Photo Courtesy of Maine Historic Preservation Society
John Galen Howard was born May 8, 1864 in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. He began his architectural education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the nation's only architectural program at the time, although he left in 1885 before completing his degree. He apprenticed himself to Henry Hobson Richardson in Brookline, Massachusetts, gaining a practical knowledge of drafting. After Richardson's death he left the firm and went to Los Angeles where he worked with the firms Caulkin & Hass, and James M. Wood. Here he found an acquaintance in Ernest Coxhead through whom he met future colleagues in Willis Polk and A. Page Brown, with whom would join Howard in sketching expeditions between work. Unhappy with the prospects in Los Angeles after a year, Howard left to tour Europe in 1888. Returning to the United States, he went to work for McKim, Mead & White, first in Boston then in New York. Encouraged by the partners of the firm, who offered financial assistance, Howard left for Paris to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1890 to 1893. Although he left shortly before completing the training, he brought the tradition and style of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts back to the United States.
In 1893 Howard opened a private practice with Samuel Cauldwell in New York. The partners built residential and commercial buildings in New York and New Jersey. In 1898, Howard & Cauldwell entered the Phoebe Hearst International Competition for the plan for the University of California in Berkeley. Emile Bénard won the competition, however, he did not wish to leave Paris for Berkeley. Howard, whose entry with Cauldwell placed fourth in the competition, was appointed to the Advisory Board of Architects for the Perpetuation of the Phoebe Hearst Architectural Plan for the University of California. Phoebe Hearst hired Howard to design the Hearst Mining Building, sending him on a tour of Europe in 1900 to study University buildings, particularly those relating to mining. Because Bénard proved too difficult for the Regents to work with, President Wheeler, a strong supporter of Howard's talents, offered Howard the position of Supervising Architect of the University in 1901. The Howards moved to California in 1902. In 1903, the University of California provided funding for a department of architecture. Howard was appointed professor at the new school, and settled into life in the Bay Area.
Because of Howard's work on the University, he soon had a growing private practice. In 1906 he opened an office in San Francisco in partnership with engineer John Debo Galloway . He was also an advisory member of the Reconstruction Committee of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Away from his work at the University, Howard was the supervising architect for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Howard was also involved with the Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915 in San Francisco. He was a member of the Exposition advisory committee as well as a member of the board that supervised the plan for the San Francisco Civic Center. He also designed the San Francisco Civic Auditorium for the Exposition. Howard also designed a variety of residential and commercial buildings in Berkeley and San Francisco. Among the notable employees at who had worked at Howard's firm were his architecture former students Julia Morgan, John Hudson Thomas, and Henry Gutterson.
In 1913 Howard was appointed Director of the School of Architecture at the University. In his capacity as Supervising Architect for the University, Howard completed the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, the Greek Theater, Boalt Hall, California Hall, Agriculture Hall, the University Library, the Sather Tower (known as the Campanile), Sather Gate, Wheeler Hall, Hilgard Hall, Gilman Hall, Hesse Hall, Le Conte Hall and Haviland Hall, thoroughly adapting the Phoebe Hearst Architectural plan to display his preferred designs.
In 1917, Howard took a sabbatical to live and write poetry in Carmel, California. In 1918, he went on "war leave" to Europe. There he helped establish the American Expeditionary Forces University, which was intended to educate soldiers as they awaited transport home. Returning in 1919, he found the University reluctant to spend money and saw his authority as Supervising Architect start to deteriorate. Howard was officially dismissed by the Regents of the University in 1924, and in 1926 resigned as Director of the School of Architecture. Howard and his wife, Mary Robertson Bradbury, moved to San Francisco, residing on Russian Hill, where he continued to write and publish his own poetry. He died suddenly from a heart attack in San Francisco on July 18, 1931.More images of John Galen Howard:
Inventory of the John Galen Howard Collection, (1955-4), Environmental Design Archives.
College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California.
Partridge, Loren. John Galen Howard and the Berkeley Campus: Beaux-Arts Architecture in the
"Athens of the West," Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Berkeley, CA 1978.
Moss, Stacey. The Howards: First Family of Bay Area Modernism, The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA 1988.
Robert Winter. Toward a Simpler Way of Life, The Arts & Crafts Architects of California" University of California Press. 1997