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Dr. James Frederic Clarke House

1915 Prairie Style in Fairfield, Iowa

1915-16 Clarke House by Barry Byrne - Fairfield, IABased on the working drawings of the architect, Francis Barry Byrne (1888-1967), the Clarke House was built between 1915 and 1916 in Fairfield, Iowa. Byrne had been trained in Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park office, but this house goes beyond the Wright influence and carries Byrne's signature style.

In late 1913, Byrne took over the practice of Walter Burley Griffin, with whom he had worked in Wright's office, when Griffin went to Australia. He spent time in Seattle before returning to the Midwest to execute this commission.

Bold, geometric shapes and sharp edges allow a distinct profile. Original art glass and trim plus the striking use of color departs from the earth tones preferred by Wright.

The departure in color is Alfonso Ianelli's influence ... he favored bright primaries. Lighting and color schemes in the house were done by Ianelli, who had also worked with Wright as a sculptor.

The windows echo Wright but contain only a few small squares of color to "enliven the lineal pattern" (Shank, 1972). Simple door and window detail and panels created by extending trim between windows are Byrne's Prairie interpretation.

About the owners

Dr. Clarke was a physician of note for many years residing in Fairfield. The story of the home's origin has it that Mrs. Clarke wanted a Colonial Revival style home, but Dr. Clarke convinced her that it would be more affordable to go with this new design. The house, which sits on a corner lot close to Fairfield's tiny but active town square, is one of the most interesting buildings in the county.

The original lot was sold by Charles A. Clarke, Mary Sampson, Helen Vote, and Charles W. Clarke, and Ruth H. Clarke to J. Fred Clarke of Jefferson County in Oct 1915 for $3000, a not inconsiderable sum at that time. The sellers were the children of Emma W. Clarke who died intestate July 1915.

J. Fred sold the property for $1 (and love and affection) to his wife, Malinda Clarke, in Oct. 1924. The property remained in Malinda's name until her death in 1946 when the property (then valued at $15,000) was willed to Amy Beers of Muskegon, Michigan.

In 1948, a warranty deed was recorded by Ms. Beers in Jefferson County as selling the property for $1+ to Louise Martin Hunt. Ms. Hunt remained the owner of the house until she and her husband, Walter, sold the house to Grace Barwise in 1963 again for $1.

SOURCE: Studies of Historic Iowa Architecture. "The James Frederic Clarke House" Wesley Shank, Project Director. July 1972. Engineering Research Institute, Iowa State University at Ames.

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