Charles Sumner Greene was born October 12, 1868 to Lelia Ariana and Thomas Sumner Greene in Brighton, Ohio. Henry Mather Greene was born a year and a half later on January 23, 1870. The Greene family descended from the English-born John Greene, who emigrated to America in 1635, and was an associate of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. The father Thomas had as a grandfather, General Christopher Greene, and as an uncle, Major-General Nathanael Greene of Revolutionary War fame. The Thomas Greene family later moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Charles and Henry attended Calvin Woodward's Manual Training School, a revolutionary school with a curriculum based largely on the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris. This early training is considered to be the source of the brothers's focus on tools, materials and craftsmanship. After finishing high school in 1888, the brothers enrolled in the architectural curriculum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but in 1890, dissatisfied with the classical emphasis and rigid structure of the program, both brothers left with Certificates of Partial Course after both endured a brief illness. The certificates allowed them both to apprentice at architectural offices while they were to finish their course work the following semester. The Greene brothers received their final certificates in March 1891.
Charles began an apprenticeship with the firm of Andrews, Jaques, and Rantoul. Both Richard Day Andrews and Herbert Jaques had been draftsmen employed in the firm of Henry Hobson Richardson. Jacques had gone to Europe with Richardson in 1882 and met with William Morris, William de Morgan and Edward Burne Jones, all renown men of the English Arts & Crafts Movement. In less than a year, Charles changed firms to another Richardson protege, H. Langford Warren. When Warren took the position of department head at Harvard's new architecture school, Charles joined the firm of Winslow and Wetherell. Charles worked with R. Clipston Sturges, a Harvard graduate and student of Charles Eliot Norton, a close friend of John Ruskin. Henry Greene began his apprenticeship as a draftsman with the firm of Stickley and Austin. He changed offices once, moving to the H.H. Richardson successor firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge. Enough cannot be said about the influence H.H. Richardson had upon the Greene brothers. They had the direct experience of working under many of his proteges. Also, walking from their boarding house each morning brought them in view of Richardson's great Trinity Church. They gained familiarity with the Shingle Style of architecture. They saw central living halls, out of which rooms flowed into one another into well-planned private spaces, with window seats in bays, benches forming inglenooks with fireplacees, and grand stairways in spacious entries. They learned that materials needed no added surface ornamentation. Any material, whether wood panels, brick, stone or tile could be used in a manner honest to the material itself. These are qualities that the work of the eventual firm Greene & Greene would be known for.
In 1893 the Greene brothers traveled west to visit their parents in Pasadena. Along the way, they stopped in Chicago for the World's Colombian Exposition and viewed Japan's official exhibit, a re-creation of the Ho-O-Do of Byodo-In. Fascinated by the landscape of Southern California and lack of established architectural tradition and motivated by a small commission, the brothers decided to open a practice on the West Coast. During these early years, the Greenes had not yet developed the style which would later make them famous. They designed in styles of the day in keeping with the training they had received while apprenticed. Eventually, the attention to detail and the Oriental forms, material, and craftsmanship Charles admired at The Colombian exhibit would characterize their work in California.
In February of 1901, Charles married Alice Gordon White, and the couple embarked on a four month honeymoon to England (Alice White's homeland), Scotland and Continental Europe. This was an important time in Charles Greene's professional life as well as personal; the tour of Great Britain is believed to have intensified Charles's interest in the English Arts and Crafts Movement and hastened his adoption of many of the movement's ideas, motifs and materials.
The years between 1902 and 1909 were extremely busy for the firm, and the commissions (mostly residences) during these years are considered the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts style, the architectural movement the brothers are credited with fathering in the United States. Their work during these years is known for its fine craftsmanship, Asian, English and Swiss influences, and connection to nature through material such as clinker brick, arroyo stone, split shingle and wooden beams. Although natural in appearance, the Greene's buildings were anything but unrefined. The brothers chose rare, beautiful and expensive materials and worked intensively with skilled craftsmen to create intricate wood joinery. The two believed everyday objects could and should be art, or as Charles Greene later explained their goal was to "make necessary and useful things pleasurable".
By 1904, the brothers had begun to design furniture for their houses thereby uniting the exterior, interior and furnishings into a complete and integrated design. The Greenes's work received much acclaim and was highlighted in popular magazines such as The Craftsman, House Beautiful, The International Studio, Country Life in America, House and Garden, Good Housekeeping, and American Home and Garden. These were also their most prolific years as architects--most of the approximately 150 designs by Greene and Greene were commissioned and designed during these years.
After 1912 the Greenes's practice began to decline. The brothers, spoiled by wealthy clients and generous budgets, gradually gained a reputation for going over-budget and over-schedule. These faults, which had been overlooked in the previous years, were weighty considerations in the difficult economic times of post World War I. In addition, Charles and Henry's interests seemed to diverge and in 1916, Charles Greene and his family moved to Carmel. In 1918 Charles began work on the D. L. James house, a project which would continue for decades. Henry Greene continued to work in Pasadena before and after the firm's official dissolution in 1922. Charles obtained commissions sporadically, mostly for additions and renovations for past clients. He secured his last project in 1929. The Greene and Greene firm's reputation met a similar decline and was almost forgotten; the firm was no longer mentioned in architectural history texts.
During these later years Charles studied Eastern philosophies and pursued his interest in fictional writing. He and Alice were particularly intrigued by the teachings of George Gurdjieff, whose writings and lectures combined features of Eastern religions. Finally in the 1950s the work of Greene and Greene was rediscovered by the architectural press and critics and was celebrated as a uniquely American style in opposition to the international style of Europe. In 1952, the brothers were honored by the American Institute of Architects, and their work was included in a centennial exhibition of the American Institute of Architects at the National Gallery of Art. Charles S. Greene lived to see his work receive renewed acclaim, but after years of failing health died on June 11, 1957 at the age of 89.
Charles Sumner Greene, c.1888
||Henry Mather Greene, c.1888|
Image, Ho-o-Do, Japan
Image, Ho-o-Den, Chicago, water view
Ho-o-Den side view, Chicago
Ho-o-Den, Chicago, Postcard
C. Greene designed Mahogany Secretary
||Blacker House Mahogany Chair|
More Greene & Greene links
Robert Winter. Toward a Simpler Way of Life, The Arts & Crafts Architects of California" University of California Press. 1997
Esther McCoy. Introduction by Randell Makinson. Five California Architects Reprint Hennessey + Ingalls. 1987
Bosley, Edward R. "The British Connection." The Tabby. July-August 1997, 6.
"Historical Remembrance." The Tabby. July-August 1997, 2.
Makinson, Randell L. "The Adelaide Tichenor House." The Tabby. July-August 1997, 23.
"Greene and Greene: The Architecture and Related Designs of Charles Sumner Greene and Henry
Mather Greene: 1894-1934." Los Angeles: Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, 1977.
Lee, Sharon. "Greene and Greene, 1976" TMs [photocopy]. Environmental Design Archives, U.C. Berkeley.
Smith, Bruce. "Charles and Henry Greene, Life and Craft" Style 1900. Winter/Spring Edition 1997-8, 16-23.