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Old Posted Jan 23, 2013, 7:17 AM
tovangar2 tovangar2 is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: West Los Angeles
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Architects' own houses/Irving Gill/the Mann Act

Its interesting, and sometimes instructive, to see where architects choose to live (and helps get one's mind off slaughterhouses):

Paul R Williams Residence (1952) 1690 S Victoria, Los Angeles (Karen E Hudson, William's granddaughter, lives there now):


Stiles O Clements Residence (1935) 708 N Linden Dr, Beverly Hills

gsv 2011

(If I didn't know better, I would have mixed them up.)

Irving 'Jack' Gill (1870-1936), a personal favorite, was notoriously focused on his work and uncaring about where he lived in the 10 years or more he was in Los Angeles. His practice remained throughout at 913 S Figueroa (a house owned by CS Fout, then converted into offices and lodgings, now a parking lot), across the street from the 1900 Friday Morning Clubhouse (later below, as viewed from Gill's offices) later replaced by Allison & Allison's Variety Arts Building (I'm sorry Gill didn't get the commission, he was an unflagging supporter of progressive causes and a champion of women's rights) and up the block from the future site of the YWCA Hotel (now the Figueroa). Gill planned for offices in the then-new Parkinson and Bergstrom 1912 building (now the Rowan) at the NE corner of 5th and Spring for the Torrance project, but I cannot confirm he ever moved there:

baist 1910, plate 8

Islandora cc pierce

Gill first lived in the Van Nuys Hotel (Morgan & Walls, 1896, 4th & Main), now the Barclay:

water and
(I'm forever amazed at how many of our skyscrapers had awnings.)

A writing corner in the Van Nuys Hotel main lobby:


He later moved to a room at 1406 Alvarado Terrace (built 1902, sale pending at $475k}:


№ 1406 has a bit of a pedigree. Built on spec, the first owner was Manuel Riveroll, son of the Governor of Baja California. This image of the Riveroll home is from ca 1904:


Then Gill moved to a room at 1353 S Burlington. That 1906 house, and its next-door twin, were moved to 1149-1153 Queen Anne Place (just east of LAHS) in 1923. The Swedish Lutheran Angelica Church by Gustav S Larson, was built on the original site in 1925.

The former 1353 Burlington (right), now 1149 Queen Anne Pl:


Gill also lived at Sullivanesque 1507 S Hoover. It was demolished in 1967 and replaced by an apartment building:


The three addresses immediately above are within a couple of blocks of each other and all were an easy commute to his office.

Gill may have also rented in Santa Monica (or he may have just stayed there with friends) while he supervised the building of Horatio West Court. There's very little documentation on Gill's life and work. When he closed his LA office he sent "ten truck-loads" of papers, correspondence and drawings to a friend for storage. After Gills death, no one remembered who the friend was. Gill's papers have never been found.

In 1928 Jack married Mrs. Marion Waugh Brashears, a beautiful, though domineering, divorcee and heiress, whom he had known for 10 years. They lived in the Palos Verdes Estates (PV had been designed by Gill's friend, Frederick Law Olmsted) at her home, 2325 Via Pinale (below). Although Marion had known Jack for six years at that point, she commissioned David Witmer (1888-1973) of Witmer & Watson to design the PV home in 1924. Gill designed the gardens. Witmer, like Gill, also built in reinforced concrete and integrated the homes he designed into their gardens (but, IMHO, exhibiting much less intelligence and intellectual rigor). In 1928 Witmer co-designed, with a host of others, the Architects Building on the SE corner of 5th and Fig (816 W 5th). It fell with the Richfield in favor of ARCO Plaza. He went on to design the Pentagon in 1941.

Gill didn't move his offices to the Architects Building, maybe because Elmer Gray kept his practice there (Gray had called Gill's work "dangerous"). I don't know if the rift between Gill and Gray and Goodhue ever healed after the San Diego Panama-Californian Exposition (1915-1917) debacle. (But every time I see Central Library I swear I can hear Gill laughing in amusement.)

2325 Via Pinale

3 of 14 images of the "Brashears Residence" @

Just look at the stair rail in the last pic. No wonder Gill had a heart attack. Sheesh.

