Building Claremont the mid century years

by John Neiuber

This column is the eighth installment of the Building Claremont series, and the fifth one addressing the modern movement, that focuses on the architects and structures that have shaped the development and built environment of the city.

This month we explore the works and contributions of Everett Tozier and S. David Underwood.

Everett Tozier

Everett Lane Tozier was a Southern California native and attended UC Berkeley until his education was interrupted by military service. During World War II, he was a B-25 bomber pilot, flying in 74 missions over France, Italy and Sicily. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944. After the war he received his architecture degree in 1949 from the University of Southern California. He became a licensed architect in 1951 and a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1952.

Tozier opened an office in Pomona in 1952, where he also served as chair of the city planning commission. He designed a model home that was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Fair in 1952. The post-and-beam house, constructed entirely of wood and glass, was a major draw at the fair. He went on to design a number of homes in and around Claremont, including the Forbes residence in 1956 and the Foster residence in 1965, both located in Padua Hills.

In 1969 he relocated to Claremont where he formed a partnership with William Abbott. Their offices were located at 219 N. Indian Hill Blvd. After partnering with Abbott, their projects included many more commercial and institutional buildings in Claremont, Pomona and surrounding areas. In addition to private residences, their repertoire expanded to include college buildings, banks, fire stations, stables and churches. When Abbot passed away in 1976, Tozier continued as sole proprietor. 

One does not have to travel very far in Claremont to experience a Tozier designed building, including many iconic structures that we interact with every day. Just like many architects of the day, Abbot and Tozier designed pretty much anything that came along. From banks to restaurants, educational buildings to churches, their collective output firmly established them as the go-to architects of the Pomona Valley. 

Together they designed a number of buildings on the Claremont Colleges’ campuses, including the Thille Building at Pomona College and the Claremont University Center Science Building. They worked on the Pomona Public Library with William Beckett and Associates and designed the First Baptist Church of Pomona.

During the 1970s, Tozier and Abbot worked to develop a plan for Yale Avenue. The California Bank and Trust building on the northeast corner of Yale and First Street with its exquisite wind chime tower is a familiar Tozier building to everyone. The tower personifies the relationship that Tozier had with the integration of art and architecture. The chimes were created by ceramist Harrison McIntosh and provide not only a visual delight to the building, but an acoustical delight as well. Yale Avenue’s first outdoor café, The Danson, was another project that helped to begin the transformation of the Village, which at the time as a typical small town commercial area.

Tozier is also known for his design of the free-standing stair structure on the north side of the Harvard Square building. The stair structure was an addition when the Village Theater was adaptively reused after closure. The Village Theater was designed by Sumner Spaulding in 1939, who was a subject of the Building Claremont series. 

Tozier also worked with sculptor John Svenson who had apprenticed with Albert Stewart, a prominent New York sculptor that Millard Sheets had coaxed to Claremont to teach at Scripps College. He not only used Svenson’s works in his projects, but also designed Svenson’s studio in Upland. Tozier also helped artist James Heuter get his home built by signing as the architect of record on Heuter’s plans.

Tozier left an indelible mark on the Claremont community and was an early proponent of adaptive reuse. In the mid 1970 s, an abandoned 1930s restaurant was adaptively reused as a Modern Art Gallery and garden. Gallery 8 carried the work of local artists such as Paul Darrow, McIntosh, Belly Davenport Ford and Susan Hertel. It was an exciting setting for painting, ceramics and sculpture. 

After working in California for many years, Tozier relocated to Port Angeles, Washington, where he passed away in 2014 at the age of 94. In his obituary published in the COURIER, Claremont architect Mark von Wodtke, who worked with Tozier and Abbot in the early 1970s, recalled that “I really admired him. He was a talented architect. As an employer, I appreciated him because he had real expertise and I learned a lot from him. He was a wonderful man.”

David Underwood

S. David Underwood came to work with Millard Sheets in 1955 as a studio architect. Sheets was working with Howard Ahmanson on the Home Savings commissions and Guaranty Savings and Loan in the Bay area. Sheets sketched and designed while David Underwood refined and transformed his ideas into reality.

Underwood grew up in Glendale and partnered early on with a classmate designing Bob’s Big Boy stands. These iconic pieces of roadside architecture defined his style and brought his skills to the attention of Sheets. Through the studio he met his wife, Martha Menke, a fiber artist and painter. They married in 1965.

Work produced by the individuals that formed the studio were recognized under Millard Sheets’ name, and as individuals were often overlooked. Due to this Underwood eventually left to form his own studio in 1962.

He remained in Claremont and continued to work with Sheets on significant projects, including Garrison Theater. He preferred working on commercial buildings, and established a lasting relationship with Richard McMahon, designing the widely popular McMahon’s Furniture Showrooms.

The office complex at Fourth Street and Yale Avenue in Claremont is a beautiful example of his commercial work. His residential projects were few, most of which were outside of Claremont.


Building Claremont: The mid-century years continues in July.


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