914.  He then was drafted and served in World War I as an officer, in a peculiar force known as the ‘Polar Bear Expedition’, who were American troops that were sent to fight against the Bolsheviks in Russia. After returning home, Emil Sr. attended law school, became a lawyer, and then practiced law privately for a bit, before becoming a bank lawyer in the estates and trusts division of a bank in Saginaw, MI. He was also elected to a judgeship in the city, and was usually addressed as “judge” or “your honor” by associates in his later years, even after he left the bench.  He lived out his adult life in the city of Saginaw, MI.

Emil Sr. married Mary Quinn in the 1920s, a graduate of St. Olaf’s College, who was the younger sister of two young men Emil Sr. had become friends with at University of Michigan [UofM].  The three men, Emil Tessin, Cyril Quinn and Clement Quinn, were even teammates on the UofM football team between 1912 and 1914.  There was some controversy over the marriage, since Emil Tessin came from a family of German Lutherans, and Mary Quinn was an Irish Catholic, but all the children were raised in the Catholic faith.  Emil Jr. (II) attended Catholic school from 1st grade until high school graduation, as did his siblings, graduating from St. Andrew’s High School in Saginaw.

Michael’s Mother told him that the Tessin children from that generation knew and spent a large amount of time with their Quinn relatives, but because of religious and ethnic prejudices of the day, didn’t spend as much time with their Tessin relatives.

Emil Sr. and his wife Mary Quinn had seven children, but three of them died in infancy, Mary followed an old Anglo-Irish tradition and reused the names of children who did not survive, so Emil’s eldest brother was Maurice Quinn Tessin, born 1925, but he passed away the same day as his birth, being born early at only seven months.  A girl was born, Mary Emily Tessin, in 1926, but had a similar fate.  Mary Quinn was put on full bed rest during her third pregnancy, and then went full term and delivered a healthy boy, my father, Maurice Quinn Tessin (second of that name), in 1927.  A second Mary Emily Tessin was born in 1929, and Emil A Tessin Jr (II)  was born in 1931.  Thomas Tessin was born in 1935, and a last child, Michael Douglas Tessin, unfortunately was born prematurely and did not survive in 1938.

Emil Tessin [II] grew up an accomplished athlete and played basketball and tennis in his high school years.  Maurice was close to Emil, and had some of his medals in a drawer after Emil passed away.

Micheal Tessin mentioned: “Emil was a fan of modernist furniture, and much of it found its way into my parent’s home after Emil died in the 80’s.  It was placed all over the house, steel framed chairs with yellow leather padded seats and backs, white oval tables with a single central pillar, and square end tables with wooden drawers and solid white square tops. Whenever we would see such things featured prominently in tv or film, as they were in the sci-fi Men in Black movies, we would always say, ‘Oh, that’s like Uncle Emil’s furniture’…. He and my father were quite close, and my father received a lot of his stuff when he died.”

Emil Tessin
Emil Tessin, architect and designer, of a mid-century modern home he designed that is under construction. Photograph by Phillip Harrington, for Look Magazine.

Early Years

  • July 21th 1931: Born in Saginaw, Saginaw County, Michigan, USA. He was the fifth child of Emil Albert Tessin (1891 – 1956) and Mary Lucille Quinn Tessin (1896 – 1958). He was one of seven children [3 died at birth or shortly thereafter]. He had a brother Maurice Quinn Tessin, and older sister Mary Emily Tessin, and a younger brother Thomas Tessin.
  • June 12th 1953: Graduated from MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], he received the Bachelor of Science in Building Engineering and Construction. [Verified by MIT Office of the Registrar].


  • July 25th 1953: Married to Florence Louise Crowther of Jamaica Estates [note in the Newspaper article from The Troy Record (Troy, New York) · Tue, Jul 28, 1953 it states that Emil was Lt. Emil Tessin II, Air Force Reserve].
Tessin men
Michael Tessin: “Here is a photo we keep on our fridge, of my dad and the family.  It is from Emil’s wedding day: my father Maurice was his best man.  These were the men of the Tessin family.  On the left is his dad, Emil Sr., and then Tom, his younger brother, then Emil, then Maurice.  Emil and Maurice were both exactly six feet tall, as was their father, but Tom was 6′ 4″.  My mother said Emil and Maurice looked so much alike in their twenties people sometimes thought they were not just brothers but twins.”

