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Male, born 1850-03-28, died 1923-04-18

Associated with the firms network

Curlett and McCaw, Architects; McCaw and Burton, Architects; McCaw and Martin, Architects; McCaw and Wickersham, Architects; McCaw, Martin and White, Architects; McCaw, William F., Architect

Professional History


Apprentice, John McCaw, Architect/Builder, Belfast, Northern Ireland, c. 1865-1872.

Draftsman, William Irving, Architect, Toronto, ON, 1873-1875.

Partner, McCaw and Lennox, Architects, Toronto, ON, 1876-1881; McCaw met Edward James Lennox (1855-1933) while they both worked in Irving's office. The McCaw and Lennox Office was located in the Imperial Building at 30 Adelaide Street East, next to the post office in 1877. (See Toronto City Directory, 1877, p. 306.)

Principal, W.F. McCaw, Architect, Toronto, ON, 1881-82.

While in the US, McCaw moved around a great deal, staying only two places--Portland, OR, and San Francisco--for more than two years, or so.

Partner, McCaw and Burton, Architects, Portland, OR, 1883;

Partner, McCaw and Wickersham, Architects, Portland, OR, 1884-1885. In 1885, the McCaw and Wickersham architectural office was situated at 34 Washington Street. (See R.L. Polk and Company's Portland, Oregon, City Directory, 1885, p. 522.)

Principal, W.F. McCaw, Architect, Portland, Ore. 1887-1888; his office from 1887 until 1889 was at 34 Washington Street in Portland. (See R.L. Polk's Portland, Oregon, City Directory, 1889, p. 374.)

Partner, McCaw and Martin, Architects, Portland, OR, 1889-1891.

Partner, McCaw, Martin and White, Architects, Portland, OR, 1892-1893.

Partner, McCaw and Martin, Architects, Portland, OR, 1894-1897.

Architect, William Curlett, Architect, San Francisco, CA, 1898-1899. William Curlett was listed in the San Francisco City Directory as practicing alone during 1896 and 1897.

Principal, W.F. McCaw, Architect, Houston, TX, 1903. In 1903, McCaw had an office in Room #426 of the Mason Building in Houston. (See Houston, Texas, City Directory, 1903, p. 475.)

Partner, McCaw and [Frank E.] Rue, Architects, Muskogee, OK, 1905. McCaw and Rue leased Rooms #21 and 23 in the Oklahoma Building in 1905. (See Muskogee, Oklahoma, City Directory, 1905, p. 150.)

Principal, Frank F. McCaw, Architect, Muskogee, OK, 1906. McCaw worked on his own in 1906, according to the Muskogee, Oklahoma, City Directory, 1906, p. 204.

Partner, McCaw and Bellis, Architects, Muskogee, OK, c. 1905-1907. In mid--1905, McCaw and a partner entered a competition for a Tahlequah Carnegie Library in Tahlequah, OK. According to historian Dianna Everett, "Tahlequah city officials announced a competition for architects in the second week of June 1905. In July, the firm of McCaw and Bellis, of Muskogee, was selected. The original McCaw and Bellis plans 'were to expensive to build,' and between July and October interior appointments were downscaled. The planned building had included a raised basement with windows above ground level, but this was scaled back to a simple basement, and a planned hip roof with large skylight was scale back to a simple skylight in the center of a flat roof. Acoording to the Tahlequah Arrow, 'The reduction was made in the basement, heating, electric wiring, plumbing, and the rolling partitions.' This may explain the lack of interior partitioning into reading rooms and the consequent use for meetings. A construction contract, in the amount of $8,752, went ot William Alston of Tahlequah, in October, and the brick and stone contract to A.D. Brown. The stone was obtained from Carthage, Missouri." (See Dianna Everett, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Tahlequah Carnegie Library," (Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2003), p. 19.) The building was completed by 04/1906, but did not contain a heating plant or books. The architects must have been annoyed by all of the cost-cutting necessary to get this library built.

