Mr. Swain was trained in architecture in the office of David Farguharson, and in 1877 started practice for himself. In the early nineties he assisted A. Page Brown in preparing plans for the H. S. Crocker Building and the Ferry Building, and after Brown's death in 1895, he remained in charge of work on the structure several years. Later he moved to Honolulu, and carried on work in that city until his death. In his will Mr. Swain bequeathed his Library and office furnishings to his former draftsmen in San Francisco, Clarence E. Ward and Walter Pinkham, successors to the latter’s practice.