Jacob J. (Jack) Liebenberg was born in Milwaukee to German-Jewish parents in 1893. He attended the University of Minnesota and was part of the first graduating class in the School of Architecture (1916). After receiving a McKim fellowship, he then studied at Harvard University where he was awarded the Prix de Rome, a scholarship for promising architectural students. After service in the Air Force, Liebenberg returned to Minnesota and taught at the University for a year before forming an architectural partnership with a student, Seeman Kaplan. Kaplan, who later became Liebenberg’s brother-in-law, focused on the business aspects and engineering details while Liebenberg was in charge of design.
The architecture firm of Libenberg and Kaplan maintained a full general practice, designing a variety of homes, hospitals, commercial and industrial buildings, churches, and synagogues, but it was their designs for theaters that gave them wide acclaim. During their careers, they designed over 200 theaters throughout the Midwest. In the Twin Cities alone, Liebenberg and Kaplan were responsible for the Granada (Suburban World, 1927-28), the Wayzata (1932), the Edina (1934), the Hollywood (1935), the Uptown (1937), the Varsity (1938), and others no longer standing. Other noteworthy commissions include Adath Jeshurun Synagogue (1927) and Beth El Synagogue (1926, razed 1995).
Over their long careers, Liebenberg and Kaplan designed within a somewhat transitional architectural period. Their theaters were a showcase of a combination of eclectic elements of the 1920s and the newer Streamlined and Zigzag Deco motifs of the 1930s.