On top of the chiseling away of the original design required for budgetary reasons, other financial issues delayed the building's opening. Everett noted: "Unfortunately, financial constraints and the failure of the city to appropriate the required maintenance funds made it impossible to open the facility to the public when it was completed. The project languised through the rest of 1906 and all of 1907." (See Dianna Everett, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Tahlequah Carnegie Library," (Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2003), p. 20.) It finally opened to the citizens of Tahlequah on 02/29/1908. It would not be surprising that these financial limitations convinced McCaw to leave OK to return to CA.

Principal, William F. McCaw, Architect, Long Beach, CA, 1907. He had his office in Room #311 of the Long Beach Bank Building. (See Long Beach, California, City Directory, 1907, p. 131.)

Principal, W.F. McCaw, Architect, San Francisco, CA, c. 1909-1911, c. 1920; the US Census of 1920 listed McCaw as being an architect in general practice. In 1912, McCaw had an office at 57 Post Street.

Partner, McNally and McCaw, Architects, San Francisco, CA, c. 1911-1912.

Draftsman, unkown architect, San Francisco, CA, 1920-1921. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1920, p. 1091 and San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1921, p.1023.)


High School/College

In regard to his education, architect and historian Robert Hill wrote: " the age of twelve he took his first lessons in drawing at the Model School there [in Belfast]. At the age of fifteen, he took up the study of architecture with his father John McCaw who, it was claimed '…conducted an extensive business in architecture and building....'” (See Robert Hill, Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, "McCaw, William Frederick," accessed 04/21/2014.)Hill has quoted George A. McMath, who, in 1980, wrote a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the McCaw, Martin and White's Dekum Building #2. (See George A. McMath, Allen McMath Hawkins, Architects, "The Dekum," National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, published 03/20/1980, accessed 02/19/2019.)



McCaw lived his first years in Dublin, Ireland; he was baptized in Dublin on 10/13/1850 at Saint Peter's Church in Dublin. (See, Ireland, Baptism Index, 1571-1912, accessed 08/27/2018.) When he was six, his family relocated to Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1856. There, his father worked as an architect/building contractor, and, apparently, William received his first architectural training here. Architect and historian Richard Hill has not been able to verify his father's profession in Northern Ireland, but has stated, without doubt, that William emigrated to Toronto, ON, in 1872.

In Toronto, he obtained work as a draftsman with the established Toronto architect, William Irving (1830-1883), between 1873 and 1875. In Irving's atelier, McCaw met another draftsman, Edward James Lennox (1855-1933), with whom he began a partnership in 03/1876. Hill said of their firm: "Their collaboration was immediately successful, and they received major commissions for educational, institutional, ecclesiastical and commercial buildings not only in Toronto but in several nearby towns in southern Ontario including Stratford, Cannington, Markham, Owen Sound and Unionville." (See Robert Hill, Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, "McCaw, William Frederick,"accessed 04/21/2014.) This partnership ended on 10/21/1881, after which McCaw opened a solo practice for one year.

As per the 1881 Canadian Census, he and Sophie occupied a residence in Saint Patrick's Ward in West Toronto, ON, with their two daughters. (See, Source Citation Year: 1881; Census Place: St Patricks Ward, Toronto City, Ontario; Roll: C_13247; Page: 30; Family No: 145, accessed 08/29/2018.)

In 1882 "due to failing health," according to architect and historian George McMath (1931-2007), he chose to move again, this time to Portland, OR, where he found work with one of the leading architects in town, Warren Heywood Williams (1844-1888). (See George A. McMath, "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form: The Dekum," [Washington, DC: National Park Service, 1980], p. 6.) Williams, like McCaw, was the son of an architect, and had moved several times before establishing himself in Portland. Williams came to Portland in the wake of a significant fire in 12/1872. (More work would be made for architects when a larger fire destroyed twenty-two square blocks of the city on 08/02/1873. See Oregon History, "Portland Fire, 1873,"accessed 07/21/2014.) McCaw, throughout the remainder of his career, displayed a similarly opportunistic streak, mixed with personal restlessness, over-sensitivity, and an inability to save money. In the American West during the 1870s and until the days of professional licensing in the 1910s, many such restless souls practiced architecture; newspapers spread news with increasing speed, and train travel enabled architects to relocate to towns--fresh from fires or other catastrophes-- that needed their skills to rebuild. Each new town provided a new start, sometimes an opportunity to recreate oneself and to build a solid career.

