San Bernardino's Architect
Richard D. Thompson
San Bernardino County Court House
(Courtesy of the California Room of the Feldheym Library)
Several months ago while I was reading the "Donaldson Report", an architectural study of historic San Bernardino, I ran across a section on the San Bernardino County courthouse. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the architect of the courthouse is listed as Howard E. Jones. Particularly interesting is that Jones spent most of his life in San Bernardino, and the list of structures he designed is most impressive.
Howard Jones was born in California on September 27, 1885, the son of printer Albert Prescott Jones. Albert signed the Great Register in the City of San Bernardino on August 6, 1884, so Howard most likely was born here in the City. Albert stated he worked as a printer on several of the voter registration lists, and he is shown as a compositor for the San Bernardino Index in the 1887 City Directory. In 1884 he gave his age as 25, and his birthplace as California. Howard's uncle, Charles Henry Jones, signed the Great Register on April 28, 1882, and earned his living as an architect. The register shows he was 42 years of age and was born in Maine. In the 1887 City Directory, C. H. Jones is listed with the architectural firm of Jones and Palmer, one of the three firms listed in the book.
At the time the 1900 U.S. Census was taken, the Jones family consisted of Albert and his two children Howard and Olive, and Albert's elderly mother Jane. Ten years later Howard had moved into his own home, residing there with his wife Bessie and their 17-month-old son "Howard Jr.," according to the 1910 census. However, later references, including Howard's obituary, show his son's name as William H. Jones. In 1910 Howard was working as a "draughtsman" for an architect. This census had a box to check for those with advanced schooling, but there was no check by Howard's name. His 1918 World War I draft registration shows he was buying a home in Los Angeles, and that he worked as a draftsman for one of the leading architects of that City, Norman F. Marsh.
Despite his lack of education, Howard must have had talent, for he was employed by one of the most prestigious firms in L.A., and during the company's peak years at that. In 1905 developer Abbot Kinney began his exotic California dream City of Venice, which he thought would rival Italy's beautiful City. Kinney had chosen Marsh to turn his dream into a reality; to do the design, including the canals, lagoons and bridges for which Venice, California, is famous. About that same time Marsh designed the First Baptist Church in San Bernardino at Fourth and G Streets.
Carnegie Library 1910
The Marsh firm designed a few Carnegie libraries, including the one in Azusa, which was built in 1910, when Howard Jones was known to have been involved with architectural work. It is possible that he had a hand in the drawing, and perhaps even in the layout of this structure. It surely fits the classic style that was to become the signature of Jones' later buildings. .
Carnegie Library in Azusa - Built in 1910
Colonial Style Residence - 1916
Late in 1916 the Los Angeles Times began a series entitled "Attractive Homes at Moderate Cost," showing the plans of local architects which met that criteria. Plans entered by Jones were accepted and on December 24, 1916, his design for a modestly priced house of Colonial style was printed as No. 8 in the series. Howard's name is listed beneath the plan view. This design was drawn for a specific client in Hollywood.
Drawing of a two-story Colonial by Howard E. Jones
Howard is listed as an architect in the 1916 Times "Attractive Homes" story, but he was still in the employ of Norman Marsh, and was there at least until 1918. From Howard's obituary we know that he became an architect, as well as a licensed structural engineer, by studying the necessary subjects through correspondence school. Meanwhile he earned his living at the Marsh firm. He probably passed the exam for his architect's license while working for Marsh, and then left after an appropriate interval to start his own business. By 1920 he was back in San Bernardino, where he opened an architect's office.
