Francis Earlougher Davis was born in Ellicott Mills, Maryland on August 14, 1839. He was raised in this Patapsco River valley town where his father was a blacksmith and wainwright. During the Civil War, Davis worked as a draftsman in the Treasury Department in Washington; after the war, he spent two years as a surveyor in the oil fields in Pennsylvania. Davis’s career as an architect began as a draftsman or an apprentice, working for three years under Edmund G. Lind (1829-1909) in Baltimore. He also was a student at the new Maryland Institute of Art and Design, earning top honors and an award of $100. Frank Davis was elected to membership in the Baltimore Chapter of the AIA in December 1870.
In the late 1860s, Frank Davis formed a partnership with Thomas Dixon (1819-1886) that lasted only a few years. During most of the 1870s, Davis practiced alone. He formed a partnership with a younger brother Henry late in that decade or in the early 1880s. In their partnership, Frank was the architect and Henry was the builder. In some projects, they were joined by an older brother, William, who had an ornamental ironworks business. The office of Davis & Davis was located on the southeast corner of Charles and Fayette Streets in Baltimore.
The known works of Frank Davis have been identified from articles in the Baltimore Sun and the American Architect and Building News, various other published sources, and a list hand-written by Davis himself. Davis’s oeuvre includes banks, churches, business or industrial buildings, residences, and public buildings. He did no railroad stations, but one street railway car house.
Davis’s own list, probably written in about 1896, claimed five Baltimore city firehouses, five courthouses, nearly two dozen schools, and over fifty churches. Davis also designed his own home at 802 North Carrollton Avenue.
Most of Davis’s well-known work was in Maryland, but his obituaries and his personal list cited his responsibility for many works in Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania (none have yet been found in Virginia). It has been alleged that all of Davis’s projects were masonry, brick or stone structures–and no wood frame structures by this architect have yet been identified. Nearly 150 works have been attributed to Davis; of these, over 40 percent are extant. Frank Davis’s work is represented by at least ten buildings currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Frank Davis practiced in Baltimore until about 1914, when he retired and moved to southern California to live with two of his sons, Francis Pierpont Davis and Walter Swindell Davis. Frank Davis died in Los Angeles on April 19, 1921. He was survived by his wife and five of his six children.