Building Claremont the early years (continued)

Culture and heritage: when we string them together as in cultural heritage, what does that mean? Cultural heritage is an expression of the ways of living, passed on from generation to generation, which includes customs, practices, objects, artistic expressions and values. Cultural heritage includes physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from the past, maintained in the present and preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Human activity produces tangible representations of the value systems, beliefs, traditions and lifestyles of a community. Cultural heritage is a large concept; it encompasses much. It can be distinguished in the:

• Built environment (buildings, townscapes, archaeological remains);

• Natural environment (landscapes, coasts, mountains, deserts, forests, agricultural)

• Artifacts (books, documents, objects, art, photographs).

Cultural heritage is a human creation. It is meant to inform. It is a value and belief that is instilled in one by first, understanding it—people value it; secondly by valuing it—people want to care for it; by caring for it—it helps people to enjoy it; and by enjoying it—comes a desire to understand even more—and the cycle begins again.

This month we continue to explore the architects and buildings of the early years of Claremont that have contributed so greatly to the cultural heritage of the city.  

Gordon B. Kaufmann

Born in 1888, in Forest Hill, London, England, Gordon B. Kaufmann graduated from the London Polytechnic Institute in 1908. He moved to Vancouver, BC, where he spent the next six years, until he immigrated to California in 1914, settling first in Fresno for a year, before moving to Los Angeles in 1915. By 1917 he partnered with Reginald Johnson and Roland Coate and created the firm, Johnson, Kaufmann and Coate in Pasadena.

During his early years he designed mostly residences, which were in the Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Revival styles that were popular throughout Southern California at the time. His reputation and acclaim grew and with his new-found stature, he was much sought after. He designed palatial estates, college campuses and some of the most iconic structures in Southern California.

In 1926, his work came to the attention of Scripps College. Mr. Kaufmann, in partnership with landscape architect, Edward Huntsman-Trout, designed a comprehensive general plan for the campus. The design featured four residence halls to be built over a period of four years, from 1927 to 1930, and included a library, private gardens and courtyards hidden from the streets by the backs of the buildings. 

The project’s design was primarily in the Mediterranean Revival style. The building and development of his and Huntsman-Trout’s design would last for thirteen years. The result was stunning, has earned the Scripps campus the designation as one of the most beautiful in the country, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to Scripps, he also designed the Honnold Library and the house at 1100 Oxford. He went on to design the Santa Anita Racetrack, Hoover Dam, the Los Angeles Times Building, Greystone Mansion and the Hollywood Palladium. 

Sumner Spaulding

Sumner Spaulding was born in 1892 in Michigan.  He attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and graduated from MIT in Massachusetts in 1916. He also studied in Mexico and Europe. He designed the Frary Dining Hall at Pomona College in 1929, along with Mudd and Clark Halls. He also designed one of the most significant historic structures in the Village, the former Village Theatre, better known now as Harvard Square.

The Village Theatre was built in 1939 and opened with much fanfare in January 1940. The COURIER carried a full-page pictorial of the festivities on January 19, under the heading, “Gala Opening Night at Village Theater in Pictures.” The theatre operated continuously until 1979, when it was renovated and reused to accommodate specialty shops and restaurants. The character defining features were kept intact, and to allow access to the second story, noted architect Everett Tozier designed the free-standing stair structure on the north side of the building.

Mr. Spaulding became renowned for projects such as the Los Angeles Civic Center, silent-film legend Harold Lloyd’s estate, Green Acres and the Avalon Theatre on Santa Catalina Island, in addition to much of the north campus of Pomona College.

In 1945, Mr. Spaulding designed, and together with John Rex redesigned, the mid-century modern style Case Study House No. 2, that was completed in 1947, in the Chapman Woods neighborhood of Pasadena. Mr. Spaulding taught architecture at USC and at Scripps College.

Robert Hall Orr

Born in Canada in 1873, Robert Hall Orr immigrated to the US in 1881. He apprenticed as a draftsman for two years, without pay, with William Weeks, an architect in Salinas, and was then transferred to a paying job in Weeks’ Watsonville office. By the 1890s, Mr. Orr had settled in Pomona and had started his own firm. He was the architect for five of Claremont’s iconic structures. 

Mr. Orr designed two of Claremont’s most well-known stone houses, the Pitzer House at the corner of Towne and Baseline and the Johnson House on Mountain just north of Foothill Boulevard. The Pitzer House has been called “the finest stone house in Southern California” by architectural historian, Robert Winter. Mr. Orr also designed Crookshank Hall on the Pomona College campus.

Mr. Orr was also the architect of Claremont High School, now The Old School House, at the corner of Indian Hill and Foothill. And if there is one building that stands out in the Village and exemplifies the downtown area, it is the Claremont National Bank at the corner of Yale and Second Street, today known as the Verbal Building that houses Pizza n’ Such.

Mr. Orr designed churches in Upland, Ontario, Pomona, La Verne, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Hollywood and public buildings, including Pomona High School #2, and the Stimson Building in downtown Los Angeles, both of which have been demolished.

The October column will be dedicated to the Claremont Heritage Home Tour that will take place on Sunday, October 14. “Building Claremont” will resume in November.


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