He maintained a residence at 255 B Street in Portland in 1889. (See R.L. Polk's Portland, Oregon, City Directory, 1889, p. 374.)

McCaw relocated to Boise, ID, in the mid-1890s to work on the Falk Brothers Building before resettling in San Francisco from about 1895 until about 1900, where he worked in partnership with William F. Curlett (1846-1914).

He left the West Coast and set up a practice in Houston, TX, by about 1903. The McCaws lived and worked in the Mason Building, using Room #426 for his office, and Room #400 for their residence and her beauty shop. (See Houston, Texas, City Directory, 1903, p. 300.)

He and his wife did not remain long in TX, moving to Muskogee, OK, during the mid-1900s, where he worked with at least two other architects. In 1906, he and Ella lived at 521 West Southside Boulevard in Muskogee. (See Muskogee, Oklahoma, City Directory, 1906, p. 204.)

He returned to CA by 1907, when he resided at 806 Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach, CA. (See Long Beach, California, City Directory, 1907, p. 131.)

He came back to San Francisco by 1910. In that year, William and Ella lived at 1319 42nd Avenue in the Sunset District. (See, Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: San Francisco Assembly District 39, San Francisco, California; Roll: T624_100; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0241; FHL microfilm: 1374113, accessed 08/27/2018.) He continued to live here in 1912 and 1921. In 1921, he and Ella lived at 573 Scott Street in the city's Western Addition (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1921, p. 1023.) One year earlier, the 1920 US Census listed McCaw and his wife as lodgers living in an apartment builidng at 2315 Bancroft Way in Berkeley, CA. (See, Source Citation Year: 1920; Census Place: Berkeley, Alameda, California; Roll: T625_93; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 184, accessed 08/27/2018.)

McCaw died in Fresno, CA, on 04/18/1923.


His father was John McCaw, his mother, Martha Conway. They had two children, William and Joseph (born 1854 in Ireland).


McCaw married Sophie Ann Wardlow (born c. 1855 in Ireland) on 08/21/1874 in Toronto, ON, officiated by the Archdeacon Fuller. She was the youngest daughter of Hamilton Wardlow of Belfast. (See "Marriages," Belfast Newsletter, 09/10/1874, vol. CXXXVIII, no. 56,051, p. 1.) He divorced Sophie by 1897. She had previously married William Walsh in 1871, with whom she had one son, William James Walsh (born 1872 in Belfast, Norhern Ireland.)

He wed Ella Lucinda Blackburn McCaw (1862–1940) on 03/13/1903 in Houston, TX. (See, Source Citation Harris County Clerk's Office; Houston, Texas; Harris County, Texas, Marriage Records, accessed 08/27/2018.) In 1903, Ella F. McCaw billed herself as a "complexion artist" and provided massage and hairdressing services at their home in Houston, TX. (See Houston, Texas, City Directory, 1903, p. 300.)

The US Census of 1910 indicated that she had been born c. 1862 in CA, while the 1920 Census said that she had been born c. 1870 in CA. Both censuses indicated that she worked as a dressmaker. In 1925, the widowed Ella remained in San Francisco, living at 1458a Clay Street. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1925, p. 1194.)


According to the 1881 Canadian Census, Sophie and William had two daughters: Geraldine (born c. 1876 in ON) and Josephine (born c. 1877 in ON).

Biographical Notes

The US Census of 1920 indicated that McCaw entered the US in 1872 and was naturalized in 1895. (See, Source Citation Year: 1920; Census Place: Berkeley, Alameda, California; Roll: T625_93; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 184, accessed 08/27/2018.)

Associated Locations

PCAD id: 6789