Experimentation and Clarity: 1905 -1922

Irving J. Gill: Cositt house elevations (Coronado, Calif.)

Cossitt house

In 1907 the Hebbard and Gill partnership ended and Gill began his classic and most productive period. Through elimination and simplification he arrived at an architectural language composed of, in his words, “the straight line, the arch, the cube and the circle."

The designs from the Hebbard and Gill partnership were eclectic, leaning toward English cottages with Arts and Crafts influence, but included Neo-classical, Gothic, Queen Anne, Mission Revival, and Prairie School styles.

In this drawing of a house for Mrs. F.B. Cossitt (above), the exterior elevations are annotated to include faint red lines indicating the level of each floor and stairwells. Small drawings of specific details and sections are squeezed in between the elevations, to add clarification to certain portions of the drawing.

Irving J. Gill: Miltmore house (South Pasadena, Calif.)

Miltmore house

In keeping with Progressive Era housing reforms by government and private activists, Gill explored and promoted the use of concrete and other new materials in order to create sanitary, efficiently constructed, fireproof buildings. Gill’s intention was to create a better environment for human beings, and in the process, cut the dross.

The austere Miltmore house is generously “ornamented by nature.” Gill sited the house to preserve the many trees on the sprawling lot and placed long loggias alongside the front and rear elevations. The interior is gracious though simple, designed to be easy to keep clean. Gill raised the floors of the closets to keep out dust, and eliminated all moldings. The roof holds a solar hot water heater and skylights. The master bathroom includes a newly popular feature: a shower.

Irving J. Gill: Timken house (San Diego, Calif.)

Timken house

Black-and-white photographs of the time show how much he reduced his forms, but also can be deceptive. Gill loved richness and color. Following Sullivan’s principle regarding ornamentation, he covered his buildings with reflected light. By adding drops of red, yellow and blue to his white paint (a formula he constantly experimented with), he was able to turn his walls into reflecting surfaces, creating beauty and warmth.

This 18-room house built for the steel manufacturer, Henry Timken, was Gill’s largest to date. Gill placed the house close to the street, leaving room for enclosed courts and a large garden. Eloise Roorbach’s contemporary article noted that the “court is the center of the home life,” and praised the design for, “not a single ornament mars the pure symmetry of [the house].”

Irving J. Gill: Wangenheim house (San Diego, Calif.)

Wangenheim house

Hebbard and Gill designed an English cottage for Wangenheim, a civic leader, owner of a grocery store business, and the father-in-law of Melville Klauber, another Gill client. San Diego was a small town and Hebbard and Gill worked with most of its prominent citizens, reflecting the significance of the firm in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Experimentation and Clarity: 1905 -1922