Irving John Gill

Architect | 1870-1936

Considered a pioneer of modern architecture the world over, Irving Gill worked for Adler & Sullivan at the same time as Frank Lloyd Wright was working in their Chicago office. Gill's reputation quickly faded after his death until his inclusion in the 1960 book Five California Architects by Esther McCoy reprised his acknowledgement as a major figure in the modern movement.

Considered a pioneer of modern architecture, San Diegan Irving Gill died before many of the architects we profile here at Modern San Diego had started working. Elder statesmen of San Diego architecture like Sim Bruce Richards and Lloyd Ruocco were not only familiar with his work, they were disciples of Gill and supported the acknowledgment of his portfolio at a level he failed to achieve in his own lifetime.

Irving Gill was born in Tully, New York to Joseph Gill, a carpenter and farmer. Irving Gill had no formal education in architecture and never attended college. Instead, he apprenticed under architect Ellis G. Hall in Syracuse and then moved to Chicago, Illinois, working with Joseph Lyman Silsbee and later (and more importantly) under Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. Historians have often commented that Frank Lloyd Wright was working in the Adler & Sullivan firm at the same time. While in the Adler & Sullivan studio, Gill worked on the Transportation Building for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Mr. Gill moved to San Diego in 1893, for health reasons, where he immediately launched his own architecture studio specializing in large residences in eclectic styles. He later had an 11-year partnership with William S. Hebbard that produced good work, important to San Diego County history but less known nationally. The Hebbard & Gill firm was known for work in the Tudor Revival style and later followed the Prairie School philosophy. The George W. Marston House, just west of Balboa Park, is among the most notable byproducts of this partnership.

Gill's 1907 partnership with Frank Mead, which lasted less than a year and completed only 4 houses, has been noted as a time of some of Gill's best work. The Bailey, Allen, Laughlin and M. Klauber residences were completed during this period.

In 1911, Irving Gill's nephew, Louis Gill, joined his firm as a draftsman. He would later be promoted to partner. Irving Gill, known as Jack to his friends, became a pioneer in rational, early modern design for residences and commercial buildings.

Gill was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps to design the La Jolla Woman's Club building. This prominently sited building (1912–14) is considered one of Gill's masterpieces. Here Gill used the "tilt-slab" construction technique to assemble the exterior walls on-site. This building was the first tilt-up concrete building in California, and despite Gill's association with this building method, he used it in only a handful of structures.

The most prominent Gill-designed project is probably the Electric Fountain in downtown San Diego. Despite being designed in the prime of his modernist period, it is atypical of his work at the time. The revivalist design was chosen in a competition among architects, and was one of the first projects in the country to combine water with electric-light effects.

Though the Gill & Gill partnership lasted until 1919, Irving started living and working in Los Angeles before the two parted company. Multiple projects for the fledgling city of Torrance probably prompted this move north.

Irving Gill returned to live in North County in the 1920s though his work slowed considerably due to lingering illness, changing public tastes, and his diminishing desire to compromise with clients.

Importance of the Work

Irving Gill was concerned with the social impact of good architecture, and worked with equal skill and interest on projects for bankers and mayors as he did on projects for reservation Indians, African American churchgoers, and for migrant Mexican workers and their children.

Gill's work established "a new beginning in life and art" and it represented a "grand rejection" of the common "architectural mise en scene from other times and places," according to historian Kevin Starr. His work was described as cubist in publications of the time.

The architect's interiors were concerned with removing unnecessary detailing, for reasons of economy and hygiene. His houses are known for minimal or flush mouldings, simple (or no) fireplace mantles, coved floor to wall transitions, enclosed-side bathtubs, frequent skylights, plastered walls with only the occasional, but featured, wood elements, flush five-piece doors, frequent concrete or Sorel cement floors, and a general avoidance of cracks, ledges, and unnecessary material changes. According to Joseph Giovannini, "...the desire for an easily maintained, sanitary home drove Gill's aesthetic toward purity.”

Aesthetically, Gill's best work of the 1910s is identified by flat roofs with no eaves, a unity of materials (mostly concrete), casement windows with transoms above, white or near-white exterior and interior walls, cube or rectangular massing, frequent ground-level arches or series of arches creating transitional breezeways in the manner of the California missions.

