2008-04-12 / Obituaries

Richard Frank

Preservation architect Richard Frank (left) with his partner, M. Stein of the architect and engineering firm Frank and Stein, examine a room in the Indian Dormitory. Their firm managed restoration work on the structure for the Mackinac State Park Commission in the mid 1960s. (Park Commission photograph) Preservation architect Richard Frank (left) with his partner, M. Stein of the architect and engineering firm Frank and Stein, examine a room in the Indian Dormitory. Their firm managed restoration work on the structure for the Mackinac State Park Commission in the mid 1960s. (Park Commission photograph) One of the early historic preservation architects who helped define the Straits of Mackinac for millions of tourists died January 28, 2008, at the age of 77 in Detroit. Richard Frank, a resident of Gregory, northwest of Ann Arbor, began his career in historical restoration at Fort Mackinac and Colonial Michilimackinac and went on to state and national notoriety as a respected preservationist.

"We called him the Godfather of Preservation and he loved that," said a former colleague, Gene Hopkins of Ann Arbor. "He took great pride in being the forerunner of historic preservation."

During his career, Mr. Frank worked on more than 700 projects in 25 states, including the Smithsonian, U.S. Library of Congress, and the Michigan Capitol building. At the time of his death, he was the president of Frank, McCormick & Khalaf in Detroit. In earlier years, he was president of Frank and Stein Associates of Lansing and headed his own architectural firm in Saline.

Many of his former employees are leading preservationists around the country.

"When you started working with Dick, he really entrenched within you the significance and value of our architectural heritage," said Mr. Hopkins, a good friend and former employee who is now a partner in the firm Hopkins, Burns Design Studio in Ann Arbor.

He said his former mentor and advisor thought working on Fort Mackinac at the beginning of his career and on the Capitol in later years epitomized what historical preservation was all about. He often said of his career, "How can it get any better than to have two bookends of historic Fort Mackinac and the Capitol?"

He was hired by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in the 1960s to help restore the east and west blockhouses at Fort Mackinac and design the Avenue of Flags leading to its north entrance. He also oversaw restoration of the 1902 Governor's summer residence to preserve the porches and foundation.

In Mackinaw City, Mr. Frank designed the initial reconstruction of the walls at Colonial Michilimackinac and the visitors center, and he assisted with the site's master plan. Later, he designed the Millwright's House at Historic Mill Creek.

"He was a very enthusiastic historical architect and became more knowledgeable as he gained experience," said David Armour, a former colleague and retired deputy director of Mackinac State Historic Parks. "I think his work at Colonial Michilimackinac and at Fort Mackinac was foundation for his later career in historical restoration."

Mr. Frank oversaw the threeyear restoration of the 1878 Michigan State Capitol, a $58 million project that began in 1989. In 1992, he was awarded the American Institute of Architects Michigan Gold Medal for the project, and the restoration work won the 1992 Honor Award of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

He was chosen by peers to be awarded the title Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1974, one of the highest honors an American architect can receive.

In 1990, the publication Traditional Building credited him with creating the historic preservation movement in Michigan by pioneering efforts in developing the field of preservation planning and mentoring other preservation architects.

Mr. Frank was born May 17, 1930, in Louisville, Kentucky, to William G. and Helen Calhoun Frank and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1952.

He is survived by a brother and his family, William Frank of Asheville, North Carolina, and six children and their families, Richard Frank Jr. of Woodbridge, Virginia, Scott Frank of Shaker Heights, Ohio, William Frank of Romeo, Philip Frank of Seattle, Washington, Elizabeth DeLyria of Katy, Texas, and Jennifer Frank of Tampa, Florida. He also is survived by 14 grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.

Amemorial service hosted by the Friends of the Capitol was held in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Lansing February 25.

Memorial donations may be made to the Friends of the Capitol, P.O. Box 17067, Lansing, Michigan 48901.

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