Frederick Clarke (1853 – c. 1942), was a master architect with a varied career in the fields of not only architecture, but also music and medicine. Clarke, who was born in Connecticut, displayed an early talent in academics and started attending high school before he had turned twelve. Clarke first established himself in the piano-making trade in San Francisco. After a brief stint at San Francisco Medical College, Clarke moved to Minneapolis to begin a career in architecture. After working as a draftsman for renowned architect Harry Wild Jones (who had worked for Henry Hobson Richardson), Clarke established his own office in 1888. For approximately ten years, he worked as a sole practitioner, except for a brief partnership with Frank E. Rotchka from 1892 to 1894. In his spare time, he served as a director for the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and also as the President of the Minneapolis Wire and Iron Works. An article in the May 14, 1898, edition of The Improvement Bulletin reflected on Clarke’s reputation, noting that
Diligence, study, and ability soon won a practice which developed into large and important commissions, and he always sustained the full confidence of his clients and preserved an untarnished good name. Mr. Clarke did not pose as a designer, though quick to recognize and keep in touch with the best work. His greater experience was in the line of economy and practical work, saving thousands of dollars to his clients and in no instance tolerating anything freakish in the aim to do something original, holding his clients’ interests as paramount at all times.
During the economic downturn that followed the Panic of 1893, Clarke obtained a degree in osteopathy and his doctorate degree in medicine. In 1898, he moved back to the east coast to practice medicine, handing over his Minneapolis architectural practice to Edwin Overmire. Clarke specialized in the design of apartment houses and private residences, particularly those for the middle class. According to Minnesota architectural historian Alan Lathrop, Clarke’s notable designs in Minneapolis included:
- Salisbury and Satterlee Co. Warehouse, 221 Main Street Southeast (1892, St. Anthony Falls Historic District)
- S. J. Cooke Company Warehouses (now Gaar Scott Historic Lofts and Minnesota Opera Center), 614 and 620 First Street North (1892, St. Anthony Falls Historic District and Minneapolis Warehouse Historic District)
- Mayhew Rowhouses, 614 - 626 South Ninth Street (1886, also contributing to the South Ninth Street Historic District)
Within the South Ninth Street Historic District, Clarke designed not only the Mayhew Rowhouses but also six other contributing properties, making him the district’s predominant architect.