Despite frequent recent references to Gill as "forgotten" or "unappreciated " he was reasonably well documented during his life. For example, his work was more frequently published in Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman magazine than any other Western architect, including the firm of Greene & Greene.

Gill's reputation did quickly fade after his death, and it languished until he was included in the 1960 book Five California Architects by Esther McCoy and Randell L. Makinson. This book helped to renew interest in his work, and in early California architecture in general. In the decades since its publication Irving Gill has come to be recognized as a major figure in the modern movement.

Partial List of Projects

Allen, Russell C. Residence (1907)
4094 Old Orchard Lane, Bonita
*Gill & Mead

Americanization School (1931)
1210 Division Street, Oceanside

Anderson, Monroe G. Residence (1904)
2257 Front Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (1932)
1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside
*References include 12 Rancho Barona Resettlement for Indians Cottages and Church

Bailey, Wheeler J. Residence (1907)
7964 Princess Street, La Jolla
*Gill & Mead

Bailey, Wheeler Guest Cottage (1932)
7964 Princess Street, La Jolla

Bailhache Residence (1898)
1022 Adella Avenue, Coronado

Balboa Park Administration Building (1911-12)
Attributed to Gill & Allen though Gill's role in its design is disputed

Banning Residence (1912)
513 S. Commonwealth, Los Angeles

Barber, E. Milton Residence #1 (1904)
108 W. Robinson Avenue, San Diego

Barber, E. Milton Residence (1909)
3934 3rd Avenue, San Diego

Beauty Parlor (1936)
311 S. Elena, Redondo Beach

Belcher, Mr. Residence (1904)
SE Corner of Kalmia & Albatross, San Diego

Belle Vista Terrace (AKA Lewis Courts) (1910)
Mt. Trail & Algeria, Sierra Madre

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (1911-12)
3233 Market Street, San Diego

Biological Station (1908-1910)
8602 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla
*Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Birchead Residence (1902)
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Bishop's Day School (1908-1909)
3068 First Avenue, San Diego
*Now the Self-Realization Fellowship

Bishops School Scripps Hall (1910), Bentham Hall (1912-13), and Gilman Hall (1916)
7607 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla

Blade Tribune and News Building (1936)
S. Tremont Street & Seagaze Drive, Oceanside

Burnham, Frederick R. & Lilla G. Residence (1906)
3565 7th Avenue, San Diego

Carroll, M.V. Residence (1898)
Hillcrest, San Diego

Casas Grandes (1912)
Between Franklin, Center & Felis, Hollywood

Chappell, Ida D. Residence (1903)
241 Ivy Street, San Diego

Chase, E. F. Residence (1904)
205 W. Laurel Street, San Diego

Christensen, J.P. Flats (1908-09)
312 22nd Street, San Diego

Church of The Sacred Heart (1919-20)
7th St & C Avenue, Coronado
*Gill & Gill

Churchill, Mendell C. Residence (1898)
1300 Orange Avenue; relocated to 1106 4th Street, Coronado
*Hebbard & Gill

Clarke Estate (1919)
Santa Fe Springs

Coast Building
7467 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
*Hebbard & Gill

Community Playground Director's House (1914)
Cuvier, La Jolla

Cossitt, Mary Residence #1 (1896-97)
1710 and 1718 Visalia Row, San Diego
Published as “N.E. corner of Adella & Maria (now at 1704 3rd)” in Structures Designed by Irving Gill

Cossitt, Mary Residence #2 (1898)
1037 Star Park Circle, Coronado

Cossitt, Mary Residence #3 (1899)
1127 Flora Avenue, Coronado

Cossitt, Mary Residence #4 (1906)
3526 7th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Cossitt, Mary Residence #5 (1910)
3729 8th Avenue, San Diego

Cossitt, Mary Residence #6 (1910)
3735 8th Avenue, San Diego

Cossitt, Mary Residence #7 (1910)
3749 8th Avenue, San Diego

Cossitt, Mary Residence #8 (1910)
3757 8th Avenue, San Diego

Cottage Court (1916)
Western near 3rd, Los Angeles

Crouse, Warren M. Residence (1904)
2600 1st Avenue, San Diego

Darst House (1908)
502 Kalmia, San Diego

Darst, Annie B. Flats (1908-1909)
2266 5th Avenue, San Diego

Dodge, Walter L. (1914-16)
950 Kings Road, Los Angeles

Douglas Residence (1905)
NE Corner of Second & Nutmeg, San Diego

Easton, E. George Residence (1908)
3353 2nd Avenue, San Diego

Echo Park Court (1912)
Los Angeles

Electric Fountain AKA 'Wilde Fountain' (ca. 1909-1910)
Horton Plaza - First and Broadway, San Diego

