Historic house history's  by Mark Wilson  
By Mark Anthony Wilson

"The architect of that building is a genius. There is not the equal of it anywhere on earth." Thomas Edison, 1915, after seeing the Palace of Fine Arts.

Palace of Fine Arts
Bernard Ralph Maybeck's architecture possesses such deep spiritual qualities that his buildings often evoke the kind of emotional response Thomas Edison had. During his illustrious, 50-year career as one of America's most innovative architects, Maybeck left a legacy of elegance and beauty in scores of buildings in several Western and Midwestern states. These structures still inspire a new generation of architects and city planners nearly a century after he designed them. There has not been a comprehensive book published on Maybeck's career since 1992. Now, Gibbs-Smith Publishers will soon release a definitive book on this important architect; "Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance". The author is Mark Anthony Wilson, who wrote "Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty", (Gibbs-Smith, 2007), with photography by Joel Puliatti, who did the interior photos in the Julia Morgan book. The publication date is set for September 1, 2011.

There are three reasons why Bernard Maybeck must be considered one of the most important architects in American history. First, his development of a nature-based design philosophy in the 1890's, with his emphasis on "an open use of natural materials honestly stated", marks him as a true pioneer in what today is called sustainable design, or "green architecture". The basic tenets of this philosophy, and Maybeck's role in it, are described in chapter three of this new book, "Building With the Land." Second, Maybeck's work achieved that delicate and pleasing balance between historicism and modernity, which so many architects have been unable to attain with their emphasis of one over the other. The more than 80 examples of Maybeck's buildings illustrated in this book will attest to that fact. Finally, he influenced countless American architects for more than four generations with the warmth and elegance of his buildings. Chapter twelve of this new book, "The Maybeck Legacy", will provide commentary by current architects and planners who have incorporated Maybeck's design philosophy into their own work.

There are several aspects of this book that will distinguish it from all the previous books about Bernard Maybeck's career. First, it will include personal recollections from his twin granddaughters about what it was like growing up with a famous architect as a grandfather. These memories will be in the foreward, written by Cherry Maybeck Nitler, who has been the family's historian since the passing of her mother, Jacomena Maybeck. Second, the author's 22-year friendship with Jacomena, who was married to Bernard's son Wallen, allowed him to include several previously unpublished anecdotes about Bernard Maybeck's life in this book. For example, her description of the time Bernard saw Frank Lloyd Wright and his satirical reaction afterwards, is published for the very first time in chapter eleven, "The Lion in Winter." Third, the author was granted access to many old photos, drawings, and paintings both by and about Maybeck, and a number of these will appear for the first time in print in this book, along with many other archival photos never seen in any other book. Fourth, Cherry Maybeck was happy to share a remarkable cache of 163 handwritten letters written between members of the Maybeck family from 1923 to 1941, which were found stashed inside an old desk sold at a flea market in 1999 and then given to her. Some of the most interesting passages from several of these letters have been incorporated into this book.

The most inspiring feature of "Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance", will be the detailed descriptions of dozens of his buildings, accompanied by the architectural photography of Joel Puliatti. Over 220 of Joel's magnificent color photographs will be included in this book. Besides Maybeck's best-known landmarks, many of his residences that have not been photographed in color in any other book will be depicted here. Also, several Maybeck homes not previously documented or photographed will appear within these pages.

The scope of "Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance" will be comprehensive. Beginning with an account of Maybeck's birth in Greenwich Village in 1862, chapter one will describe his youth and architectural studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The second chapter will discuss his early years as an architect, from his first position as an associate at the New York City firm of Carrier and Hastings in the 1880's, to his moving to California in 1890 and working in the San Francisco office of A. Page Brown, as well his meeting Charles Keeler around 1892, who became his first client and collaborator in developing that revolutionary design philosophy that came to be known as the First Bay Tradition. Chapters four and five will provide richly illustrated examples of Maybeck's residential work, both in the First Bay Tradition and in other modes, such as Prairie School.

In chapter six, Maybeck's designs for various private clubhouses will be covered, including: the innovative Town and Gown Club in Berkeley (1899), the UC Berkeley Faculty Club (1902-03), the Bohemian Club's Lodge on the Russian River (1903), the Marin Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley (1904), the Hillside Club in Berkeley  (1906), and the Forest Hill Clubhouse in San Francisco(1919). Public buildings will also be discussed here,including: the Harrison Memorial Library in Carmel (1928), Glen Alpine Springs Resort near Lake Tahoe (1921), and the Associated Charities Building in San Francisco (1927), Maybeck's only high-rise building. The chapter will end with a description of Maybeck's masterpiece of urban planning, Rose Walk in Berkeley (1913), which is still being used exactly as he designed it.

