Frank Delos Wolfe: California Prairie Architecture

by Krista Van Laan

Although influenced by Midwestern Prairie architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Trost, Frank Delos Wolfe was not just a copycat. He combined the architectural style of the Midwestern Prairie School and the California bungalow, applying his own secret sauce of great design and timeless comfort. His Prairie-era buildings were something unique to Northern California—beautiful and strikingly modern buildings that suited the California lifestyle and appealed to those who wanted something decidedly different.

People love these houses today just as much as, if not more than, they did then. The 2012 Wolfe & Wolfe Prairies homes tour in San Jose had such an overwhelming response that tickets were sold out nearly a week before the tour.

During his time, Wolfe was heavily featured in national trade magazines such as The Western Architect, more so, even, than Frank Lloyd Wright. He was highly respected by his peers and his clients. But as time passed, the residents of the cities Wolfe helped to shape forgot the names of the architects who were responsible for their great buildings. It wasn't until the 21st century that we re-learned the name of Frank Delos Wolfe and began to discover just how much work he did and how innovative he was.

Frank Delos Wolfe: California Prairie Architecture is a comprehensive look at the Prairie-influenced work of Frank Delos Wolfe from 1912-1922, with nearly 250 photographs that show the range of this work. Along with biographical and historical background about Wolfe and the environment in which he flourished, the book features 40 of the best of Wolfe's still-standing "California Prairie" houses and apartment buildings, many with interior pictures. The people who commissioned and lived in these very special houses were special themselves, and the book tells their fascinating stories. Set against the backdrop of Santa Clara Valley during a period of economic and architectural growth, Frank Delos Wolfe: California Prairie Architecture provides new information about Wolfe’s “California Prairies” and establishes his place among American architects.

Published by Archives & Architecture
$39.95 soft cover, partial color. 8.75 in. x 10.5 in; 222 pages