Chronological listing of 10 selected architectural works in the San Francisco Bay Area (1893-1893).
1893, Nob Hill, Trinity Episcopal Church,
1668 Bush St, San Francisco.
A. Page Brown.
A squat square stone Gothic Revival church; the tower is open to the nave. Following a fire, the interiors have been altered (Gebhard Winter Sandweiss 1985: 84).
Trinity Episcopal Church, at Bush and Gough Streets, is a great granite structure in the English Medieval style, said to be influenced by England's Durham Cathedral. Its architect, A. Page Brown, was commissioned by Bishop Kip in 1892. The fortress-like exterior belies the delicacy of the vast interior space, where the bronze angel supporting the lectern and two of the stained glass windows were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (Alexander and Heig 2002: 281).
From Corrugated Iron to Solid StoneTrinity Episcopal Church was organized in 1849 in a pre-fabricated corrugated iron building (top left) on Stockton Street. By 1852 the congregation, needing larger quarters, imported a new pre-fab iron church and set it up on Pine and Kearny Streets (middle left). In 1867 a truly grand church (top middle) was built at Post and Powell Streets, on the north side of Union Square. In 1892 the congregation built a splendid stone church at Gough and Bush Streets, where it stands today, largely unaltered (left, in a photograph taken around 1900). A. Page Brown, the architect, drawing inspiration from the great Durham Cathedral in England, created a magnificent Gothic forteress-church, with authentic gargoyles and crenelated towers, as well as one of the finest acoustic spaces in the city (Photographs courtesy Trinity Episcopal Church)(Alexander and Heig 2002: 63).
The winning entry in the competition for Trinity Church, San Francisco (1891-1894) gives an indication of [A. C.] Schweinfurth's interest in working with massive, elemental forms, expressed more forcefully here than in any of his previous designs (Fig. 45).9 Contrasting with contemporary churches by Ralph Adams Cram and others who sought to design fully in the spirit of medieval architecture, Trinity supports historical references that seem almost incidental to its effect. The play between abstract geometry and Gothic details remains tenuous, imparting a charactaer that is no doubt unintentionally crude. If the design is less refined than earlier work, it is also less conventional. (Longstreth 1998: 87).
Concerning Schweinfurth's role in Brown's office, see San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1894, which cites Trinity Church and the Union Depot and Ferry House, as well as the Administration Building, Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building, and a number of small pavilions at the California Midwinter International Exposition to be among the many of "his conceptions." Besides Schweinfurth's acerbic letter to the editor of Western Architect and Building News discussed in chap. 2, two letters published in the Wave, November 28, 1896, p. 3 and February 13, 1897, p. 3, shed some light on his personality (Longstreth 1998: 370 n. 8).
New York architect William Halsey Wood was commissioned to design the building (San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 1891), but shortly after he submitted the preliminary scheme, a competition was held. Coxhead entered it, and photographs of the design survive in his papers (Longstreth 1998: 371 n. 9).
England's medieval architecture is represented by the stone Trinity Episcopal Church at 1668 Bush Street. This imposing and dignified Gothic edifice, of Colusa sandstone, was designed by A. Page Brown, somewhat after Durham Cathedral, and built in 1892. The bronze angel which supports the lectern near the chancel and two of the smaller stained-glass windows were designed by Louis Tiffany (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 113).
1893, Pacific Heights, William Joliffe house,
2015 Pacific Ave., San Francisco.
The Polks [W.W. Polk, Daniel Polk, Willis Polk] acted as general contractors for the San Francisco houses of Adam Grant and William Joliffe (Longstreth 1998: 372, n. 13).
1893, Presidio Heights, Engine Company 23 Firehouse,
3022 Washington St., San Francisco.
This churchlike Victorian firehouse with its hose-tower steeple has become a studio-residence (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 102).
A classic San Francisco firehouse stands at Washington and Baker Streets, with the date of its founding (1893) proudly emblazoned within a coiled fire hose in the gable. The tower features louvered panels, designed for drying heavy canvas fire hoses after use. Interior designer John Dickenson bought and restored the building about 1960; it was later the residence of former Governor Jerry Brown (Alexander and Heig 2002: 264).
