Albert August Zahn (1864 - 1953)

Birth date: 1864 Death date: 1953  
Birth location: Natzelfitz, Germany Death location:  
Media: Folk & Outsider Art , Sculpture , Woodcarving Web site:
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Albert Zahn
Born 1864 in Natelfitz, Germany
Died in 1953

The son of German immigrants, Albert Zahn was just fifteen when his family sailed from Pomerania to Maryland in 1879. They continued west to begin their new life in the southern Door County town of Forestville, Wisconsin. There they were in the company of many other northern Europeans who were comfortable in the climate and rural surroundings similar to their homeland.  A lover of nature and wildlife, Albert spent most of his time in the outdoors, farming on 160 acres of land that he purchased near Baileys Harbor. With the help of his wife, Louise, he built their home and barns and established a dairy farm. They worked the land together in the years that followed, and the family grew to include nine children.

As a youth, Zahn had enjoyed carving and working with wood. In the forest surrounding their home, cedar, pine and walnut trees were plentiful so he had the material to pursue that interest. He created furniture adorned with carvings of animals and birds and fashioned decorative objects for the interior and exterior of the home.

At the age of 64, Albert was ready to retire and deed the farm to his oldest son. He purchased land in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, and the family began to build a new home. Using a special mold, they mixed concrete from crushed limestone and cedar scraps to form homemade blocks to use in the construction. In one summer season the small flat roofed home was completed, and Albert then had time to return to creating his hand carved sculpture.

A self taught artist, he possessed a devoted reverence for the birds, creatures and woods around his home. His expressive carvings were a result of many hours of careful observation. Eventually carved weathervanes, figures and tree forms adorned the roof, porches and front yard of the house. He named it “The Bird House” and it became a Door County attraction. His wife Louise helped with the project by adding brightly painted accents to the works.

When Louise died in 1950, Zahn lost his motivation, and he moved away to live with a son. Today the house has a new owner and has been restored; it still stands facing the lakeshore in Baileys Harbor.

(Biography contributed by Anne-Lee Geiger.)

Wisconsin Affiliations

No affiliations were found.

Wisconsin Art Organizations

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