Cold Storage Plant - 1922
One of the early projects Jones worked on in San Bernardino was the big cold storage plant for the Southern California Ice and Cold Storage Company. This was a substantial project, and the bid on the original design came in at $64,482. Two articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times, March 12 and July 9, 1922, which described the undertaking in great detail. The size, materials, elevators and other building details were in the first article. The use of the building was in the second. There was to be storage for 10,000 cases of eggs on the bottom floor, and the upper floors had room for 62,000 boxes for fruit and vegetables. The temperature could be varied in each room individually, and there was a freezer room that could be set at zero degrees. The appearance of such news articles would lead one to believe they were submitted by the architect, an assumption supported by a San Bernardino Sun story, entitled "Contract Is Signed for Cold Storage Plant," which credits architect Howard E. Jones as the source of the information. Howard probably sent out notices on many, if not all of his jobs, and several of them made it into print, thus providing him with much desired advertising.
The cold storage facility had a variety of owners, but the longest was Union Ice Co., and most oldtimers remember it by that name, no matter who owned it. Newspaperman Earl Buie wrote a column for the Sun dated July 9, 1968, in which he described the ice business, and particularly the Third and I complex. Residential deliveries of ice, once the staple of all homes with iceboxes, had ended only two years earlier when the last elderly customer had passed away. The once ubiquitous icemen disappeared.
Union Ice Company - Northwest Corner of Third and I Streets
McInerny's Store - 1922
During the summer of 1922, Howard Jones worked on a project modernizing the front of McInerny's Dry Goods Store at 471-476 Third Street. The store installed two new elaborate display windows that measured 180 x 96 inches. They were the largest in San Bernardino, and were "declared to be the equal of any in Los Angeles," according to an announcement in a newspaper clipping on file in the Arda M. Haenszel California Room. (Once again, the source of the information was Howard Jones.) The remodeling of the storefront, including the windows, new tile flooring, overhead diffused lighting and paneling, cost McInerny $10,000, a goodly sum at that time. Those two glass panes must have been really something.
Business Court - 1923
In order to make a living, an architect must take on all manner of structures. In 1923 Jones designed what was called a "business court," a modest group of buildings located on Fourth Street midway between D and E, with the entrance of the court facing north on Fourth, across from today's Caltrans building. According to the newspaper, the design for the business court included five offices, or "shop spaces," lined up on either side of the courtyard facing each other, with an eleventh office at the end.
The motif, the paper stated, was Spanish with red tile rooftops, plaster walls and exteriors decorated in color with stencils. An electric fountain would be built in the courtyard for ambiance. Amazingly, the estimated cost was only $10,000, the same price as McInerney's remodeling job. There was a team of investors for the project, including lawyers George W. Hellyer, Howard Surr, and some title company officers. The court is still in existence 85 years later, and must have made the owners a nice profit.
At the top center of this photograph, snuggled among other buildings, is the Howard Jones "business court." The buildings to the south face Court Street, and were built with a space in between to continue Jones' courtyard and allow unimpeded passage for pedestrians. The building at the center of the corridor is Jones' eleventh office.
Municipal Auditorium - 1923
In 1923 Jones was awarded the contract for a municipal auditorium to be located in Pioneer Park. In an August 1, 1923, article, the L.A. Time called this "the most magnificent civic structure in the San Bernardino Valley." It was built near downtown at a time when the houses that brought the highest prices were located nearest the business district. The affluent liked to walk home from work to have lunch, which was a custom of the time. Community activities - parades, festivals, holiday orations, and events that required an auditorium with a large indoor seating capacity - took place downtown. The outlying areas were for farmers. As the decades progressed, the trend changed to where the most desired homes were out at the edge of town, and the Municipal Auditorium became less and less used. The architecture was often praised over the years, even as it was being torn down. It had simply outlived its use. In the early days the building reflected well on Howard Jones' capability as a designer, and enhanced his reputation as the premier architect in town.
