Architecture of Francis Earlougher Davis
Lafayette Square’s renown as a fashionable West Baltimore address grew in step with the reputation of one of its principal architects. Francis Earlougher Davis (1839-1921), a former surveyor and Ellicott Mills native, is known to have designed eight buildings on the Square over the course of his career, including one church, a parish house, a parsonage, and his own townhouse on North Carrollton. His two largest commissions on Lafayette Square, the Maryland State Normal School (1875-6, demolished) and the main sanctuary of Grace Methodist (1874-6, now Metropolitan), prominently marked the Square’s western edge with their soaring towers—one Germanic and the other English-inspired—which originally rose 175 feet and 200 feet respectively. Davis designed in the fashionable architectural revival styles of the day, often preferring the Gothic for churches and, beginning in the 1880s, the Queen Anne for residences.
In 1874, the trustees of Grace Methodist, in search of “the cheapest and best architect” and on what seem to have been bad terms with Thomas Dixon, the architect (with Charles E. Carson) of the congregation’s 1871 chapel, handed Davis one of his first Lafayette Square commissions. Although a young man of 35, Davis had already proven himself a competent church architect, having designed at least twelve churches in the region and a number of fire and police stations. A partner with Dixon for a brief time during the 1860s, Davis designed Grace’s new sanctuary to complement Dixon’s design for the chapel. He approached his commission for the Ascension Parish House (1876, now part of St. James) in a similar fashion, showing a keen sensitivity to Hutton & Murdoch’s 1867 Gothic revival design.
Frank Davis must have had a special affection for Lafayette Square and taken great pride in the buildings he designed there. By late 1879, Davis (a widower since 1873), his sister Emma, and his children from his first wife, Emma Eudora Small, had moved to the corner of Lafayette and Arlington and joined the congregation of Grace Methodist Church, which Davis had completed a few years earlier. In 1882, he designed four Queen Anne revival townhouses, including one for himself, on North Carrollton between Lafayette Square Presbyterian (now St. John’s A.M.E.) and Bishop Cummins Memorial (now Emmanuel Christian Community) churches. He married Annie Legate Swindell at a ceremony in Grace Methodist in January 1884 and, with his new wife, raised five children at 802 North Carrollton and put up many of their relatives. Upon retirement from the architecture profession in 1914, Davis and his wife followed two of their sons to Los Angeles, where he died in 1921.