Experimental Cottage (1908)
3735 Robinson Mews, San Diego

F. B. Lewis Courts (aka Bella Vista Terrace) (1910)
Sierra Madre, California

Ferry Smith, Sam Residence (1906)
2230 4th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Fire and Police Station (1929-31)
Pier View Way & N Nevada Street, Oceanside

First Church of Christ Scientist #1 (1904-05)
317 W. Ash Street, San Diego

First Church Christ Scientist (1909)
2450 Second Avenue, San Diego

First Church of Christ Scientist (1927-28)
8th St & C Avenue, Coronado

First Lutheran Church (1904-06)
1420 3rd Avenue, San Diego

First Methodist Church (1906)
NW Corner of 9th & C, San Diego

Fox, Charles Residence (1905)
3100 Brant Street, San Diego

Frost, Abel H. Residence (1897)
2456 Broadway, San Diego

Fulford Residence (1910)
7th Avenue and Garrettson, San Diego

George Residence (1895-96)
2410 E Street, San Diego

Gerichtoen-Choate-Peterson Building (1894)
820-836 5th Avenue, San Diego
*Falkenham & Gill

Gill, Irving Cottages (1902-1908)
3703, 3709, 3719 Albatross Street, San Diego

Gill, Irving J. Rental Cottage (1904-05)
2488 L Street, San Diego

Gill, Irving J. Rental Cottage (1904-05)
146 25th Street, San Diego

Gill, Irving Triplex (1908)
2119-2123 Albatross Street, San Diego

Gill, Irving Cottage (1906)
3776 Front Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Gilman Hall, The Bishops School (1916-17)
7607 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla

Goff, Dr. Residence (1908)
3850 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Gorham, C.L. Residence (1910)
Corner of 6th Avenue & Olive, San Diego

Gould, E. B. House (c. 1914)
2333 Albatross Street, San Diego
*Attributed to Hebbard & Gill

Granger, Ralph Residence (1897)
8th & National, San Diego

Grove, Edward Residence (1905)
2243 Front Street, San Diego

Granger Music Hall (1896)
1615 E 4th Street, National City

Hamilton, Charles S. house (1905)
3583 6th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Hawley, George M. & Edith H. Residence #2 (1907)
4744 Panorama Drive, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Hebbard & Gill Cottages (1908)
212 & 220 Hawthorne, San Diego

Holly Sefton Memorial Hospital (1909)
Balboa Park, San Diego

Horatio West Court (1919)
140 Hollister Street, Santa Monica

Horton, David K. Residence (1895)
1504 E 22nd Street, National City

Johnson, Mary C. Residence (1905)
2233 Front Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill; Destroyed

Jossie, Mrs. P.O. Business Building (1899)
SE Corner of 5th & Broadway, San Diego

Kautz, George Residence (1913)
7753 Draper Avenue, La Jolla

Kendall, John Residence (1894)
1328 Virginia Way, San Diego
*Falkenham & Gill; Destroyed

Klauber, Hugo Residence (1908)
2626 Sixth Avenue, San Diego

Klauber, Melville Residence (1907-1908)
3060 Sixth Ave, San Diego

Kleine, John H. Residence #1 (1897-98)
12332 Topa Hill Circle, Lakeside
*Hebbard & Gill

Kleine, John H. Residence #2 (1905)
9706 Channel Road, Lakeside
*By Hebbard & Gill. Reportedly moved from its original location (2 lots north where an apartment complex was built) to this site circa 1987.