Chapters seven and eight will be devoted to Maybeck's two greatest landmarks: the First Church of Christ Scientist in Berkeley (1909-1911), and the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, (1913-1915). In "A Church for the Ages", the reasons why this building should be considered one of the world's great house of worship will be explained including: Maybeck's original concept for the structure; its innovative blend of modern materials with historic motifs; and Maybeck's own thoughts on the influences and meaning of this masterpiece in an interview he gave to two parishioners in 1953. "A Timeless Temple" will tell the story of Maybeck's most popular structure; how it was almost never built, how it became the most beloved site at the1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and the only one that was saved, and how it has recently been lovingly restored and re-opened to the public. Chapter Nine, "Two Trusted Tycoons" will describe Maybeck's designs for the media mogul William Randolph Hearst, including the Hearst Memorial Gymnasium at UC Berkeley  (1924-25), and his commissions for the wealthy Packard dealer, Earle C. Anthony, including the Packard Showroom in San Francisco(1926-27). The bulk of this chapter will take readers inside the remarkable residential complex Maybeck designed for Earle Anthony in the Hollywood Hills, (1927-30), which retains all of its original French Gothic features and is one of his least known designs.

Perhaps the most surprising section of the book will be chapter ten, "A Perfect Little World", which will give a detailed account of Maybeck's design of the master plan for Principia College in Elsah, Illinois (1930-38). This private Christian Science college is impressively situated atop the high bluffs above the Mississippi River, about 35 miles from St. Louis. Maybeck designed about eighteen structures for the Principia campus, of which 11 still remain. The historic core of the campus was declared a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior in 1993. Maybeck also worked on the overall landscape scheme for Principia, and together with his lovely English village style buildings, he created one of the most beautiful college campuses in America. This beauty is perfectly captured in Joel Puliatti's exquisite photographs of Principia College, a site that was not illustrated in the two previous survey
books on Maybeck's career.

"Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance" will provide unique insights into the life, design philosophy, and personality of one of America's most important architects. If any viewers would like to contact the author with questions about this book, or regarding possible lectures or book signings, or to purchase an author-inscribed first edition of this book at a discount, he can be reached via email at "markw@aol.com", or via voice mail at (510) 273-9383.

Maybeck Foundation

The Palace of Fine Arts
A brief history of the exploratorium's home


1. September 1st. Slide lecture, with questions and answers, followed by wine and cheese reception and book-signing, 7:00 PM at Builder’s Booksource store, 1817 Fourth Street, Berkeley. Phone; (510) 845-6874, or (800) 843-2028; www.buildersbooksource.com.

2. September 8th. Power point presentation on Bernard Maybeck’s career, with questions and answers after, and a reception and book-signing, 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the California Historical Society, San Francisco; doors open at 5:30 PM. Books will be offered at 17% discount, checks, cash or credit cards accepted. Phone; (415) 357-1848; rsvp@calhist.org.

3. September 24th. Reception and power point lecture on Bernard Maybeck’s life and work, followed by questions and answers and book-signing. Cherry Maybeck Nittler will share her memories her grandfather Ben, and noted historian Grey Brechin will introduce author Mark Anthony Wilson; at Maybeck’s masterpiece First Church of Christ Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way, Berkeley; 7:30 PM, doors open at 7:00 PM. Books will be offered at 17% discount, checks or cash only. Phone (925) 376-3908, fjporta@comcast.net.

4. September 27th. through November 1st. Class on “Historic Homes of the East Bay”, at Berkeley Adult School, 1701 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; 7:00 to 9:30 PM, on Tuesdays.  Slide lectures, handouts, and discussion will be used to cover all the major styles of Bay Area historic architecture, from 1800 to 1950, including the work of Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan. Fee of $95 includes a walking tour of a historic neighborhood, to be arranged on a weekend. Phone; (510) 644-6130, register online at bas.berkeley.net, or go in person to the office from 8:00 AM to 3:45 PM, Monday through Thursday.

5.  October 9th. Power point presentation and questions and answers on Maybeck’s work, followed by light reception and book-signing; at Julia Morgan’s landmark Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. in Berkeley. 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  Books will be offered at 17% discount, checks or cash only. Rsvp at Kennedy@maureenkennedy.net.

6. October 21st.  Slide show and questions and answers about Bernard Maybeck’s work, with wine and cheese reception and book-signing after, at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, 2904 College Avenue, Berkeley; 7:00 PM, seating is limited. Phone (510) 704-8222, marion@mrsdalloways.com.