Riverside City Hall - 1924
Prior to Jones' work on the Municipal Auditorium, he had designed a variety of structures - industrial, commercial, and residential - but nothing that could be pointed to as an example of great architecture that would make the citizens proud. That changed with the construction of the auditorium, and accolades started coming in from near and far, even while it was being built. The City Fathers of San Bernardino had taken a chance with him, and he had proven he was a talented architect. Others took notice of his work, including Riverside officials looking for someone to design their new City Hall. When they saw the Municipal Auditorium, while still under construction mind you, they were impressed, and asked Jones to submit a plan. The August 16, 1923, issue of the L. A. Times has a lengthy article entitled: "Riverside Gets City Hall Plans". The paper states that the City Council had formally voted on and accepted Jones' designs. This statement shows he had won the contract over many competitors:
For some weeks, the City Council has been considering the various plans for the new City Hall, having had designs presented to them by nearly a dozen architects. Trips have been made to nearby cities to inspect municipal buildings there. The Municipal Auditorium at San Bernardino, which was planned by Mr. Jones, being the last visited.
Former Riverside City Hall building, erected in 1924, sits directly across from the Mission Inn,
and is located at the corner of Orange and Mission Inn Avenue (formerly Seventh Street)
Highland Junior High School - 1924
In 1924 Jones was selected as the architect for Highland Junior High School. One of the marks of a successful architect is the accurate calculation of cost for the proposed structure. Certainly this was true for government buildings that had strict controls, often set by a taxpayers' election. In this case, Jones estimated that the price of building the school, including architectural fees, would be $45,000. There were four separate contracts to be let: for the building itself, and for paint, electrical and plumbing. When the successful bids were approved by the school district, they added up to $41, 042. Of course, this is the most desirable bid of all, one that is near the estimate but several percent below, giving the impression that the architect knew what he was doing and that the district got a good deal.
The Platt Building - 1925
Howard Jones, along with J. P. McNeil, worked on the design for the Platt Building in 1925. It was his major building for that year. The paper announced in July that the Frank C. Platt Investment Company was going to build a multi-storied structure, 100 x 160 feet, at the corner of Fifth and E Streets. Nine shops were planned for the ground floor, and the upper floors would be offices for professional people - doctors, dentists and lawyers. Entrance to the offices was to be through a marble vestibule, with elevator service provided. President Lyndon Johnson, who was a San Bernardino resident for several months in 1925, actually worked as an elevator operator in the Platt Building. In October of 1964, during his presidential election campaign, he returned to the Platt Building and ran the elevator himself with his wife and daughter as passengers. Johnson was politically inclined even as a youth, and told of how, after working all day at the elevator job, he went out the same evening to hear a speech given by then Vice President Charles G. Dawes at the Santa Fe Depot.
Platt selected the Spanish renaissance style of architecture. The building design was unusual, being actually two buildings built adjacent to one another. The offices and shops were in an "L"-shaped building fronting Fifth and E Streets, with the short leg of the "L" on E Street. In back of the "L" was a theater, a rectangular building, nestled in like a jigsaw puzzle piece, and together the two buildings formed one big oblong square. The shops and the theater entrance opened up onto the streets. Waycott's Flower Shop, which faced E Street, was an original tenant and became quite a fixture in the neighborhood for decades. Blum's Jewelers, on the Fifth Street side, was another long-time tenant. At the corner was a pharmacy, originally Smart's, but later Darrah's, which was there for many years.
The main feature was the theater, with a seating capacity of 1500. West Coast Theatre got the lease, which they had signed before the news of Platt's plan was released. The theater had a balcony, fancy steps and wrought iron railings. It was also a playhouse, with a stage and wings and all of the features necessary to provide live shows.
When the bid for the building was accomplished in September 1924, the contract went to George M, Herz Company, a San Bernardino firm that would become well known. In fact, the Platt Investment Company went out of its way to employ only local subcontractors.
On May 20, 1925, the San Bernardino Sun had a supplemental section touting the grand opening of the Platt Building. Several of the businessmen associated with the project ran advertisements, including Howard E. Jones, Architect. The Jones advertisement has his photograph and lists several of the other buildings he had worked on, mentioning that the courthouse plans were in progress. The costs for his projects are also given, and do not always jibe with the preliminary estimates.
In the case of the Ice and Cold Storage Building the difference is dramatic: $64,482 versus $125,000. The lower figure did not include the cork insulation contract, which was let separately, but even so it was a big difference. The $64,482 bid was $20,000 lower than the next offer, and it was feared that the contractor had made a mistake. He was consulted, but stood by his bid. The client then decided to expand the operation and added a floor, probably for future expansion because of the perceived bargain rate. A similar thing happened with the Platt building. Frank C. Platt originally envisioned a two-story office building, but subsequently enlarged it greatly. Perhaps he, too, was impressed with the seemingly low prices being bid on Jones' projects.
It is possible that the Jones designs were conceived and drawn in such a manner as to inspire confidence in contractors; they felt comfortable bidding as low as possible on his projects, removing some of the excess that might be needed in poorly designed plans. Of course there are many other factors that could have been involved, but given Jones' popularity during the boom of the 1920s, his competence must be considered a possibility.
Jones Advertisement, May 20, 1925
San Gorgonio Hotel/Antlers Hotel
As the Platt Building was under construction, so was what became another familiar San Bernardino landmark: the Antlers Hotel. Jones appears to have had a hand in the early planning, but perhaps lost out on the final design contract. The picture above of the proposed San Gorgonio Hotel appeared in the January 21, 1923, issue of the L.A. Times. The accompanying article stated that the hotel was to be built on "E Street, half a block from the principal business corner of the City." A hotel under the name San Gorgonio was never constructed. What was built instead was Antlers Hotel, located on E Street, half a block south of Third Street, the principal business corner of the City. The Antlers, with 150 rooms, was a much smaller version of the San Gorgonio. Interestingly, the Antlers was built by a company known as the "San Gorgonio Hotel Association."
Antlers Hotel appears to be a much more modest building than Jones' San Gorgonio Hotel. It looks as if the Antlers' architect dropped one of the two wings and turned the building so that the narrow end faced the street, thus cutting down on street frontage in an expensive part of town. The architect for the Antlers is not identified in the L.A. Times stories about the hotel, which in itself is an indication that the self-promoting Jones was not the final architect.
San Bernardino County Courthouse - 1926
The time had come for Jones' masterpiece, the San Bernardino County Courthouse, now on the National Register of Historic Places. When Jones received the contract to design the building in 1925, he was nearing his 40th birthday and at the peak of his career. This was a big job for the young architect, and it was a major commitment by the County Board of Supervisors. The project was estimated to be $450,000, far and away more than anything the taxpayers had spent for a single building up to that time.
The Supervisors turned to Jones to determine whether it was more economical to replace the old courthouse that had been severely damaged in a 1923 earthquake, or to build an entirely new structure.
It is a historically interesting fact that Howard's uncle, Charles H. Jones, of the firm Jones and (Theron) Palmer, had designed the damaged courthouse in the 1890s. Actually the first courthouse (not counting an adobe structure) was built in 1875, and in the early 1890s there was a controversial move to build a new one. To conceal the size of the new project, it was referred to as an "extension" of the 1875 courthouse, whereas in fact the new structure dwarfed the old one. The push for the new courthouse, together with the construction of another county building, the Hall of Records, caused a furor, and was the final straw - or the convenient excuse - that led to the creation of Riverside County in 1893. The political turmoil was such that the San Bernardino Courthouse "extension" was not built until 1898.
In front, 1898 courthouse "extension" designed by Charles H. Jones. Main entrance is on E Street,
beneath the clock tower. On the left is Court Street with the old 1875 courthouse adjacent to the
new structure. Left of that can be seen the County Hall of Records building.
The July 22, 1923, earthquake damaged several county buildings, with the courthouse, hall of records and county hospital chief among them. Probably the most damage in the local area occurred at Patton State Hospital, which, like the courthouse and hall of records, was built in the 1890s. The Supervisors first consulted structural engineers from Los Angeles, who recommended the removal of the clock tower and northwest tower. Plus there were cracks throughout the rest of the building. The Supervisors then asked Jones to submit cost estimates for upgrading the old structure, but they eventually decided to replace it with a new one.