2325 Via Pinale (July 2011)


The egalitarian Gill disliked PV, stuffed, as it was, with Marion's society friends, saying it was "too fancy" for him. In any case, Jack's health failed in less than a year and he went to live, alone, on a small avocado ranch Marion owned in Carlsbad, later moving to Oceanside for some civic commissions (City Hall, a fire station, the Americanization School, etc) and then back to Carlsbad where he died in Carlsbad Hospital in 1936 from his second heart attack, Marion and Louis Gill (Jack's nephew and former partner) were with him at the end. Gill gave his profession as "laborer" when he was taken to Carlsbad Hospital. That designation was transferred to his death certificate. His ashes were scattered.

Jack Gill consistently stressed three basic concepts: honesty, simplicity and democracy. He asserted that the architectural ideal of the West should be realized in the small home.

The Walter Dodge House (1914-16), callously destroyed in Gill's centenary year, is rightly known as Gill's masterwork. But Gill actually liked more modest houses. Two bed/one bath Morgan House (1917), below, was a favorite of his (and mine). He never built a home for himself, but did try on occasion living in small homes he designed for working-class families to see if they were truly "livable".

Morgan House (1917), 626 N Arden Street, Los Angeles (south facade):


(That's not pea gravel, it's decomposed granite)

Looking NE:


Gill's simple fireplaces were often surrounded with Batchelder tile. Floors were stained and polished concrete as here at Morgan House:

spin LPs/flickr

Inside, looking out:

spin LPs/flickr

Morgan House in the 1970s at its nadir (although at least the red and white striped, metal awnings had been removed):

via Marvin Rand

Morgan House 2011:


Morgan House, as viewed from the road, in 2016


Also see John Crosse for a write-up on another extant small home by Gill, the Adelaide Chapin House in Silver Lake.

Most info from:
Irving Gill and the Architecture of Reform by Thomas S Hinds, 2000, Montachelli Press
Garden Cities at Risk CHAPTER TWO: The Wyvernwood Architects – Witmer & Watson by Steven Keylon

Not forgetting this is noirish Los Angeles, there is a bit of a noiry story in here somewhere. Maury Diggs, a friend and former important member of Gill's staff got himself arrested under the Mann Act the same year that Gill moved to Los Angeles. The story hit the LA papers and Gill was mentioned in a sensational article on the front page of the Times (not the intro to LA Gill was looking for). It seems that Diggs (then a well-known architect in Sacramento working for the State, he later designed the Fox Theater in San Francisco and co-designed San Quentin of all places) and his pal Farley Drew Camenetti (the son of a former state senator), both in their mid-twenties, took their "society-girl" mistresses across state lines to Reno, Nevada (they'd missed the train to LA, which is where they really wanted to go). Tipped off by the wives (who complained loudly of their husbands' "champagne orgies"), the cops nabbed Maury and Drew and hauled them to San Francisco to stand trial. Diggs was adamant that the Mann Act shouldn't apply, "I am not guilty of being a white slaver. If every man that committed the same crime was put in jail there would not be many people out of doors."

Jack Gill, who never thought ill of a friend and was genuinely sympathetic to human weakness, gave a statement in Digg's defense:

"Maury Diggs is as fine a specimen of young manhood as one ever meets and one of the best young architects in the country...Mr. Diggs is a handsome, moody, young romancer, a type of whom women, particularly young women, are prone to make a shrine, a man who's moods demand sympathy, who works overzealously...becomes depressed, goes out, meets a sympathizer, pours imaginary woes into her ear and then - the inevitable"

That didn't help. The men were found guilty. Diggs got two years, Camenetti 18 months. The appeal went all the way to the US Supreme Court (the newspapers fanning the country-wide "white slavery" hysteria the whole time) which upheld the verdict in 1917. While waiting out the appeal, Diggs divorced his wife and married his mistress before doing time (and then going back to being a successful architect).

Gill was flummoxed, but then he was a man "every woman wanted to marry" (men liked him too). Gill may not have cared where he lived but he was always beautifully dressed in custom clothes and shoes of the finest materials and workmanship. He had gorgeous, thick, black hair, a beautiful voice, an extremely engaging, truly shining intelligence, boundless enthusiasm and bags of genuine charm. He seemed to think that, where women were concerned, certain men were helpless sitting ducks who could not be blamed for the "inevitable" consequences of their attractiveness.

Forever after, even if people could no longer quite remember the details of the Diggs/Camenetti "white slavery" case, a slight aura of noir surrounded Gill.

More info on the case plus everything one ever needs to know about the Mann Act:

James Robert Mann (1856-1922):

library of congress

(Thx to GW for the corrections and pix:

UPDATE: The Irving J Gill Foundation was formed in 2015.

Last edited by tovangar2; Jun 16, 2017 at 10:00 PM. Reason: New pix & corrections
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