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Architectural historian Sally B. Woodbridge illuminates the career of John Galen Howard, the University of California's first supervising architect from 1901 to 1924. Howard, a New Englander who had attended MIT and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, worked in the offices of H. H. Richardson and McKim, Mead & White and spent a year in Los Angeles before entering the 1898-99 international competition for an architectural plan for the University of California campus. The competition was sponsored by Phoebe A. Hearst, whose generous funding of it made the University of California known throughout the United States and Europe as a major public institution of higher education. Woodbridge conveys the energy of the turn-of-the-century leaders of the university who, with John Galen Howard, established the campus architecture and setting as the embodiment of their commitment to create a public university of the highest quality.
In addition to the lively story of the Hearst competition and its unexpected outcome, Woodbridge provides detailed descriptions of the major campus buildings designed by Howard and an account of his twenty-five-year career in architectural education as the founder and head of the University of California's School of Architecture.
Including a chronology and an annotated bibliography, her book fills in the social context of Howard's work and the character of the campus community during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
For late-1890s California, which in 1900 would celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, the century ahead promised unlimited opportunity. The state's population had grown to almost one and a half million, and the economy, once based firmly in mining and agriculture, had grown to embrace large-scale commerce, transportation, and manufacturing. Although San Francisco dominated the Bay Area, other cities, such as Oakland, were taking shape. Berkeley had two foci: an industrial center on the western waterfront and a largely residential district with some commercial development to the east around the University of California, founded in 1868.
The university's location on the east side of the bay opposite San Francisco was somewhat fortuitous. The concept of a state institution of higher learning, embedded in the state constitution, had been discussed in and out of the legislature since the early days of statehood. Although various sites were promoted for the institution, none was backed by a strong commitment of money and energy. The income of state residents was not especially high, making the notion of taxation for higher education unpopular. Many citizens thought that the government was usurping new power in even considering the idea. Compulsory education even at the elementary level was not enacted until 1874; by 1879 the state had only sixteen high schools.
Publicly supported higher education had long been a missionary undertaking, espoused by Congregational and Presbyterian clergymen such as Horace Bushnell and Samuel H. Willey, chaplain to the state constitutional convention. They were joined in the cause by influential lawyers and businessmen such as Frederick Billings, John W. Dwinelle, and John B. Geary. After several unsuccessful starts, this grassroots movement finally gained momentum and financial support in May 1853, when the Reverend Henry Durant, who was to be the first president of the new university, arrived in California and professed his goal of establishing a women's seminary. Shortly thereafter, a joint meeting in Nevada City of the Congregational Association of California and the Presbytery of San Francisco resolved to open an academy called the Contra Costa College in rented space in Oakland. In 1855 this preparatory boarding school was incorporated as the College of California.
The college trustees, headed by Billings, acquired four blocks of land bounded by 12th, 14th, Franklin, and Harrison Streets in what was to become the downtown area of Oakland. Funds for the new "seminary of learning" would come from the sale of 46,000 acres of public lands granted in 1853 to the state by Congress. Buildings were constructed for residence and instruction, but the site soon proved problematic. The city was growing up around the campus, increasing the value of land beyond the college's means to acquire it and threatening the students-as the trustees saw it-with unwholesome influences. They therefore began to explore new sites in less populated, more pastoral areas. After acquiring several tracts and a ranch about four miles northwest of Oakland, the twelve trustees stood with friends of the college on a large rock (later named Founders' Rock) that commanded a sweeping view of the area and dedicated the new grounds as a Seat of Learning. Although this event took place on April 16, 1860, financial instability postponed the college's move to the new site for over a decade.
In 1862, the Morrill Act gave each state 30,000 acres of surveyed public land for each of its U.S. senators and representatives for the establishment of a land-grant college. Four years later, the California legislature used the proceeds from the sale of its 150,000-acre grant to found an Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanic Arts College, to be located on land near the new College of California site.
During a meeting of the trustees that took place in 1866 at the base of Founders' Rock, Frederick Billings, surveying the grand view, quoted several lines from an essay, "On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America," by the eighteenth-century Englishman George Berkeley, bishop of Cloyne: "Westward the course of empire takes its way;/the first four acts already past,/A fifth shall close the drama with the day;/ Time's noblest offspring is the last." He suggested that the town in which the new college was located be named after the bishop, and at a later meeting, on May 24, 1866, the board of trustees of the college unanimously endorsed his proposal.
