James Clinton Holland was born in a log cabin in Lima, Ohio on April 2, 1853 to Barton Andrew Holland and Lydia Osmon. He attended public school in Lima, Ohio and as a young man enrolled in the Northern Ohio Normal School (Ohio Northern University) in Ada, Ohio to study architecture. After two years at the Normal School, James attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to study architecture for two years. Upon returning to Ohio from New York, James was offered and accepted a teaching position and the Chairmanship of the Architecture program at the Northern Ohio Normal School. Later he worked with his brother in-law James M. McKinney, who was a prominent building contractor in Lima. James worked for a year as an architect for the firm of Rumbaugh & Baco in Toledo, Ohio and in 1877 started a construction firm in Ada.
It was at this time that he married Elizabeth Baker on September 14, 1882. Elizabeth was the daughter of Anthony and Julie Baker. Around 1883, James met with a severe accident, which kept him under a physician’s care. The accident left the family nearly penniless. In 1885, the family borrowed $110 and set out for Topeka, Kansas with their first child, Barton, being an infant. James quickly became a partner of Hopkins & Holland an architect firm in Topeka. This partnership lasted until 1889, when James began his own firm. He was on his own until 1903 when he partnered with Frank Squires in the firm Holland & Squires. Later James partnered with son, Barton in the firm Holland & Son. He served as the State Architect of Kansas from 1895 to 1897, a time period during which the current State Capital Building was being built. He was also the special projects architect for the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1897 and 1898.
James Clinton Holland’s work can be found throughout Kansas. Most of the public buildings built in Topeka around 1900 were designed by James. Among these include: the old county jail, the Mills building, the Masonic Temple, Capper Publications building, the Warren M. Crosby building, the Berkson Brothers building, the Central National Bank building, Stormont Vail Hospital, the Throop Hotel, the First Methodist Church, the Central Congregational Church, The Topeka City Auditorium, the Y.M.C.A building, and most of the Topeka Public School buildings. He designed numerous Kansas county courthouses including: Clay, Geary, Marion, Mitchell, Ness, Osbourne, Rice, Riley, Shawnee, and Thomas. His greatest residential designs occurred on the “Governor’s Row”, on Buchanan Street in Topeka. These are the most distinguished homes in Topeka.
James and Lizzie had three children: Barton, Frank, and Lydia. In 1888, the family lived at 520 Tyler Street and later lived at 1505 W. 15th Street in Topeka. James died on May 28, 1919 in Topeka, Kansas, at 66 years of age and is buried in the Topeka Cemetery.