Kroenert, George Residence (1899)
1471 8th Avenue, San Diego

La Jolla Recreation Center (1910-16)
615 Prospect Street, La Jolla

La Jolla Women's Club (1912-14)
715 Silverado Street, La Jolla

Las Flores Hotel (1912-13)
725 4th Avenue, San Diego

Laughlin, Homer J. Residence (1907)
666 W. 28th, Los Angeles

Lee, Alice Residence #1 (1905)
3574 7th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Lee, Alice Residence #2 (1905)
3578 7th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Lee, Alice Residence #3 (1912-13)
3367 Albatross Street, San Diego

Lee, Alice Residence #4 (1912-13)
3353 Albatross Street, San Diego

Margerum Residence
Elizabethville, Pennsylvania

Marston, Arthur H. Residence (1909)
3575 7th Avenue, San Diego

Marston, George W. Residence (1904-05)
3525 7th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Mason Residence (1916)
2434 Langdale, Eagle Rock

Mason, Ellen Residence (1902)
Newport, Rhode Island

Mayer, Edward house (1903)
2240 5th Avenue, San Diego

McCagg Residence (1905)
Bar Harbor, Maine

Mckenzie, Flint and Winsby Corp. Buildings (aka Buell-Town Building) (1897)
SE Corner of 5th Avenue & K Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

McKenzie, George Residence (1898)
NW Corner of Front & Kalmia, San Diego

Mills Residence (1900)
1604 7th Avenue, San Diego

Miltimore, Mrs. Paul Residence (1911)
1301 S. Chelten Way, South Pasadena

Mission Revival Episcopal Church (1898)
3725 30th Street, San Diego
*This project was moved in 1924 to 30th Street from its original 6th Ave location (having been moved within its lot before that)

Mitchell, Bertha B. Residence (ca. 1904-07)
2720 4th Avenue, San Diego

Morgan Residence (1917)
Arden & Melrose, Los Angeles

Moylan, Miles Residence (1894)
2214 2nd Avenue, San Diego
*Falkenham & Gill

National City High School (Addition) (1910)
National City

Nichols, Gail Cottage (1897)
750 Adella Avenue, Coronado
*Burned in 1981

Nichols, Harry W. Residence (1895)
1718 A Avenue, Coronado

Normal School (1895)
Park Boulevard, San Diego

Oatman, Homer C. Residence (1906)
2437 2nd Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Oceanside City Hall (1934)
704 Pier View Way, Oceanside

Oceanside City Plan (1929-1935)
Auditorium (1929), Fire Station & Police Station (1929), Nevada Street School (1929), Recreation Palace (1929), School Center Addition (1930), Oceanside High School (1930), Kindergarten (1931), and Swimming Pool (1935)

Office Buildings
Torrance, California

O'Kelley, Mr. Residence (1912)
Quince Street, San Diego

Olmstead, Miss Marion Residence (1911)
North End of Lark, San Diego

Olmstead, Albert H. Residence (1902)
Newport, Rhode Island

Olmstead, John Residence (1905)
Chepiwanoxet, Rhode Island

Osborn, John Residence (1897)
2073 Logan Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Pacific Electric Railroad Bridge (into City) (1913)
Torrance, California

Pacific Electric Station
Torrance, California

Parmelee, Edmund F. Residence (1906)
202-204 W. Ivy Street, San Diego

Pickwick Theater (Isis Theater) (1904)
4th between C and Broadway, San Diego

Porterfield, W.H. Residence (1905)
Second & Upas, San Diego

Pratt, Mary C. Residence (Dr. Lorini) (1898)
1517 Ynez Place, Coronado

Price, Peter M. House (1908)
1355 Granada Avenue, San Diego

Price, Peter M. Spec House #1 (1909)
1345 Granada Ave, San Diego

Price, Peter M. Spec House #2 (1911)
1331 Granada Avenue, San Diego

Private Residence (1911)
3426 Front Street, San Diego

Private Residence (1911)
3404 Front Street, San Diego

Private Residence (1908)
3353 Second Avenue, San Diego

Private Residence (1906)
280 Olive, San Diego

Private Residence (1898)
4th Avenue near Date, San Diego

Private Residence (1912)
2728 Sixth Avenue, San Diego

Private Residence (1905)
Apponaug, Rhode Island

Private Residence
3370 Brant Street, San Diego

Private Residence (1910)
2204-06 Albatross Street, San Diego

Private Residence
3404 Front Street, San Diego

Private Residence (1914)
7233 Hillside, Los Angeles

Prototype Workers' Cottage (1908)
3721 Albatross Street, San Diego

Prototype Worker's Cottages (1906)
3733 Robinson Mews, San Diego

Puterbaugh, Johnson Residence (1902)
2970 2nd Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Raymond House (1918)
2724 Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach

