Jonathan Lane, 90, of Wayne, an architect, builder and author who was an early proponent of solar housing design and who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, died July 14 from complications of heart disease and cancer at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Mr. Lane was the senior architect and founder of Poplar Homes, a company he started in Wayne in 1963.
He not only designed the houses but also bought the land, arranged bank loans, and acted as general contractor, managing the building sites for the houses he built on the Main Line, said his son, Steven Lane.
“He built on spec,” Lane said. “That means he would build the houses the way he wanted to build them. He took on the financial risk of getting the land and putting the houses up. It was a lot of financial risk for one person.”
Mr. Lane was also an early advocate of solar housing design, his son said.
That means he thought about ways to use the sun to heat a house by putting a lot of glass in the design house, and situating it in such a way as to allow the sun to warm the space.
Mr. Lane retired from his company in 1983. In 20 years, he built more than 50 houses on the Main Line. After retiring, he worked as a writer and consultant to suburban townships on city planning and historic preservation matters. In 1986, he published a book, Energy-Efficient Housing Design.
Mr. Lane was born in New York City on June 9, 1931. He was the second of two sons born to Charles and Harriet Levine Lane. His father was a certified public accountant and a partner in his own accounting firm. His mother was a teacher.
He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1952 and began a doctoral program in economics at the University of Chicago.
Because he walked by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House every day on his way to class, he became fascinated with architecture, said his wife, Barbara.
Mr. Lane left his economics pursuits to take a fellowship to work with Wright at Taliesin, near Spring Green, Wis., and at Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz. His family said he spent a year between 1953 and 1954 working at both sites.
In 1956, Mr. Lane married Barbara Miller, whom he met while both were students at the University of Chicago, and they had two children.
After the Taliesin sites, Mr. Lane spent a few years working for architectural firms in New York and Boston before he enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1962.
The Lanes then moved to Philadelphia, where Mr. Lane found work with noted architect Oscar Stonorov.
When he wasn’t building houses in the Philadelphia suburbs, Mr. Lane enjoyed his hobbies of model railroading and military history.
His son said Mr. Lane spent hours with him, building small models of houses or bridges for a large model railroad set they kept in the basement. He also helped his daughter build dollhouses.
In addition to his son and wife, Mr. Lane is survived by a daughter, Eleanor; four grandchildren; and a host of relatives and friends.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the Radnor Memorial Library at www.radnorlibrary.org/donate/.
Funeral services were private.