Architect: Thomas Berger Year Built: 1933 Architectural Style: French Revival
In an area of a neighborhood dominated by Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival homes, the French Revival style DeWolf Residence is a standout. The French Revival style occurred in a broader context of Period Revival styles in the early 20th century, though not as widely used as Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival. From about 1915 until about 1940, a romanticized, informal French style was based more on the French farmhouse than on the mansion as previous influences of the style had been expressed. In 601 W. Delaware, the red brick was painted white originally, so as to affect stucco. The slightly skintled bricks add texture to the walls. The asymmetrical form, varied wall and roof dormers, steel casement windows, and inverted flat arches, or French arches, are characteristics of the interpretation of the style on this house. The overall picturesque appearance is influenced by the extended footprint of the house which is “single pile,” or just one room deep.
The home was constructed in 1933 for Fanny Davis DeWolf and Frank Walbridge DeWolf, designed by their good friend, Thomas Berger of Berger - Kelley Associated Architects. Depression Era work was so slow, Berger was said to have personally supervised the construction of the house for the DeWolfs, actually sitting in the front yard to observe the construction.
The designs of Berger - Kelley show sophisticated use of popular styles of the early - mid 20th century. The August, 1940 edition of Architecture and Design, a New York-based magazine publication, was devoted to the work of F.E. Berger - R.L. Kelley Associated Architects, with the DeWolf House the only single family Urbana house which had been designed by the firm to be included. The firm’s other Urbana works shown in the publication included Spalding Hall at Cunningham Children’s Home (Georgian Revival), Delta Gamma Sorority (Colonial Revival), and Delmont Village Apartment Buildings (relatively unadorned Colonial Revival). Prominent local works by the firm include the Late Gothic Revival style McKinley Foundation and University Place Christian Church, the extraordinary Tudor Revival style Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity House, and the Art Deco original section of Christie Clinic, all in Champaign. The firm’s work extended at least throughout central Illinois through prolific designs for school buildings and other commercial buildings. Three other Berger – Kelley designs are on the block with the DeWolf Residence: next door at 605 (Colonial Revival), and across the street at 610 (Tudor Revival) and 704 (colonial Revival, random limestone) W. Delaware.
Irving L. Peterson was the Landscape Architect for the property, specifying 70 varieties of evergreens, trees, shrubs, and perennials. Peterson had “Studio and Display Grounds” at Neil and John streets in Champaign. His design for the DeWolf rear yard included a formal garden surrounding a reflecting pool on the east side, and a “lawn” and a “stone terrace” extending from the screened-in porch on the west side, which appear not to have been constructed.
Frank DeWolf was recognized as a pioneer in the development of modern industrial geology. Frank and Fanny were married on December 26, 1904 and began their married life in Washington, D.C. where Frank was a geologic aid and assistant geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey from 1904 - 1908. He came to the newly organized State Geological Survey in Urbana as assistant geologist in 1908. He was Director of the Survey from 1911 - 1923. From August, 1917 to February, 1918, DeWolf also served as assistant director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines. The DeWolfs relocated to Houston, Texas in 1923, when Frank became chief geologist of the Humphries Corporation. He was vice president and general manager of the Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, oil producers, from 1927 to 1931. The family returned to Urbana where Frank served as head of the university’s geology department from 1931 until his retirement in 1946.
The DeWolfs lived at 705 S. Busey while plans were being made for the new house at 601 W. Delaware. By the time the DeWolfs moved into the house, two of their four children were grown. Fanny’s mother, Fanny Dempsey, lived with the family for a while, and a second story bedroom with a balcony was purportedly her room. The DeWolfs’ retirement was filled with extensive travel, with the Courier newspaper featuring numerous stories of the couple’s travels to Guatemala, London, and the Far East. Following Frank’s death at the age of 76 in 1957, Fanny moved to a house on Vine Street until 1970, then relocated to Erie, Pennsylvania to be near her son, Frank. She died at the age of 96 in 1977.