McMansions bring tensions to old neighborhoods
"one beautiful bungalow" in Sacramento CA

John Hudson Thomas

There's been a resurgence of interest lately in one of my favorite Bay Area architects, a fellow who was just as comfortable with classically Arts & Crafts structures as he was with Art Deco, Mission Revival and less orthodox (or harder to pigeonhole) styles.

John Hudson Thomas grew up in the Bay Area and returned to Berkeley after graduating from Yale. While in the Architecture MA program at Berkeley, he studied under and became friends with both Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard, and worked for Howard for a few years after graduation.

A member of Berkeley's Hillside Club, he socialized with Maybeck, Julia Morgan and others, and certainly elements of their own styles are visible in his early work. He was especially interested in the tall, thin and somewhat whimsical forms of European designers like Mackintosh and Voysey, and incorporated these lines - along with those of the fledgeling Prairie movement and those of the Viennese Seccessionists - into his own style, which in more recent years been called part of the "First Bay" school. Eventually, his work became a bit softer and more orthodox, but he still kept his knack for interior architecture - lots of detail - and tall structures with long uninterrupted lines well into the 1920s and 30s.

By this time, he was working for more established clients, on more complex and high-paying projects - mostly large homes - but his attention to landscape, environment and view was still paramount, and slightly odd or purposely out-of-place elements - friezes, odd finishes, unexpected combinations of materials, nooks and crannies and whimsical woodwork - remained. Luckily, many of his best buildings are still standing; a few are listed below: