The intent of this website is to bring together residents of San Diego who share an interest in, and a passion for homes built before 1950 in the Spanish and Mediterranean Style of Architecture.
Articles from The Journal Of San Diego History
Four Men and Their Visual
Imprints on San Diego
By Frank Cavignac
Photographs courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society Photograph Collection, http://www.sandiegohistory.org
The typical resident of San Diego
and the typical visitor to San Diego will
not know the names of Gill, Requa,
Johnson or Goodhue, nor may they have
much knowledge of the structures designed
by these men, but both the resident
and the visitor have in their minds a
feeling about San Diego, and part of this
subconscious picture of our city has to
do with the impact of visual experiences
created by these men and others who
have followed them.
Architecture, like painting, sculpture,
and music, has for the typical person
more to do with feelings than understanding.
Many years ago a haughty potential
buyer of artist Paul Gauguin’s
paintings approached the artist during a
showing of his work and said to
Gauguin that he would not be buying
any of his paintings because he, the potential
buyer, did not understand
Gauguin’s work. Gauguin looked at the
man and said, “It has nothing to do with
understanding; it has to do with feeling.”
It is probably accurate to say that
every memorable city has some memorable
structures and that the positive
memory or feeling that people have of
these cities is somewhat influenced by
the impact of the man-made structures
that they have seen. The Parthenon in
Athens, the Empire State Building in New
York and the Serra Museum in San Diego
are just a few examples of structures that
say something about their cities.
Four men who practiced architecture
in San Diego and who have left a lasting
mark on our city are Irving J. Gill, Richard
S. Requa, William Templeton Johnson
and Bertram Goodhue. All of them
are deceased, but their work continues to
provide visual enjoyment for us. In this
article we want to refresh our memories
about their contributions.
Irving J. Gill
Gill was a farmer’s son who had no
formal education. He studied and learned
architecture by working for architects,
one of the firms being Adler and Sullivan
of Chicago, where Gill worked
alongside Frank Lloyd Wright. He was influenced
by the Arts and Crafts philosophy and designed the
buildings in the Green
Dragon in La Jolla. He also
designed George W. Marston’s
Craftsman home and
several other houses on Marston’s
block. His fountain in
Horton Plaza was built in
1909, and while it endures
today, it may not be representative
of his best work.
He designed buildings for the
Bishop’s School in La Jolla
and the First Church of Christ Scientist at Second
Gill did not limit his work to prominent clients
such as Ellen Browning Scripps; he also did design
work on low cost housing in the Sherman Heights
and Hillcrest areas, as well as in sites outside of
San Diego County.
In a 1916 essay, “The New Architecture of the
West,” Gill discussed his ideal of simplicity in design.
He felt that the source of all architectural
strength emerged from the straight line, the arch,
the cube and the circle in combination.
Irving Gill left bachelorhood at age 58 and after
an unsuccessful marriage he died alone on October
7, 1936 in Carlsbad, California.
Richard S. Requa
(1881 — 1941)
Requa, who was born in Rock Island, Illinois,
studied electrical engineering at Norfolk College,
but learned his architecture in the office of Irving
Gill. He ultimately left Gill’s firm and established a
partnership with Frank L. Mead. The two of them
became interested in the Colonial Style of Mexico,
the Pueblos in the southwest United States and
Moorish design from Spain and North Africa.
In 1920 Frank Mead left the firm and Requa obtained
a new partner, Herbert L. Jackson. Requa made
trips to Spain and the Mediterranean area in the
1920’s and wrote a book Architectural Details: Spain and the Mediterranean. A second book was titled Old World Inspiration for American Architecture.
Requa described his architectural style as“Southern California Architecture.” This style featured
white stucco buildings, heavily tiled roofs,
wrought iron ornamentation and interesting chimney
designs. He felt it was important that the design
of a building, the landscaping and the terrain should
be compatible and should compliment each other.
Landscape Architect Milton Sessions, Kate Session’s
nephew, collaborated with him on major
Two homes that Requa built for himself are
good examples of his work – his first home is located
at 4346 Valle Vista in Mission Hills and the
second home can be seen at 2906 Locust Street in
Loma Portal. Other structures he designed are: the
Torrey Pines Lodge (now
the State Park Ranger Station),
the Del Mar Castle at
544 Avenida Primavera in
Del Mar, the Mt. Helix
Theater, the William A.
Gunn house at 1127 F Avenue
in Coronado and a
number of projects for the
1935 California Pacific International
Spanish Village, Ford
Building, Automotive Museum, Alcazar Garden
Requa was very active in community affairs
including the Chamber of Commerce and San Diego
Symphony Board. Following his death in his
office in June of 1941, the San Diego Symphony
dedicated its opening summer season concert in
William Templeton Johnson
(1877 — 1957)
Johnson was born in Staten Island, New York,
and pursued an interest in architecture at Columbia
University in New York and the Ecole des Beaux-
Arts in Paris. In 1905 he married Clara Sturges,
whom he later divorced. She can be remembered as
the founder of the Francis W. Parker School, a
school which he designed and where his children
received their elementary schooling.
Some of Johnson’s style can be characterized
as Spanish Mission and Spanish Revival.
The La Jolla Athenaeum is a notable early building
in the Revival style. Other work which can be seen
in San Diego: the Fine Art Gallery and the Museum
of Natural History in Balboa Park, The San
Diego Trust and Savings
Building at 6th and
Broadway (now a hotel),
and the former Lion
Clothing building directly
across from the
San Diego Trust building
on the southwest corner
of 6th and Broadway.
Undoubtedly his most
memorable building is
the Junipero Serra Museum
at the top of Presidio
Johnson died in 1957 at the age of eighty. He
was a leader in his community and his official posts
included: President of the Fine Art Society and the
San Diego Chapter of AIA, member of the City
Planning Commission, Park Commission, Library
Commission and a number of other organizations.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue
(1869 — 1924)
Born in Connecticut, Goodhue was not college
trained; he studied for six years under James Renwick,
the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in
New York. He came to California partly to improve
his health because he suffered from neurasthenia, a
disorder that left him fatigued, irritable and in pain.
As the result of a friendship that he established
with John Olmstead, master planner of the San Diego
Panama-California Exposition he became the
project architect for the Exposition and was responsible
for the key Exposition buildings which he designed
in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. Part of
the inspiration for this style resulted from a trip that
he took to Mexico in 1895 where he became intrigued
with the use of domes, towers, ornate facades
and plain walls. One contemporary observer
of his work said that the buildings he created in the
Revival style created a craze for Spanish Colonial
Revival structures which included red tile roofs,
stucco walls and indoor-outdoor living as a part of
The buildings that Goodhue designed for the
1915 Exposition were temporary structures which
lasted far beyond their expected lifetimes – into the
1990’s when their disrepair finally required their
demolition. Perhaps the finest tribute to Goodhue’s
work is the fact that when
the buildings were rebuilt,
they were rebuilt to conform
with his original design,
thus preserving the
aura of the Park experience
for future generations.
Goodhue, who died in
1924, did important work
outside of San Diego. Included
in his repertoire are
the Los Angeles Public Library,
the National Academy
of Sciences Building and the Nebraska State
Architects (and their fellow design professionals)
have a fortunate position among those who
work in the professions or in business for their daily
bread. The work that most people do does not live
after them, but the work that design professionals perform lives on and delivers enjoyment for others.
Cavignac & Associates
“California is influenced, and rightly so, by the Spanish Missions… The Missions are a part of the history that should be preserved and in their long, low lines, graceful arcades, tile roofs, bell towers, arched doorways and walled gardens, we find a most expressive medium for retaining tradition, history and romance”. Irving Gill
Spanish Style Revival
An enchanting bouquet of flowery Spanish ingredients: textured walls, tiled roofs and porches, arched doors and windows, balconies, walled patios and gardens, wrought-iron trim and the occasional turret. Originally built 1915-1940. San Diego architect Richard Requa triggered a second wave after he visited Spain and copied Spanish and Mediterranian buildings and details for the 1935-36 exposition in Balboa Park. Found throughout the county and most highly concentrated in San Diego's Kensington.
