Francis Barry Byrne was born in Chicago, Illinois on
December 19, 1883, the son of a blacksmith. At age 14, to help support his family after
his fathers death, he left school and began working in the mail room of Montgomery
Ward in Chicago. In 1902, after being impressed by a display of the works of Frank Lloyd
Wright at the Chicago Architectural Club, Bryne left his job to become an apprentice in
the Oak Park studio of Wright. Having no formal architectural training, he was relegated
to working under Wright assistants William Drummond and Walter Burley Griffin. His
training continued until 1907, when he was then considered a member of the studio. While
at the studio he helped execute drawings for the Tomek, Beachey and Coonley houses and
also for Unity Temple.
Byrne left Wrights studio in August of 1908 and
after a very brief stay with Walter Burley Griffin, he left Chicago for Seattle,
Washington in November of the same year. He went to Seattle to form a partnership with
former Wright employee Andrew Willatzen who had left Chicago for Spokane, Washington in
1907. They designed over 50 residences and commercial buildings during their five year
After leaving Seattle in 1913, Byrne journeyed to San
Diego, California seeking work while staying with John and Lloyd Wright, two of Frank
Lloyd Wrights sons. When Walter Burley Griffin won a competition to design the new
capitol city of Canberra, Australia, he offered Byrne the position of manager of his
Chicago office. Byrne accepted the job and returned to Chicago in 1914 and managed
Griffins office thru 1917.
After World War I Byrne established his own practice in
Chicago and established a long association with the Roman Catholic Church designing
churches and schools for the Chicago Archdiocese. In 1926 he married an artist named
Annette Cremin. Byrne had met her through his association with Alfonso Iannelli, a
sculptor with whom he had worked with on numerous projects.
As his commissions began to diminish in the 1930s,
Byrne moved to New York to try to re-establish his practice. Commissions were not
plentiful in New York either, so to supplement his income he took a job as a building
inspector and began a career as a writer.
Byrne returned to Chicago in 1945 and continued to
design buildings for the Roman Catholic Church. His last commission was for a building on
the campus of St. Procopius College (now Illinois Benedictine College) in Lisle, Illinois
which he executed at age 79. He died on December 18, 1967 after being struck by an
automobile driven by the former president of the American Baseball League, William
Harridge. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois.