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Towering Talent

August 09, 2016 Filed under: The Buzz

From City Hall to Coit Tower, architect Arthur Brown, Jr., changed the face of San Francisco (article by: Nobhill Gazette)

THE BAY AREA HAS PRODUCED NUMEROUS TALENTED AND INNOVATIVE architects who have contributed greatly to the charm and allure of the region. One stands out for his long and remarkably productive career: Arthur Brown, Jr.

Brown was born in Oakland in 1874, just five years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which connected frontier California to the urbanized East. Consequently, he grew up in a period of rapid transformation, from horse-and-buggy life to a modern, industrial environment. A budding architect could hardly have chosen a better family to rear him; his father was an engineer and architect for the Central Pacific Railroad.

When Brown was 15, his parents took him on a trip through European capitals, which began with a month in Paris to visit the Centennial Exposition. The boy’s interest in architecture is evidenced by sketches of buildings he made inhis diary. In 1892, Brown enrolled at the University of California as an engineering major, but his acquaintance with drawing instructor Bernard Maybeck steered him toward design. Maybeck offered select students Saturday morning classes in classical design for public buildings and arts and crafts style for residences. Brown, his friend John Bakewell, and Julia Morgan were regulars at these classes.

A diploma from Maybeck’s alma mater, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was the crucial objective for his acolytes, and William Randolph Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Hearst, held the key. She offered scholarships of $25 a month to Maybeck’s most promising students. Brown, Bakewell and Morgan all took advantage of her largesse in the late 1890s (Morgan being the first woman to gain entrance to the august institution). After two years of preparatory classes, Brown passed the entrance exam and enrolled in the atelier of Victor Laloux, where he spent the next four years in an architectural apprenticeship. He completed his studies in 1903, having won several important prizes for his projects. read more...

Article by: GEORGE RATHMELL, Nobhill Gazette, August 2016

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