The next year the trustees of the impoverished College of California offered its Berkeley and Oakland properties to the state on the condition that the humanities would be added to the state college to create "a complete university." The legislature then repealed the 1866 act founding the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanic Arts College, and in its place passed a charter act establishing the University of California, signed by Governor H.H. Haight on March 23, 1868. A board of regents was appointed to govern the university, and Henry Durant was elected its first president. The University of California graduated its first class of twelve men-called the "Twelve Apostles"-in 1873, by which time 17 faculty members served 191 students.
In the expansive post-Civil War era, the country badly needed more educational institutions to create a skilled population for the development of the sparsely settled West. A postwar migration of people to cities had taken place on an unprecedented scale, creating chaotic social conditions along with new wealth. But while social and political reformers focused on the problems associated with urban growth, a growing number of civic-minded leaders were attracted to loftier projects, including the Beaux-Arts-inspired architectural visions that took shape during the 1880s.
A much published and discussed embodiment of these visions was the Boston Public Library (1887-95). Designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White, the building drew inspiration from Italian Renaissance palaces and the Parisian Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève (1838-50), an internationally famous building designed by Henri Labrouste. As a publicly funded institution supported by Boston's wealthy and cultured citizens, the Boston library testified to the power of art and architecture to express civic pride.
Before its completion, however, a far grander expression of civic art took center stage: the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. An ensemble of monumental buildings, the "White City," as it was called, gave form to the aspirations of the civic-minded whether in government, business, or the arts. The Chicago event opened the way to a succession of expositions in the first decade and a half of the twentieth century: the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, 1901; the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, 1904; the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, 1909; the Panama-California International Exposition in San Diego, 1915; and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, 1915. Under the combined influence of the expos and various reform movements, municipal art leagues, civic improvement associations, and city art commissions were established in major cities. Such organizations provided a client base for architects associated with the École des Beaux-Arts who had been trained in the classical language of architecture.
Given the enthusiasm for civic-minded construction at the turn of the century and beyond, the idea of an international competition for a permanent architectural plan for the University of California campus was not surprising. By the end of the 1890s, the school was growing quickly, with the faculty numbering around one hundred, and student enrollment nearly two thousand. Within a few years it would rank among the nation's top ten in size. Although the university was nicknamed the "Athens of the West," the physical campus with its hodgepodge of buildings did not come close to matching its reputation. In addition, there was competition from the rival school to the south to consider: in the mid-1880s, Leland Stanford had attracted national attention by enlisting the talents of leading architects to design a master plan for the university he planned to build in Palo Alto as a memorial to his son. Stanford University opened in 1891.
In 1895 the prominent San Francisco lawyer Jacob B. Reinstein, one of the Twelve Apostles and newly appointed to the board of regents, asked his fellow regents, the faculty, and the alumni to suggest ways to improve the university. Bernard Maybeck, a mechanical drawing instructor in the engineering department and once a student at the école, proposed an architectural competition. At first Reinstein dismissed Maybeck's idea as unrealistic, even calling Maybeck "a freak," whom he and his fellow regents did not take seriously. But soon he was won over-possibly by Maybeck's infectious enthusiasm for the grand vision-and endorsed the proposal, saying that state legislators and private individuals would give more to the university if they could see an "actual picture" of the architecture that would perpetuate their names in stone. In December 1895 Reinstein publicized his views in a newspaper article, stating, "Let us build, not rapidly, not lavishly, but slowly, yet grandly, that there may greet the commerce which shall whiten the Golden Gate and the civilization which shall grace this western shore an architectural pile of stately and glorious buildings which shall rival the dreams of the builders of the Columbian Exposition, which shall do honor and justice to a superb Republic and to its most favored State, and which, even in their ruins, shall strike the beholder with wonder and rapture."
Following the regents' approval of the competition in May 1896, a campaign to raise funds received such enthusiastic support that within a few months $4 million had been pledged. The major donor was Phoebe Apperson Hearst, widow of Senator George R. Hearst, who, in a letter to the regents dated October 22, 1896, offered to pay both for the competition and for two buildings of the accepted plan. One building was to be a memorial to her late husband, who had made his fortune in mining. "I desire to say," wrote Mrs. Hearst, "that the success of this enterprise shall not be hampered in any way by a money consideration." (Mrs. Hearst had approached then President Martin Kellogg in late 1895 with the intention of funding a building for the College of Mining in memory of her husband. News of Maybeck's proposal may have caused her to see her building project as an appropriate part of a grander scheme.)