Complementing this gabled and towered residence [at 3020 Washington Street] is the former firehouse next door, 3022 Washington Street, built in 1893 to house Engine Company 23. Closely related in style and age to the firehouse at 1152 Oak Street, 3022 Washington is very late Italianate with Victorian Gothic overtones, most apparent in the tower formerly used for drying the fire hoses. The interior, now a residence and studio, has been remodeled to accentuate its original purpose in a striking, yet comfortable manner (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 33).
1893, Inner Marina, Former San Francisco Gas Light Company,
3640 Buchanan St., San Francisco.
This brick Richardsonian block is the lone survivor of a former gasworks. It has a walled garden and a handsome interior space (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 78).
At Gashouse Cove, a brick gashouse, once the property of the San Francisco Power and Light Company, still stands on Buchanan Street, just behind the Marina Safeway. For many years the gashouse, with its handsome round corner rooms at the front and a great cavernous hall behind, served as a splendid antiques shop, with a beautiful garden shop adjacent, selling only white-blooming plants. Today it is a real estate office (Alexander and Heig 2002: 391).
Also in the Marina is 3640 Buchanan Street, formerly headquarters of the San Francisco Gas Light Company, which purchased three square blocks fronting San Francisco Bay in 1884. In 1893, the company constructed three brick buildings, an oiler dock and two storage tanks. Only the handsome brick Richardsonian structure at 3640 Buchanan survives.
The building changed hands over the years, reflecting the consolidation of the various utility companies, until it was purchased and converted to an antique store, Merryvale. The most impressive interior feature is the main room which once housed two great gas compression cylinders. A magnificently simple coffered redwood ceiling, accentuated by large redwood beams, is further dramatized by exposed brick walls which come up to meet it. Just to the south, a walled Garden Center replaces a formerly landscaped area of the gas plant (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 15).
1893, Richmond, homes,
211, 213, 215, 217 Third Ave., San Francisco
J. R. Chapton.
The oldest houses in the original [Richmond] district (Arguello Boulevard to Fifteenth Avenue between Geary and California Streets) are small and scattered, and while many are still standing, they do not dominate the neighborhood.
Some of the typical early construction in the Richmond can be seen on Third Avenue, between Cornwall and Clement Streets. Most interesting in the row of four identical homes at 211, 213, 215, and 217 Third Avenue built by J. R. Chapton in 1893. The interesting pointed turrets, the diamond shingles, and the entrance porches with colonnettes and arches identify these uniform styructures as indeed separate castles (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 132).
1893, Pacific Heights, Ernest Coxhead house,
2421 Green St., San Francisco
The quiet exterior of Coxhead's own house at 2421 conceals a marvelous interior, with a long, glazed entrance gallery on the west side running from a high-ceiling living room on the street to the dining room on the rear garden. Upstairs the master bedroom extends into the high gable (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 42).
The quiet exterior of Coxhead's own house at No. 2421 conceals an ingenious interior, with a long glazed entrance gallery on the west side running from a high-ceilinged living room on the street to the dining room on the rear garden. The master bedroom on the upper floor has a select view through the corner bay window (Woodbridge and Woodbridge 1992: 80-81).
One of Coxhead's interests was the English manor house. His first buildings in Northern California display half timbering, neo-Elizabethan window mullion patterns, and other quaint, period-revival details. These he soon shed. But he had a continuing interest in certain traditional spatial concepts: he frequently integrated into his California houses variations of the Great Hall and Long Gallery of the English country house. In his own house, built in 1893 on a narrow lot in urban San Francisco, the entrance hall is a miniature Long Gallery. The living room, dining room, kitchen, and stairs are all strung along this hall: it functions as a spine, a corridor, and a room. It is many times longer than its width and boasts two fireplaces. The first, in the narrow end wall, near the entrance to the house, performs a symbolic function of welcome. The other, placed in the long wall near the oposite end, faces a square bay which widens the hall enough for a comfortable seating area, providing a pleasant, light place for tea on San Francisco's fog-bound afternoons. This bay overlooks the garden of a small house next door, also designed by Coxhead. The two houses form an ell around the shared open space. The master bedroom upstairs has a high vaulted ceiling with roof-bracing trusses near the top. All details of the room are scaled to increase its apparent size. The windows are small-paned, and closer to the floor than one expects: in one corner at an angle is the entrance to the room with a fireplace on one side and a seat on the other. As long as the door is open it, the fireplace, and the seat remain separate elements; but when the door is closed, these elements are joined to form a cozy inglenook. That the door must be closed to create this private place reinforces the intimate feeling of separatiion from the world outside (Beach 1988: 24).
By 1893 an important shift occurred in Coxhead's approach, evident in the ...residence built for himself and Almeric (Fig. 73). Like the Williams-Polk house, it exploits a difficult site to achieve a dramatic effect. The design is also a more sophisticated interpretation of English precedents than was McGauley's. The narrow street frontage is accentuated by a towerlike facade that has a taut, abstract quality. The bands of little windows set flush against the surface were probably inspired by recent London work of Shaw and others. However, the composition is more simplified and softened than English models, in keeping with the building's size and materials. The west elevation, facing McGauley's yard, with its dominant horizontality and rural character, contrasts with the facade and underscores the transition from public to private space. Expanses of shingled wall and roof surfaces, interrupted only by the simplest window articulation, extend from a pivotal clustering of elements grouped around the front door. The composition may well have been inspired by Voysey's early projects, but Coxhead's version is more compact and mannered at its focal point and less regimented elsewhere. 20 Toward the rear, the house looks somewhat like a Surrey barn that has been remodeled in a straightforward way, lacking the studied poise of the street facade (Fig. 74). Front and rear are set in opposition, while the overriding simplicity of detail lends cohesiveness to the whole. Both the imagery and the studied casualness present in this design owe a major debt to English arts-and-crafts work, which became a guidepost for Coxhead's work during the next several years. 21 But neither Coxhead nor Polk considered the Arts and Crafts Movement to be a discrete entity; instead they appear to have viewed it as a potent source for expression in rustic design--an updated equivalent of the Shingle Style--that was appropriate to the design of modest houses.
Coxhead's plans remained more American. In his own residence there is an ever-changing path up to and through the premises, inspired by Polk's work but developed in a different way. The entrance is reached by a series of winding steps and landings that become progressively constricted, with the final run wedged between a retaining wall and the basement, as if it were an alley in an Italian hill town (Figs. 75, 76). A transition occurs at the front door, spatially echoing the change in character between the front and rear portions of the house. Inside, the emphasis is wholly horizontal. The long gallery, the plan's one English component, is unlike its prototypes in that it generates a sense of continuity while dramatizing the site's narrow form through variations in space and light (Fig. 77). From the dark vestibule the corridor gradually becomes brighter, expanding into a glazed bay that serves as a secondary sitting area, with a borrowed vista of McGauley's yard. The gallery brightens further at the end, where windows on two sides open into a secluded garden. In the other direction the space unfolds more rapidly, lapping down a broad turn of steps in a circuitous path to the living room. Although the stair is directly opposite the entrance, it is encased so as not to interrupt the horizontal emphasis. The living room is unusually large for a house of this size and is made even more expansive by grandly scaled redwood paneling and beams (Fig. 78). The living room windows are placed only at the corners, and each one is at a different height. Like a periscope, the highest window bank caches a segment of the McGauley house. At the far corner, the platform and attendant bench offer an observation deck from which to view houses across the street and catch glimpses of the Bay beyond. Paralleling the Williams-Polk house interiors, the sequence and manipulation of each zone imply an extension of space, mitigating the property's narrow confines (Longstreth 1998: 128-29).
The brothers Coxhead designed this dramatically simple, shingled house for themselves. It is an excellent example of the Coxheads' ability to make a home comfortable and spacious, and to integrate the out-of-doors with the interior (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 270).
1893, Golden Gate Park, Prayer Book Cross,
Kennedy Drive and Crossover Drive, San Francisco.
Extant (Longstreth 1998: 424).
Presented to Golden Gate Park at the opening of the Midwinter Fair in January of 1894 as a memorial of the service held on the shore of Drake's Bay about Saint John Baptist's Day, June 24, 1579. [This was] the first Christian service in the English tongue on the California coast, and the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in the United States (from the legend on the monument).
Prayer Book Cross, created by Ernest Coxhead, stands on one of the higher points in Golden Gate Park. It is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Park Presidio Drive, near Cross Over Drive. This 75 ft. sandstone cross commemorates the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in California by Sir Francis Drake's chaplain, Francis Fletcher, on June 24, 1579 (Text and Photographs Copyright ©1998 David Gardner. All Rights Reserved Worldwide).
1893, Pacific Heights, Charles Murdock house,
2710 Scott St., San Francisco
An 1893 Polk house and one of Coxhead's designs of 1892 present an interesting series of similarities and contrasts. Coxhead's Murdock house is a San Francisco townhouse clothed in the form and materials of a rustic vernacular. Polk's Rey house climbs a wooded hill in suburban Belvedere but is as tightly packed and introspective as an urban house. Both houses use a vernacular mode as a background for and contrast to specific pieces adapted from high-art European architectural history: but where Coxhead chose the carpenter's wood-frame vernacular, the Rey house references the wood and adobe buildings of early Anglo Monterey. Each house is a series of staggered-level platforms stacked around a stairwell. But where the Rey house is an open, constantly changing spatial progression (a perfect example of the stair-become-a-house), the Murdock house is a series of separate compartments.(Beach 1988: 57, 60, 62, 66, 67).
An equally unconventional solution is present in the Charles Murdock house around the corner [from the Coxhead house], which Coxhead had designed several months earlier. A native of Boston, Murdock moved to California in 1855 and became a widely respected elder of the intellectual community. Murdock ran a small printing business; he considered bookmaking an art and was patronized by some of the region's most gifted writers. Among his friends were Bret Harte, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, and William Keith. While active in the Unitarian church, he had been married by Joseph Worcester and frequently attended his services. Murdock was also an ardent supporter of the younger generation, including Bruce Porter, Gelett Burgess, and Coxhead. Since Murdock, like many of his friends, could not afford to spend much for his house, it was designed with about as much floor area as Coxhead's residence, and at an even lower cost.22
The studied asymmetry of the facade recalls those of E. W. Godwin's well-known artists' houses in Chelsea from a decade earlier, but here the relationship among elements is only implied (Fig. 79).23 Set amid a sea of shingles, each opening has a different scale and treatment, and both side elevations abandon ordered composition. The house is a picturesque but basically utilitarian box. In this respect, it bears closer affinity to the small post-medieval dwellings that line the streets of many English towns more than to its urbane London counterparts (Fig. 80).
The exterior gives little clue as to what occurs inside, where the rooms are at split levels set around a tiny central stair (Figs. 81, 82). This skylit vertical core, rendered as if it were a Georgian hall, comes as a complete surprise. Taking a cue from Shaw's plan for 42 Netherhall Gardens, Coxhead placed the stair at the end of a dark, simple, and, like everything else, miniaturized gallery. In the living room above, ornateness and simplicity confront one another in a richly carved fireplace surround isolated by plaster walls that were originally covered with brown paper (Fig. 83)(Longstreth 1998: 132-34).
It would take somebody with the style and sophistication of Willis Polk to combine the disparate elements seen in this shingle house; a richly detailed Baroque door frame, a group of cottage casements, a dormer window, and large areas of uninterrupted wall and roof (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 294).
1893?, San Mateo, Ernest and Almeric Coxhead house,
37 East Santa Inez Ave., San Mateo
Coxhead relied almost entirely on English rural vernacular sources for the imagery of his rustic suburban houses, but he showed no inclination toward developing specific regional references, as did many of his English colleagues. For his own suburban house in San Mateo (ca. 1893), Coxhead created an idealized version of the half-timber cottage: picturesque, slightly irregular, even a little awkward, yet controlled by the encompassing double-bowed roof, with each element clearly articulated by surface timberwork to form a crisp, linear pattern (Fig. 112).15 The effect is studied and abstract in a manner similar to Voysey's recent work. But Coxhead was not seeking a standard idiom in his adaptation of the English cottage, which was both generalized and multifaceted. A design, probably dating from the late 1890s, isolates each element amid mural wall surfaces. Here, a complex form is used with an X-shaped plan that breaks into a panoply of gables midway up the side (Fig. 113). The idea must have come from schemes by Edward Prior, which were having an important influence on English domestic architecture at that time; but the interpretation, in its form, detail, and absence of regional ties, was Coxhead's own (Longstreth 1998: 160).
Again, the house's exact date is unknown. The deed for the property was filed in the San Mateo County Recorder's Office on May 11, 1891. The similarity in its plan with those of the Churchill and Greenleaf houses suggests that it was built at about the same time, that is, within a year or two of the property's purchase. Both Coxhead and his brother Almeric were bachelors at this time and their place of residence remained San Francisco. The San Mateo house was used as a second dwelling until Ernest Coxhead moved there permanently ca. 1903. The motivation behind its construction may well have been to advertise the firm's work in hopes of securing commissions in Burlingame Park and other fashionable suburban developments nearby (Longstreth 1998: 160; 379 n.15).
