Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

F. W. Griffin (1880-1960)

Fern Wilbur Griffin was born on August 12, 1880, and was raised until his early teens in Worthington, Nobles County, Minnesota. His father, Thomas Griffin (1844-1926), worked as a carpenter. After 1895 the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where the young Griffin completed high school at the State Preparatory School of Colorado (later renamed Boulder High School), but established by the Preparatory Department of the State University, Boulder. He attended Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, before taking courses in architecture through the International Correspondence School. After working as a draftsman for a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railway, Griffin settled in Porterville, California. By 1910 he worked as a building contractor and maintained an architecture practice in Porterville's historic Baker Block. He later moved his office to the First National Bank Building on North Main Street and East Mill Avenue.

An advocate of the Mission style, he won a competition in 1912 to design Porterville Grammar School. Among projects he completed before 1915 were schools in Strathmore, Terra Bella, Plano, and Lindsay. His 1914 design for Washington Grammar School in Lindsay is a fine example of his interpretation of the Mission Revival tradition.

In 1915 Griffin received his formal license to practice architecture after successfully taking his professional examinations at the University of California, Berkeley; by 1918 he had also been ordained a Minister of the Gospel by the California Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Griffin practiced in Porterville into the early 1920s, where he also designed many homes and commercial blocks. In 1923 he established residence in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he advertised as "The Architect of the Western Slope." From there he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, taking a position as an associate in the office of Cornell University-trained Ferdinand Comstock Fiske, AIA (1856-1930). While in Lincoln he continued his academic studies at the University of Nebraska, declaring public speaking as his major. From 1928 to 1932 Griffin lived in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where he taught architectural drawing and woodworking for several years at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. During this period he completed summer courses at Emmanuel Missionary College, as well as courses at Iowa State University where he studied industrial arts and mechanical engineering.

After 1932 he settled permanently in Ames, Iowa. There he established the Griffin Furniture Shop with its first location at 400 Main Street in the historic F. J. Olsan & Sons Building. From 1935 until the late 1950s he operated his furniture business at 403 Lincoln Way.

Fern Wilbur Griffin died in Nevada, Iowa, on June 19, 1960.

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