Eclectic Chicago Architect
Francis Barry Byrne was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1883. Ultimately associated with the leading figures of the Prairie School, Byrne led an eventful life as a dedicated architect from coast to coast. During the latter phase of his career, he adapted his style beyond Prairie design principles and created many buildings for the Roman Catholic Church, including some in Europe.
Training with Frank Lloyd Wright
After his first encounter with Frank Lloyd Wright’s works at the Chicago Architectural Club in 1902, Byrne grew enchanted with Prairie School architecture and design. Later that year, he began his apprenticeship at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Despite having no previous experience in the field, Byrne assisted important members of the studio, including Walter Burley Griffin, in executing drawings for a number of iconic buildings such as the Avery Coonley House and Unity Temple. Within five years, Byrne was considered a working member of the studio rather than an apprentice.
Heading West for Professional Independence
In 1908, Byrne left Wright’s studio and moved to Seattle, Washington, forging a business partnership with Andrew Willatzen, one of Wright’s former employees. Together, they designed over 50 residential and commercial structures. Once the partnership came to an end in 1913, Byrne stayed briefly in California with Wright’s sons looking for work. In 1914, Byrne returned to Illinois to manage the Chicago architectural office of Walter Burley Griffin. This position lasted for three years until Byrne started operating under his own name.
From Prairie School to Roman Catholic Builder
After serving in World War I, Byrne returned to Chicago. In the 1920s, he developed a distinctive style, steering away from the Prairie School aesthetics of Wright. Byrne was also influenced by Annette Cremin, his artist wife whom he met through the sculptor Alfonso Iannelli; Byrne and Iannelli were frequent collaborators. During the height of Bryne’s career, he designed multiple ecclesiastical and educational buildings for the Roman Catholic Church. His most recognized works are the Church of Christ the King in Turners Cross, Cork, Ireland (1931), the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri (1949), and St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas (1951-1957).Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers