Hiding in Plain Sight
Irving J. Gill Building Re-Discovered

William Douglas House, 1911
Kensington, San Diego, California

Douglas House, Current Condition, 2023
Douglas House, Current condition, 2023

Originally identified as generally historic by Thomas H. Bauman, a local dentist and neighborhood historian, in his book “Kensington – Talmadge, 1910 – 1985”, published in 1984, this house was built by and for William Douglas. Douglas was the original sales agent for the first lots sold in Kensington. Kensington is one of the early streetcar suburbs of San Diego.

As Bauman noted, the house was originally located at the southeast corner of Adams Avenue and Kensington Drive. Several years later, when commercial buildings began being built on Adams, it was moved to the back of the lot to make room for a commercial building. Similar home relocations occurred along other Adams Avenue properties.

There was, however, more to the history of this building than Bauman had uncovered. Thanks to the recent sleuthing of architects Heather Crane and John Sheehan, we now know that Douglas had hired Irving J. Gill in late 1910 to design the Douglas home. At this time, as Douglas would have well known, Gill was San Diego’s most prominent architect.

Newspaper sketch, 1910
Newspaper sketch, 1910

The next time you visit Kensington, stop and take a look at the Douglas House. Look past some of the harsh modifications, its current commercial use, and the extreme paint. Squint a little and you will see Gill’s original design come through. The distinctive roof brackets, the unique fireplace and chimney, and the single-story flat-roofed pop-out all say “Gill”.

Newspaper photograph, 1911
Newspaper photograph, 1911

We have long known that Gill was a very prolific architect. It is, though, still a joy to come across some “new” work!

Lecture and Book Signing
The Sacred Architecture of Irving J. Gill

by author Rev. Dr. Mark Hargreaves
at Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL
July 27 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm – FREE

Unity Temple Restoration Foundation and the Irving J. Gill Foundation will host a talk and book signing by Rev. Dr. Mark Hargreaves, who will speak about his new book, The Sacred Architecture of Irving J. Gill. Oak Park historian and architect Christopher Payne will introduce the topic with insights from Joseph Lyman Silsbee’s religious works.

Gill apprenticed under Silsbee and Adler & Sullivan during the peak of the Chicago School, 1890-1893. In these heady years, Gill worked alongside Wright, Elmslie, Corwin, Maher, and other prominent early Chicago and Prairie School architects. Moving to San Diego in 1893, Gill went on to have a provocative career in Southern California.

Hargreaves’ lecture will draw on his research and writing to focus on Gill’s sacred architecture, which emerged out of the same cultural and theological milieu as Silsbee’s Unity Chapel, Spring Green, WI, and Wright’s Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL.

No registration is needed—suggested donation of $10 at the door.
Doors open at 6 pm, and the talk begins at 6:30 pm.

More information at Unity Temple Restoration Foundation

The Sacred Architecture of Irving J. Gill
New book: Available
worldwide at local bookstores

The Irving J. Gill Foundation is pleased to announce our second book on one of America’s most important architects, Irving J. Gill. Written by Rev. Dr. Mark Hargreaves, The Sacred Architecture of Irving J. Gill is an in-depth examination of the career of one of America’s most significant architectural innovators as seen through his many designs of sacred architecture. This is not a typical book on architecture. It brings together a study of a unique body of architecture and examines the congregations that hired Gill to build their beliefs and aspirations.

The work of Irving J. Gill in building new churches has been hitherto unfairly neglected. Of that topic, Mark Hargreaves reminds us that the architect’s aim should be not just to create a work of beauty but also a building specifically designed for the religious aspirations of the particular congregation concerned. So thorough is Hargreaves’ book that it can also serve as a general introduction to church architecture.
— Professor David Brown, DLitt, FBA, FRSE
Emeritus Professor of Theology, Aesthetics & Culture, University of St Andrews

Available on Amazon.com and their worldwide websites, The Sacred Architecture of Irving J. Gill is also available at local bookstores. Ask your local bookstore for a copy!

Order Here

Lost & Found Fundraiser

Mt. Hope Cemetery
Mt. Hope Cemetery, San Diego

The Irving J. Gill Foundation is raising funds to find a respectful resting place for Irving J. Gill’s remains.

Upon his untimely death in 1936, historians had assumed that Mr. Gill had been cremated, yet no one knew what became of his remains. He was lost. The IJGF recently found his remains when we learned that Mr. Gill’s ashes were stored away in a closet in a mortuary in San Diego. The 1936 paperwork states that the ashes are to be held until “family comes to pick them up.” In the 87 years since his death, his family never came. 

It is time to rectify this situation and give Mr. Gill a proper burial and resting place. 

Read more about our plans and our fundraising …

One California Architect, Irving J. Gill
worldwide at local bookstores

One California Architect, Irving J. GillIn April 2020, the Irving J. Gill Foundation published our first book: ‘One California Architect, Irving J. Gill’ by Esther McCoy. It was published to coincide with Irving J. Gill’s 150th birthday. Sadly Covid-19 also had plans for that spring. First published on Amazon.com and their worldwide websites, ‘One California Architect, Irving J. Gill’ is now available at local bookstores. Ask your local bookstore for a copy!

Order Here

IJGF Symposium 2016

Symposium Video Release

The Irving J. Gill Foundation is pleased to announce the release of the video record of its historic symposium Irving J. Gill and the Chicago School.

This event brought together several noted architectural historians for a symposium and panel discussion that investigated the impact of the Chicago and Prairie schools on California’s first modernist architect Irving J. Gill (1870-1936). This symposium argues that Gill’s experience in Chicago from 1890 to 1893 provides keys to understanding the source of his unique architectural language. Gill’s development was uniquely influenced by the relationships he formed with the people, ideas, and methods of that era’s great architects, including Joseph Lyman Silsbee, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

This symposium was part of Irving J. Gill: New Architecture for a Great Country, a major collaborative multi-site project of exhibitions, tours, and programs by thirteen Southern California cultural organizations showcasing the life and work of Irving J. Gill.

Watch Here