Francis E. (Red) Warner was born in Big Run, Pennsylvania in 1921. He loved the outdoors. Every chance he got he would be out playing, biking and jumping off the railroad bridges in the Susquehanna river! He attended Penn State where he was active in many clubs and organizations including Lions Paw Honor Society and Concert Choir. During World War ll he worked as a field engineer in the construction of naval shipyards and power houses. He received his architectural degree from Pennsylvania State College in 1951. From 1951 through 1957 he considered himself fortunate to be able to work under the tutelage of Alden B. Dow. He often commented that he couldn’t believe he was being paid to work in such an amazing and creative environment!
In 1957 he started his own architectural firm in Midland the year his second child was born, so you might say he was a risk taker! He continued working in the tradition of Mr. Dow and Frank Lloyd Wright and was known for designing affordable, creative structures. Warner designed over fifty residences in an area extending to Barrington, Illinois. He loved designing churches which included Chapel Lane Presbyterian, Poseyville Methodist, Our Saviour Lutheran in Gladwin, First Missionary in Flint and Saint John Lutheran in Rogers City.
Red was called on to design more than thirty-four commercial buildings that included the original brick-faced Holiday Inn in Midland, Bay City Yacht Club, Gladwin Country Club, Midland Road Commission (now a Northwood northern entrance), and many more commercial and school buildings around the state.
Red was inspired by the natural beauty of nature and to achieve that he used wood extensively. He especially liked the grain and warmth of edge grain fir and Douglas fir beams which he incorporated in his designs. His works were designed for those who appreciated beauty without extravagance. He always felt you didn’t have to have a lot of money to live artistically, all you needed was an appreciation for a home filled by light and views of nature. It was in the small details and practicality of his designs that he excelled. Contractors commented that they could tell it was a Red Warner home the moment they saw the front door. He designed passive solar energy homes when that term was rarely used. The placement and style of each building had to be most carefully considered to achieve that important feature. Many of his homeowners became an extended family because they became so close during the home design process, with Red stopping in every day to oversee the build and to be sure the contractors were measuring up to his exacting standards. His success can be measured by the extent to which his clients became his best friends and admirers.
His works were honored in a gallery exhibition at the Midland Center for the Arts in 2001 along with those of Mr. Dow and Red’s very good friend, Jack Hallett.
During his career, Warner served as Director of the Michigan Society of Architects, and President of the The American Institute of Architects-Saginaw Valley Chapter. He was also an active community leader as a member of the Exchange Club, the Boy Scouts, the school district PTA, and as President of the Tri-City All-Breeds Horse Association.
After a long, active and joyful life of painting watercolors, sailing, fishing, tennis, snow skiing and caring for and feeding his beloved horses, dogs and garden, Red passed away in 2006 and his ashes now repose amongst those of his dear friends on Dahlia Hill.