Howard was assisted in the design of the courthouse by architect DeWitt Mitcham, who, following Jones' example, got a self-promotional article of his own into the May 19, 1925, San Bernardino Sun. The article, entitled "Mitcham Aids in Designing New $450,000 Courthouse on Arrowhead Avenue," gave a decent biography of Mitcham's accomplishments, and headed it all up with the following cartoon entitled "Architectural De Signs."
On December 18, 1926, it was announced that the courthouse had been completed. The total cost ended up being $700,000, which included landscaping, moving the furnishings, and other unspecified associated costs. Jones explained that "the architecture of the edifice is classical Italian Renaissance, featured by a colonnade of eight stone columns, each twenty-six feet in height, and the colonnade itself being 100 feet wide." It was built as a Class A structure of reinforced concrete, and richly wrought with marble, art stone and other enhancements. Marble was used for the staircases, bronze for the doors, and the ceilings were richly decorated in pastel colors and gold leaf.
Attractive landscaping has been a feature of the courthouse since the beginning
San Bernardino Courthouse - Built In 1926
Andreson Building - 1927
When John Andreson, Sr., moved to San Bernardino in 1871, the first thing he did was buy an acre of land at the northwest corner of Third and E Streets. There was a small brewery already on the site (which he enlarged, and later sold his interests in during 1884). In 1872 he built a brick building on the corner, and in 1887, during the height of a construction boom, he built a three-story brick block structure considered the best in the City up until that time. It was called the Andreson Building, and consisted of 80 rooms. Offices and stores were on the ground floor, and the St. Charles Hotel leased the upper floors. In his later years Andreson wanted to rebuild an even grander building, but the time was never right, and his dream was unfulfilled at the time of his death.
Andreson's son, John Jr., followed in the footsteps of his father: both served on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, the two of them were financiers involved with property, real estate and various business ventures, and both wanted to leave a legacy with the City of San Bernardino. Thus it was that the son completed his father's dream in 1927. John Jr. erected a new structure, also called the Andreson Building, which he insisted was named after his father. It was only natural that Andreson turned to Howard Jones to be the architect of his grand plan, for Jones by that time had a well-earned reputation as an outstanding architect.
The building was "L"-shaped with a 56-foot frontage on Third Street and 148 feet on E Street. Altogether the five stories, plus basement, added up to 63,000 square feet. Additional frontage on Third Street was acquired in 1959 in order to expand the ground floor. The upper floors of the building were left unaltered. Jones designed the offices of the original ground floor tenant, Merchant National Bank. His design was impressive, including tiles, marbles and granites, and the press praised it as "the most beautiful banking quarters in the San Bernardino Valley." Other ground-floor tenants included a quality clothing store and a jewelry store. A molding was established at 23 feet above street level, which gave a great deal of leeway for storefront modifications by various tenants over the years, such as tall display windows, without affecting the overall design of the building.
The Andreson Building is registered with the State of California as a Point of Historical Interest, and information collected during the registration process was compiled into an article in the January-February 1981 issue of the San Bernardino Historical Society's Odyssey publication.
Andreson Building, and annex to the right - Both buildings built in 1927.
Andreson Annex - Built in 1927. The annex housed Kress Five & Dime Store
Harris Company - 1927
Howard Jones designed the Harris Company, which was perhaps the most beloved building in San Bernardino. Of course, the reverence for this building was due to the wonderful relationship the Harris family had with the citizens of San Bernardino and surrounding areas. The building itself became identified with the family, and so there has been much sadness since the business closed its doors in 1999. Now, nearly a decade later, the shell remains, and there is hope, not least among the owners, that a new use will be found for the structure and it will spring back to life to serve a few more generations.