Michael, Emil’s nephew mentioned he only got to meet Emil a few times in his life, but his parents spoke often about him. He shared: Emil was very much in love with his wife Florence, whom everyone called “Taffy” due to her bright red hair (I didn’t understand that reference, apparently something to do with saltwater taffy candy).  They didn’t have any children, and after she died, Emil began drinking heavily, and my parents believed that contributed to his death in 1983.  His older sister Mary Emily had passed away in 1981 due to breast cancer.  And, sadly, his youngest brother Tom would die from complications due to alcoholism only two years later, in 1985.  My father, Maurice Tessin, lived on and passed away in 2006. My mother said Emil got his charisma and personable nature from his Irish mother.  Stories were told in my home about how grandma Tessin took 45 minutes to cross a room when leaving, because she had to stop and talk to everyone along the way.  My parents would talk about Emil being the outgoing one among his siblings, the charmer, who would talk and entertain groups at any social function.  He was handsome and popular, according to them, throughout his teens and adult life.

We do not have any photos of ‘Taffy’ other than this one that we found in a news article.

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  • 1957: Believe that Emil Tessin started work for Alside. As stated in House + Home Magazine Feb 1964 he departs after 6 years working with Engineers and Designers to create 22 homes.
  • 1960: Designs and builds Alside Headquarters in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
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Jerome Kaufman & Emil Tessin at the opening of Alside Inc. Headquarters.
  • December 6th 1961: Patent filed with the Serial No. 67,814 for a ‘MODULAR HOUSE’, submitted by – Emil A. Tessin H, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, as an assignor to Alside Homes Corporation, a corporation of Ohio.
  • September 11th 1962: Patent granted for a ‘MODULAR HOUSE’ with a term of 14 years.
  • December 1963: Departs Alside Homes Corporation.
  • October 1964: Sues Alside contending that as they no longer manufacture homes that he be allowed to work for other companies.

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Later Years

  • 1966: We found an article that stated Emil had won a vacation to Puerto Rico as a winner of a sales inventive trip for top home sales for a company called Ryan Homes, Akron OH division. His title and tenor with the company was not mentioned.
  • August 1967: Employed by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Coral Springs FL. Emil was employed to develop a ‘Patio Package’. A “total electric outdoor living .. combines spaces heating, lighting, cooking facilities, and extra daylight.”
  • 1968: At some point between Westinghouse & William Lyons Home Inc. Emil was noted at working as Vice President of Production for Donald L. Bren Co. of Sherman Oaks, CA.
  • October 1968: Executive Vice President William Lyons Home Inc. Newport Beach, CA.  [it is unknown how long he was at this position – based on one newspaper article].
  • July 1970: President of S&S Construction, and undertook a project for an ‘Active Adults’ community with Parkewood-Los Alamitos [it is unknown how long he was at this position – based on one newspaper article].
  • July 1972: President of Diversified Communities, Inc. [DCI], a subsidiary of Newport Beach, California – headquartered Diversified Communities. A general partnership between Azimuth Equities [privately held real estate development firm] and Fleetwood Enterprises [publicly held company traded on NYSE][it is unknown how long he was at this position – based on one newspaper article].
  • January 1974: Officer with Colony Group Development Corporation in California. This company is now dissolved, and it was listed as having 1 member.


  • January 12th, 1983: Died in Newport Beach, Orange County, California, USA. Buried in St. Andrews Cemetery in Saginaw, Michigan.
  • July 1983: Sale Carson Harbor Village, a 409 space mobile park home for $8 million. It was only 5 years old and sold by: Emil Tessin Estate; Walker Smith & Dick Bradley to James Goldstein and Carlsberg Financial Corp.

Emil Tessin, architect and designer, at a mid-century modern he designed that is under construction. Photograph by Phillip Harrington, for Look Magazine.

Emil tessin, at a house he designed. The date is unknown. Photograph by Phillip Harrington, for Look Magazine.

Check back from time-to-time as we will be updating the timeline with information as we find out more details.