Claremont Heritage to present architecture events

Known as “the City of Trees and PhDs”, Claremont embodies an almost utopian environment that is a wonderful mix of small-town atmosphere combined with robust academic and cultural attributes.

An exhibit currently on display at the Garner House at Claremont’s historic Memorial Park, “16 Architects,” recognizes a pivotal period that was brought to fruition by the seminal original 1950 exhibition curated by then architecture department head, Whitney Smith, who mounted a survey of Modern architecture, art and design at the Lang Gallery at Scripps College. The current “16 Architects” exhibition documents the intersection of art and architecture in a community that produced an incredible output during the mid-20th century. In fact, Claremont could very well be one of the best-hidden secrets in the annuls of modernism.

Claremont was a lively arts community since the early 1930s, mainly due to the influence of a young visionary, Millard Sheets, who was brought in to run a fledgling art department at Scripps College. Inextricably linked were the artists, craftspeople and architects that Mr. Sheets brought to teach, and who later made Claremont home, influencing decades of artists and makers. Mr. Sheets brought William Manker to set up the ceramics department. Albert Stewart, a prominent sculptor from New York, taught sculpture. Jean Ames began teaching design. During the war years, Charles Brooks and Whitney Smith taught architecture, and after the war, Ted Criley succeeded them.

Art and architecture were allied and we benefit from the partnership today. Herman Garner created an artists colony in the Padua Hills, giving property to Albert and Marion (Hoppy) Stewart for their Theodore Criley Jr.-designed home and studio. Ceramicist Harrison McIntosh had a home and studio designed by Fred McDowell, built next to the Richard Neutra-designed Ninneman House. Other artists who lived in Padua included Betty Davenport Ford and Arthur and Jean Ames. Mr. Sheets built a home there and later designed the Pomona First Federal Bank in town. Foster Rhodes Jackson designed several masterpieces in the foothills above Claremont. Painter Karl Benjamin commissioned Mr. McDowell to design his home and studio. Buff and Hensman built here, as did Cliff May, known for both his Rancho-style homes and the early pre-fabs that he and Chris Choate designed. Both styles appear in Claremont.

Modern architecture in Claremont was not limited to only residential projects. The institutional and commercial output during this period included work by local architects Mr. Criley and Mr. McDowell, who were responsible for hundreds of projects ranging from schools to churches to office buildings. A. Quincy Jones and Edward Durell Stone both designed buildings for The Colleges. John Lautner designed an office building (although it was never built) and Henry’s Diner (demolished) on Foothill Boulevard, in nearby Pomona that was the epitome of modern Drive-in Architecture. 

The group of artists, designers and craftspeople that came together in this small community, bound together by the built environment, created a modernist mecca that has influenced decades of form givers. This legacy is now being recognized as a pivotal force in the development of the “California Style,” a version of Modernism that is now being documented in major museum exhibitions and publications. Claremont Heritage is proud to acknowledge this history and presents “16 Architects,” a testament to a special period in our community and culture.

“16 Architects” will run through Sunday, November 10. Ginger Elliott Exhibit Center hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Claremont Heritage will also host an event this November with pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix. His fun-fueled whirlwind adventure extravaganza in search of southern California’s greatest undiscovered and underrated mid-century architectural gems and jewels past and present will be explored through a live slide show performance on Sunday, November 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Seely Mudd Theater, Claremont School of Theology, 1325 N. College Ave. in Claremont.

With his trademark enthusiasm, gracious wit and keen eye for odd-ball detail, Mr. Phoenix shows and tells the stories and the glories of spectacular space-age drive-ins, fast food stands, coffee shops, bowling alleys, strip malls, shopping centers, extreme homes, dingbat apartments, theme parks and more. Don’t miss Charles Phoenix.

The event is hosted by Claremont Heritage. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit This is a ticket-less event. Your name will be put on a list at the door and your receipt will be your proof of purchase. For more information, call 621-0848.

—David Shearer

Executive Director, Claremont Heritage


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