Richards, Bartlett & Mrs. Inez Residence (1901-02)
1015 Ocean Boulevard, Coronado

Rucker, Peru Residence (1911)
3130 6th Avenue, San Diego

Rynearson House (1898)
2441 E Street, San Diego
*Attributed to Hebbard & Gill

San Diego Country Club (1910)
1740 Upas, San Diego

San Diego Land and Town Company Bldg. (1897)
San Diego

Schuyler, Daniel House (1893)
838-842 25th Street, San Diego

Scripps, Ellen Cottage (1897)
780 Prospect Street, La Jolla
*Hebbard & Gill

Scripps, Ellen Browning Residence 'South Moulton Villa' (1908)
700 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Scripps, Ellen Browning Residence (ca. 1913-1915)
Prospect Street, La Jolla
*Remodeled considerably to become what is now MCASD

Scripps Recreation Center (1913-15)
615 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Sefton, J.W. Residence (1910)
Texas Street between Lincoln & University, San Diego

Simmons, G.W. Houses (1909)
3506 Albatross Street, San Diego

Smith, Capt. W. Mifflin Residence
2508 1st Avenue, San Diego

South West Invest Co. Bldg.(1900)
Pacific Highway between F & G, San Diego

Steckel, George Residence (1910)
Los Angeles, California

Stephens, Anson P. Residence (1898)
1400 7th Avenue, San Diego relocated to 723 A Avenue, Coronado
*Hebbard & Gill

Sterrett, Mary A. Residence
542 22nd Street, San Diego

Stewart, William Residence (1904)
942 23rd Street, San Diego

St. James by the Sea Rectory and Chapel (1907-08)
La Jolla

St. James by the Sea Chapel (1907-08)
743 Prospect / 627 Genter Street, La Jolla
*Expanded in 1911 with the assistance of William Hebbard and moved to Genter Street

St. Paul's Rectory (1906)
408 Nutmeg Street, San Diego

Strong-Schlink Cottage #1 (1911)
2104 Front Street, San Diego

Strong-Schlink Cottage #1 #2 (1911)
220 W Hawthorn Street, San Diego

Strong-Schlink Cottage #1 #3 (1911)
212 W Hawthorn Street, San Diego

Tammen, George Residence (1903)
2437 Market Street, San Diego

Teats, Katherine Residence #1 (1905)
3560 7th Avenue, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Teats, Katherine Residence #2 (1912-13)
3415 Albatross Street, San Diego

Teats, Katherine Residence #3 (1912-13)
3407 Albatross Street, San Diego

Thompson, Percival Residence (1910-1911)
1156 Isabella Avenue, Coronado

Thurston, Mrs. H.P. Residence (1909)
Silvergate, Point Loma

Timken, H.H. Residence (1911)
335 Walnut, San Diego

Tutt, Arles L. Residence (1906)
1007 Ocean Boulevard, Coronado

U.S. Grant Jr. Bldg. (1898)
4th Between C & Broadway, San Diego

Wangenheim, Julius (1904)
148 Juniper, San Diego

Waterman, Mrs. Waldo Residence (1900)
237 W. Hawthorne Street, San Diego

Waverly Ranch
Hillsdale Road, El Cajon

Webster, N.H Residence (1908)
1504 7th Street, San Diego

Wegeforth, Mrs. Harry M. (1917)
210 Maple, San Diego

Wheaton, Sherwood Residence (1908)
3102 6th Avenue, San Diego

White, Ernest E. Residence (1898)
136 Redwood Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Wilde Flats (1919)
544 D Avenue and 545 Palm Avenue, Coronado
*With Louis J. Gill

Williams, Mr. J.H. Residence (1908)
California Springs, Tulare County

Wilson-Acton Hotel (1908)
1116 Prospect Street, La Jolla

Wincote, Marion L. Residence (1903)
3720 7th Avenue
*Hebbard & Gill

Wood, Samuel L. Residence (1905)
2424-6 C Street, San Diego
*Hebbard & Gill

Woodward, W.B. Flats (1904)
7th between Broadway & C, San Diego

Workmen's Cottages
1800-1900 Block of Gramercy, Torrance