Aimmee Lou Rodriguez, a student at the University of San Diego, wrote a thesis on the subject of possible uses for the building. The title of her thesis is "The History of the Harris' Company 1905-1999 in San Bernardino, California and Possible Future Use For Its Flagship Store," published in 2001. On page 27 she gives a few details about the store:
"The building housed a basement, first floor, mezzanine level, second floor, third floor, and a roof garden. It was built as a fireproof structure that would include all the modern amenities of the time. For example, the first floor contained a candy store, and on the south side of the building, a grocery store called Sage's Market. Later a sit-down soda fountain counter was added to the first floor, and a barbershop and beauty parlor were added to the mezzanine level. Pony rides were even given on the roof.
"The new structure was built in a Spanish Baroque style. The southeast corner of the building had a staircase of colorful tiles, which led up to their 2nd floor restaurant, Café Madrid. The building's doors were made of hammered copper. The main entrance archway fitted with Italian marble rose 29 feet, while the interior lobby ceiling was an impressive 32 feet high displaying colors such as soft reds, golds, and blues reminiscent of Tuscany. The exterior had alternating intricate stone and wrought iron ornamental grillwork. The Harris coat-of-arms was molded within the stonework's façade, with the word Servimus in the shield."
Harris Company - Built in 1927
City and County Schools
For a time, the local school districts used Howard Jones almost exclusively. It may be he was the only one they used, for that matter. If there were any other architects, records of them were not kept by the school districts. Whatever the case, Jones designed many schools. An obituary by San Bernardino Sun reporter Earl Buie lists a few of the schools: Lincoln, Harding, Riley, Woodrow Wilson and Marshal, all elementary schools. The Library of Congress website has him associated with San Bernardino Valley College. The site does not list him as the architect, but it is very likely that was what his association was. Some of his other school buildings have been found in various newspaper clipping files: Eliot Elementary School; and Highland, Richardson, Ramona and Muscoy Junior High Schools. The following pages show some of the schools he designed, most of which have a distinct classical flavor, a style Jones liked to use.
Eliot Elementary School, on E Street above Highland Avenue
Harding Elementary School, on F Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets
Richardson Junior High, Aerial View
(Courtesy of Carolyn Tillman, San Bernardino City School District)
San Bernardino Valley College Administration Building
Sun writer Earl Buie did a story on Howard Jones entitled "Late Architect's Many Achievements Recalled." Buie stated that Jones "was also noted as a home designer and was the architect who designed many of the more elaborate residences erected as the City advanced northward toward the mountains. Below is a photograph of a mission-style house that appeared in a June 1924 rotogravure section of the San Bernardino Sun.
Mission-style home in north San Bernardino
Jones designed his own home at 370 17th Street." He turned the house to face the side lot, similar to what he did with the business court, so the living quarters faced a private garden.
Although this home was rather modest in size, it received a major write-up in the Los Angeles Times dated October 12, 1947. The article was entitled "Loveliness From the Isle of Leisure," and contained eight photographs plus the floor plan shown above. The text was equally expansive. Author Lee Howard and the Times editors must have been greatly impressed with Jones' little place. Quite an accomplishment.
An End to an Architectural Era
Sometime in the early to mid-1950s Howard Jones retired. His work was eclectic, ranging from small residential homes to elegant buildings. Some of the later structures he or his associates worked on included Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Norman Feldheym's house, and the replacement for the condemned Carnegie Library. We know he was still working for the school district as late as 1952, when it was announced on January 2nd of that year that plans were being prepared for Muscoy Junior High School.
Howard passed away in 1966 in San Bernardino. His obituary appeared in the August 3, 1966, issue of the San Bernardino Sun. Survivors included his widow Bessie N., son Dr. William H of Los Angeles, sister Mrs. Ollie Palmer of Venice, and two grandchildren. The paper noted that he was a Past Exalted Ruler and life member of B.P.O. Elks Lodge 836, and a member of the Rotary Club.
Howard E. Jones was a major figure in building in San Bernardino, where he spent most of his life. He was fortunate that his business was established during a population boom in the area. He was the busiest architect in the City, according to Buie, during the period between World War I and World War II. The people of San Bernardino apparently were enamored of his work.