Nationally known brewery architect Otto C. Wolf was born in Philadelphia, the son of Elizabeth and Charles C. Wolf. After attending the Philadelphia public schools, he entered the University of Pennsylvania and gained his B. S. there in 1876, having studied both architecture and engineering. From 1880 to 1882 he worked in Chicago, IL, for Frederick W. Wolf, but returned to Philadelphia and established his own firm in 1883. By the early 1890s he had established a second office in New York City at 513 Fifth Avenue, but this appears to have lasted only from 1892-1893, perhaps in response to his work for the Consumers Brewing Company of New York, for which he supplied the complete brewery, storage house, bottling, house, office and stables. Wolf's specialty was industrial buildings, but most especially breweries, cold storage buildings, grain elevators, ice-making and refrigerating plants, lighting and power plants. Among the clients represented by Wolf during his early practice were Louis Bergdoll, Frederick A. Poth, the Germania Brewing Co. of Syracuse, NY, and the Straub Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh, PA.
Wolf applied for associate membership in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1901. Difficulties with that application occasioned a reply (2 July 1901) from Wolf to Glen Brown, then secretary and treasurer of the AIA:
. . . I very much regret that the photographs which I submitted to your Executive Committee, of buildings erected by me, did not meet the standard required for associate membership in the American Institute of Architects. . . . I have been practicing in the profession for over fifteen years, and erected manufacturing buildings in all the principal cities in the United States, as well as in Cuba, and furnished drawings for buildings in Europe, the volume of my business averaging fully a million dollars a year. . .
These do not appear to be hollow claims. In a monograph published in 1906 Wolf not only listed projects extending across the United States, but he also noted such intriguing places as Calgary, Canada (malt house and kilns for A. C. Cross, 1892), Christiana, Norway (National Brewery, 1898), and Havana, Cuba (Havana Brewery, 1899). Eventually Wolf was granted associate membership.
He was a member of the local chapter of the AIA and of the T-Square Club, in addition to holding memberships with other professional organizations such as the American Institute of Mechanical Engineers. His business concerns led to his also playing such roles as director of the Bergner & Engel Brewing Co., treasurer of the Southern Standard Telephone Construction Co. and of the Atlanta Standard Telephone Co. Wolf also maintained his ties with the German community in Philadelphia, serving as a trustee of the German Hospital.