Her magnanimous offer accepted by the regents, Mrs. Hearst then appointed a board of trustees for the competition. J.B. Reinstein was the chairman; the members were California governor James H. Budd and William Carey Jones, professor of jurisprudence. As the coordinator of the competition, Maybeck seems to have been largely responsible for the prospectus, which outlined an unparalleled-indeed, scarcely believable-opportunity for architects:
The purpose is to secure a plan to which all the buildings that may be needed by the University in its future growth shall conform. All the buildings that have been constructed up to the present time are to be ignored, and the grounds are to be treated as a blank space to be filled as a single beautiful and harmonious picture as a painter fills in his canvas.
The site of the University of California at Berkeley, California, comprises two hundred and forty-five acres of land, rising at first in a gentle and then in a bolder slope from a height of about two hundred feet above the sea level to one of over nine hundred.... It is thought that the advantages of the site, whose bold slope will enable the entire mass of buildings to be taken in at a single coup d'oeil, will permit that production of an effect unique in the world, and that the architect who can seize the opportunity it offers will immortalize himself.
It is seldom in any age that an artist has had a chance to express his thought so freely, on so large a scale, and with such entire exemption from the influence of discordant surroundings. Here there will be at least twenty-eight buildings, all mutually related and, at the same time, entirely cut off from anything that could mar the effect of the picture. In fact, it is a city that is to be created-a City of Learning-in which there is to be no sordid or inharmonious feature. There are to be no definite limitations of cost, materials, or style. All is to be left to the unfettered discretion of the designer. He is asked to record his conception of an ideal home for a University, assuming time and resources to be unlimited. He is to plan for centuries to come. There will doubtless be developments of science in the future that will impose new duties on the University, and require alterations in the detailed arrangement of its buildings, but it is believed to be possible to secure a comprehensive plan so in harmony with the universal principles of architectural art, that there will be no more necessity of remodelling its broad outlines a thousand years hence than there would be of remodelling the Parthenon, had it come down to us complete and uninjured.
In the great works of antiquity the designer came first, and it was the business of the financier to find the money to carry out his plans. In the new building scheme of the University of California, it is the intention to restore the artist and the art idea to their old pre-eminence. The architect will simply design; others must provide the cost.
The plan was to provide buildings for administration, the library, a museum, auditoriums, gymnasia, areas for military exercises, habitations, clubhouses, an infirmary, general service buildings for such things as heat, power, and light, and the means of "approach and communication," or access roads and pathways. Fifteen departments were projected, within divisions classified as Higher Historical and Literary Instruction, Higher Scientific Instruction, and Higher Technical and Applied Instruction.
There was much to do to get the competition under way. Maybeck and Professor William Carey Jones spent several months seeking advice from presidents of large universities, leading educators, architects, painters, and sculptors. Meanwhile, Maybeck and Reinstein set out for Paris to consult eminent architects about the program for the competition.
Apparently Maybeck did not discuss the competition with the local architectural community, even though he certainly knew its leaders. The choice of Paris as the headquarters for his work on the competition reflects his devotion to the place where he had spent several memorable years studying.
Excerpted from JOHN GALEN HOWARD and the University of California by Sally B. Woodbridge Copyright © 2002 by Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
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1. The Early Years to 1888
2. Paris and New York: 18891895
3. The University of California and the 18981899
International Competition for the Hearst Architectural Plan
4. Postcompetition Reversals
5. Supervising Architect for the Hearst Architectural Plan: 19011903
6. The Move to California in 1902
7. The President’s House, California Hall, and the Hearst Mining Building: 19011907
8. University Work, Private Practice, and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: 19041907
9. Doe Library, Boalt Hall, and Sather Gate: 19071917
10. Expositions in Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego: 19091915
11. The San Francisco Civic Center and a Trial: 19111913
12. A Move and the Publication of Brunelleschi
13. The College of Agriculture, Sather Tower, Hilgard, Wheeler, and Gilman Halls, and Campus Landscaping: 19101917
14. World War I and Postwar Changes at the University: 19171924
15. Dismissal as Supervising Architect and a Career as Educator: 19231931
Appendix: Buildings by John Galen Howard