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Frederic Joseph DeLongchamps

Frederic Joseph DeLongchamps, Architect [1882-1969]

DeLongchamps [†] was born 2 June 1882 in Reno. (The original spelling of his last name was DeLonchant. He changed it to DeLongchamps in 1911.) His parents had come to Nevada from Quebec. His father was a builder and was engaged in the logging business near Markleeville, California. DeLongchamps attended the School of Mines at the University of Nevada and graduated in 1904 with a B.S. in mining engineering. In his course of study, he became a good draftsman and published pen and ink drawings in a student publication. After graduation, DeLongchamps worked in Inyo County, California "in charge of development on a mining property" [1]. He was subsequently advised to find easier work for his health and became a draftsman for the United States Surveyor in Reno.

In 1906, DeLongchamps went to San Francisco, apparently around the time of the earthquake and fire. According to Scrugham [1], "by employment as draftsman or in other capacities [he] was associated with several of the outstanding architects of the San Francisco Bay District. This was his apprenticeship, and when in April, 1907, he returned to Reno he established his office as an architect." Efforts to discover the "outstanding architects" with whom DeLongchamps trained have been fruitless following inquiries to the Nevada Board of Architecture, the California Division of Architecture, the American Institute of Architects (San Francisco and Nevada chapters and the national organization in Washington), and the San Francisco Architectural Club. From 1907 to 1909, DeLongchamps was in partnership with Ira W. Tesch, a colleague from the United States Surveyors office. Together they designed 30 buildings in those years. Throughout his career, DeLongchamps often worked in partnership or in association with others.

While DeLongchamps remained based in Reno, he also maintained offices at different times in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami. To practice in these places, he was licensed in California (#649: 31 March 1911), Nevada [2], and Florida. An incomplete picture of his practice includes an office in the Monadnock Building in San Francisco (where many other architects were based) in 1912; an office in the Underwood Building in San Francisco from 1924 to 1929; and a San Francisco office from 1945- 1960. Little San Francisco area work is known apart from competition entries for the San Francisco City Hall in 1912 and the State Building in San Francisco Civic Center in 1917 (he was one of eight finalists). He also designed the Nevada Building for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. He received a Silver Medal for the design from the Board of Consulting Architects for "having planned a structure that far surpasses those of many states" [3]. He also did a substantial amount of work in California but most of it was in the Sierras and around Lake Tahoe.

In southern California, he designed the Nevada Building for the California-Pacific International Exposition in San Diego (1916). Over a period of nearly twenty years he designed a school, two apartment buildings, a residence, and a factory in the Los Angeles area. In addition to these, DeLongchamps may have worked with the California State Architect on several state hospitals (Agnews, Norwalk, Sonoma, and Stockton), whose drawings appear in his files. His design for the Nevada State Hospital in 1920 is similar in composition and plan to the Men's and Women's Receiving Building at Agnew State Hospital in Santa Clara of 1908.

DeLongchamps' work prior to 1935 is typical in many respects of that of other talented, well-trained, and socially well-connected architects in the mainstream of his generation. The diversity of his work was no doubt increased by the fact that he was among the few professionally trained architects in the state. Like many others, his work shows the influence of the dominant centers of architectural education of the time, the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris; university schools of architecture like that of the University of California, run by architects who had trained at the Ecole; and training in classes or ateliers run by Ecole alumni in organizations such as the San Francisco Architectural Club. The Architectural Club provided training nights and weekends for young architects who worked in the daytime. If DeLongchamps had trained at the Architectural Club, he would have been exposed to the methods of the Ecole, he would have been prepared for taking the licensing exam, and he might later be able to say that he had worked with the outstanding architects of his day. DeLongchamps was not a member of the Architectural Club but may have attended classes, lectures, or other functions while apprenticing to an architect.

Like other architects trained in this way, DeLongchamps approached his work according to certain principles of the design process and not as a revivalist of classical styles. The Beaux-Arts process emphasized hierarchy, symmetry, axiality, and unity. Projects were approached rationally, and the style or appearance of buildings was the result of an effort to find an appropriate expression for each problem. Thus, DeLongchamps designed government buildings and world's fair buildings derived from monumental classical prototypes; post offices, banks, and commercial buildings referring to the Renaissance; urban and suburban houses based on medieval and post-Renaissance classical sources; and country houses and resorts with a rustic appearance, using local materials.

Denise Bradley, Landscape Historian, Michael Corbett, Architectural Historian and Tim Kelley, Dames & Moore, Whittel Estate Historic District, Washoe County, NV, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

  1. Scrugham, James K, Nevada: A Narrative of the Conquest of a Frontier Land, three volumes. Volume Two, "Biographies." Chicago: American Historical Society, 1935. pp. 234-5.
  2. According to DeLongchamp's obituary in the Nevada State Journal, "in 1914, he did take the then new Nevada examination;" according to the Nevada Board of Architecture, DeLongchamps received his license in 1949 when the Nevada Board of Architecture was first established; Ron James, who has written about DeLongchamps, says that DeLongchamps campaigned for the establishment of architectural licensing in Nevada long before it was adopted. The possibility that some general professional licensing may have been granted to DeLongchamps by the state in 1914 has not been explored.
  3. Kuranda, Kathryn M. "Thematic Nomination of the Architecture of Frederic J. DeLongchamps." National Register of Historic Places Inventory, Registration Form. Prepared by the State of Nevada Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology. Certified 12 June 1986.