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Frank Delos Wolfe, Architect

Palo Alto and Stanford Works by Frank Delos Wolfe

Frank Delos Wolfe

San Jose architect Frank Delos Wolfe (1862–1926) may have been the most prolific architect of his time. Both alone and with partners, he was responsible for as many as 1,000 works during an architectural career that lasted almost 35 years. Eight of these works are today on the National Register of Historic Places.

Frank Wolfe was a self–taught architect with a natural sense of design and an eagerness to try new ideas. His work can be roughly divided into three styles: the unique Neoclassical look of the Wolfe & McKenzie years (1899–1910), the Prairie–influenced architecture during the Wolfe & Wolfe years with his son Carl (1912–1916), and the Spanish Revival style of his partnership with William Higgins (1918–1926). He also worked successfully in many other genres, producing outstanding examples of Craftsman, Mission Revival, and various other revival styles throughout his career.

Frank Wolfe and Charles S. McKenzie can be said to have been the architects most responsible for the look and character of San Jose at the turn of the 20th century. Their successful partnership produced banks, hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings, but they were best known for their residential designs with signature features such as cantilevered corner windows and balconies. They designed many of the houses in what are today San Jose’s historic neighborhoods as well as neighboring communities in northern California. Several are in Palo Alto, including the Peck Wilson house at 860 University Avenue.

555 Lytton  555 Lytton Avenue  711 Cowper  711 Cowper Street

In 1912, inspired by Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Wolfe began working in the Prairie style. The houses he produced were unlike anything else seen in the area at the time, and received much national attention as well. Solid, square buildings with flat roofs and deep overhanging eaves, stained glass windows, and ornate decoration, these homes seized the attention of people who wanted something unusual, and became the signature style of Frank Delos Wolfe over the next several years. Today, these houses, most of which still exist in San Jose, make San Jose a western center for Prairie architecture.

During the last eight years of his career, Wolfe was best known for his Spanish Revival houses, with partner William Higgins.

Krista Van Laan, author of Frank Delos Wolfe: California Prairie Architecture

Reprinted from the 2015 PAST Member Appreciation Event.

Palo Alto / Stanford Residences

711 Cowper, 1893 711 Cowper
555 Lytton, 1896 555 lytton taken by Krista Van Laan
1052 Bryant, 1900  
411 Lytton, 1901

422 Lytton
860 University, 1906
860 University
1037 Greenwood, 1908

475 Melville, 1911 475 Melville 
831 University, 1911 — demolished 831 University
624 Mayfield, Stanford, 1921/1923

Wolfe & Higgins
2012 photo 
675 Alvarado Row, Stanford, 1925 675 alvarado Row
625 Hale, 1925 621 Hale 

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