It's something of a secret that a national housing craze virtually began in San Diego. Romantic, sparkling white Spanish Revival-style homes fringed in terra-cotta tile, wrought iron and bougainvillea first appeared in San Diego around 1915, then elsewhere in California, Florida and other states.
At the time, San Diegans and tourists alike became enamored with the florid Spanish style during the popular, well-publicized 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, held in Balboa Park. The dreamy collection of confectionary and brilliantly tiled buildings and formal gardens recalled, however tenuously, the distant days of Spanish rule over Alta California.
It wasn't simply a reawakening to the region's embellished colonial history and ornamental building style that made casas and castillos so desirable here. These houses are perfectly suited to San Diego's mild climate, sun-drenched days and moonlit nights made for entertaining behind courtyard walls. In 1915, as now, San Diegans exhibited a taste for colorful, casual and comfortable living.
Today, tile-roofed Spanish Revival homes amid fluttering palm trees may be synonymous with San Diego, the most glorious houses in San Diego celebrate our climate, cultural influences, the beauty of our natural surroundings and desire for vigorous, good health.
By Ann Jarmusch
UNION-TRIBUNE ARCHITECTURE CRITIC
In San Diego,William Templeton Johnson was surrounded by other architects who drew upon mission references, most notably Irving Gill, with his stripped-down modern style, and Richard S. Requa and Frank Mead, with their more traditional Mediterranean and Spanish buildings. Early in their careers before becoming partners, both Requa and Mead worked in Gill's office, where Requa learned about Gill's "experimental style" and use of materials such as concrete and Mead took lessons from Gill's "simple, unadorned architecture whose cubed masses, broad surfaces, and recessed openings took advantage of the brilliant California sun." Mead's interest in Spanish architecture was bolstered early in his career by a trip to Sicily, Spain, and southern Italy; he was fascinated by Moorish architecture, and the journey instilled in him the Arts and Crafts belief that architecture should spring from the land on which it is built. Requa took his own trip south in 1914, studying Spanish Colonial buildings in Cuba, Panama, and South America. Mead and Requa's work, like Johnson's, "smoothly integrated interior rooms with outdoor living spaces" in the Arts and Crafts fashion.
Spanish Revival architecture was in the air in turn-of-the-century San Diego, and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition made it explode in popularity. The ornate Churrigueresque edifices of chief architect Bertram Goodhue, most notably the California Building in which the Museum of Man is still housed, ensured that Spanish-style architecture would remain dominant in Southern California well into the 1930s-at the expense of the simpler lines and structures of architects like Irving Gill. The California Building's soaring tower and delicate ornament made an impact on Requa, who later became a top designer in the California Spanish style and was head architect for another San Diego exposition held in 1935. The buildings also "largely influenced" Johnson, according to a family member, and after this time his work moved away from the simplicity seen in the Francis Parker auditorium to a more romantic Spanish architecture.
The Spanish Revival style is considered to have developed in three phases, according to historian Kevin Starr: Mission Revival, the first phase, began with a different California Building, designed by A. Page Brown, Bernard Maybeck, and A.C. Schweinfurth for the far-reaching 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Brown carried the Mission Revival style, which was often marked by Mediterranean influence, to Santa Barbara in 1894 with a series of vacation cottages; from there it spread through the Southland. In 1912, Northern California architect Myron Hunt helped spark the second phase, Spanish Colonial or Churrigueresque, with his First Congregational Church of Riverside; the period matured with Goodhue's 1915 exposition buildings in San Diego. After the exposition, "innumerable homes, churches, schools, and automobile showrooms exfoliated in Churrigueresque exuberance" across Southern California. The third, less effusive phase was "inspired in the early and mid-1920s by the elemental forms of Mexico and provincial Spain, Andalusia especially," and was marked by such architects as Carleton Winslow, who designed the well-proportioned tower of the Bishop's School in La Jolla. National press about Spanish revival architecture caused the style to be seen as prototypically Southern Californian, and "California Spanish" was the region's most popular style by the 1930s.
Gordon D Fleury
MBA, Broker Associate, REALTOR
Member of The San Diego Historical Society, Save Our Heritage Organisation,
N.A.R., C.A.R., S.D.A.R., BRE #01178116