Otto H. Lang and Frank O. Witchell were the most important Dallas architectural firm in the early 1900s. Otto Lang was born and trained as a structural engineer in Germany. Frank Witchell was born in 1879 in South Wales. He apprenticed with J. Reiley Gordon at the architectural firm Sanguinet and Staats. Lang and Witchell were influenced by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, which can be seen in both their high-rise buildings and their residences.
Before specialization the best architects received the best commissions whether they were residential or commercial. Lang and Witchell was Dallas’ most important firm in the early 1900s which resulted in them designing projects that became landmarks downtown, in Highland Park and on Swiss Avenue. They designed the 10-story Sanger Brothers department store in 1910, which has been remodeled as El Centro Community College and they also designed the Cotton Exchange which has been torn down.
In 1913, they designed 5002 Swiss Avenue, one of the only true Prairie style houses in Texas, with the influence of associate Charles Barglebaugh who had worked for Frank Lloyd Wright before Wright went to Europe. Simultaneously, in 1903 Lang and Witchell designed 4700 Lakeside in Highland Park and the Sears Roebuck wholesale store which was built in the Chicago style. This nine-story building now called Southside on Lamar was renovated for retail and residences.
In 1924 it was back to Highland Park where Lang and Witchell designed the Spanish Colonial style Highland Park City Hall. The Higginbothams, in an effort to lure their daughter and new husband back to Dallas, once again asked Lang and Witchell to build them a house. In 1928 they designed for the daughter 5020 Swiss Avenue in the tradition of Country Tudor. This home was adjacent to the Prairie style home they designed for her parents 15 years earlier.
The projects Lang and Witchell designed became more revivalist and eclectic over the years but the quality of the design and construction remained consistent. Even the homes had solid walls and steel beam construction, a convention for commercial buildings but unusual for residential projects.
One of their designers, Charles Erwin Barglebaugh, trained with Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, which would explain how much Prairie style detailing was found in their commercial and residential work in the second decade of the twentieth century. At 4700 Lakeside, this Italian Renaissance home with a carriage house, was built in 1913 for Mrs. Jules (Florence Belle Fonda) Schneider.