Coxhead's knowing hand created here a highly personal version of an unpretentious style. This house clearly reflects its and his English origins, but the modular quality of its half-timbering approaches the feeling of some of Frank Lloyd Wright's early wood and stucco houses (Gebhard, Winter and Sandweiss 1985: 132).
During 1891, San Francisco was in turmoil and rapidly changing. At the time of the gold rush, a great deal of money poured into the city. Ernest A. Coxhead, a noted English architect, decided to build his family's country retreat here,in San Mateo. Coxhead used the English rural vernacular, with a double bowed roof and delicate leaded windows, to add charm to his English cottage. The idea of the rustic suburb quickly gained popularity around the Bay Area, influenced by Coxhead and his colleagues, Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck. They added new Arts and Crafts techniques and innovations to English country homes. This rustic Tudor Revival home has survived, almost untouched, for over a century. Coxhead House creates its current ambiance by paying tribute to all three architects.
Many of the nineties houses of both Coxhead and Polk have spatial qualities which seem derived specifically from the stairwell spaces of some of the grander Queen Anne/Shingle Style houses of the East Coast. It is as if the house had been trimmed away, leaving only the circulation space. Then a step here and a landing there are extruded horizontally, expanded from a small space to a larger one. By this curioius process the stair sequence ceases to be simply an element of a larger building, but is transformed into the building itself.
This is clearly seen in two of Coxhead's houses from the early 1890's which are essentially expanded stairways: Coxhead's own second house in San Mateo and the Greenlease house in Alameda. The Greenlease house is a more ample version than Coxhead's own, but they are basically identical in spatial concept. Each is entered through a low enclosed space which is in fact tucked beneath a stair landing (a frequent device of Coxhead's). From there a series of steps leads through a brightly lit, open space to a landing which is extended to become the main living space. Then the stair turns and continues its interrupted flight to the platform which defines the ceiling of the low entrance space. In Coxhead's house this landing is simply that; a landing (Beach 1988: 27).
Ernest Coxhead - lived here 1891 - 1924 (1903 wife died in childbirth, 1906 S.F. earthquake), wife active in Mills Auxiliary. Coxhead designed the original S.F. civic center along with Maybeck and Morgan (?) and several Episcopalian Churches as well as homes.
Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman - lived in the house nicknamed scholar's cottage from 1924 to 1943. Founded the Asia Arts Foundation, foremost authorities on Persian art, architecture and Persian rugs (she catalogued the Hearst collection, they authored 36 volumes). Only Americans honored in Iran with a park and mausoleum in their names.
Laughlin Family - lived in the house from 1943 - 1951 - modernized the kitchen. Marian and James Hemingway - lived in the house from 1951 to 1991. They were founders of the San Mateo Unitarian Church which met in the living room until they purchased a building. She was very active in the Democratic Party and became the 1st female City Council member in San Mateo.
Pat Osborn and Steve Cabrera - purchased the house in 1991. 1994 San Mateo centennial -house catalogued as eligible for National Register. 1996 San Mateo City declared Coxhead House a local historical landmark. 1997 opened as a B and B. 1998 application as National Register property -honored by the City of San Mateo as "most improved small business-rehabilitation" and owners awarded "Entrepreneur of the Year" by the San Mateo Chamber of Commerce.
In April 2000, the Coxhead House was designated a "National Historic Landmark". This status is the highest level of recognition given by the United States government and is reserved for places that "possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States." Coxhead House is also now a "California State Historic Landmark" (Pat Osborn and Steve Cabrera. 2003. The Coxhead House History).
By 1893, Coxhead had built himself two substantial homes, one in Pacific Heights and another in San Mateo with a view to the bay. That home, today the Coxhead Inn, is a half-timbered, multi-gabled, fake-thatched affair, with gorgeous woodwork throughout.
"When I first walked in here I was dumbfounded," says owner Steve Cabrera, a woodworker himself. (Dave Weinstein, Saturday, June 5, 2004, Ernest Coxhead: Strange talents: Idiosyncratic homes helped define bay tradition San Francisco Chronicle).
1893, Alameda, George Whittell house,
1272 Caroline St., Alameda
(Longstreth 1998: 424).
Abbreviationsadd = Additions; nm = No Mention; rem = Remodelled; rest = Restoration