December 4, 2003
I Built That Building
by Dale Bauer
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
The minds and hands of many a Redlands person have created the built environment which houses the many activities of its citizens. This paper seeks to explore nine individuals, their background and the personal connection they have made due to their hands-on efforts during the course of designing or giving form to an architectural project. It is not a chronology of what was built or when, but why and how a project gave satisfaction, great wealth, no wealth to the person living through the period of construction.
The youth of Dale Bauer was spent isolated in rural Orange County when Garden Grove was primarily a citrus and agricultural center. Exposure to the world beyond included a Bachelor of Science in Physics at Occidental College, serving as a U.S. Naval minesweeping officer during WWII, graduating from the USC School of Architecture in 1952 and visiting major architectural centers in Europe.
1954 - Married Alma Gene Schroff
1951 -1961 Created architectural and furniture designs with Architect Charles Eames in Venice, California.
1961 - Moved to Smiley Park (near Running Springs) for the four seasons environment.
1963-1988 Commuted to Redlands and work with Clare Day and Leon Armantrout, Architects, on a great variety of commercial, religious and residential projects.
1988 and beyond trying to retire. Have not achieved that yet.
Other interests have included:
Redlands Horticultural and Improvement Society Flower Shows.
Friends of Prospect Park and the adaptive reuse and reconstruction of the century-old Carriage House.
Participating with spouse Gene in her pursuit of painting the hillside surrounding our home with daffodils and fall coloring hardwood trees.
The minds and hands of many people have created the built environment which houses the activities of Redlands citizens. This paper seeks to explore the personal connections they have made due to their hands-on efforts while designing or giving form to an architectural project, and why and how a project gave satisfaction, frustration, great wealth, no wealth, as a result of their participation.
Imagine sitting around a coffee shop table covered with coffee cups and a jelly donut or two, several workers having a 7:00 AM project review figuring how to complete enough work today so as to be able to submit a pay request to the project owner. This is when the progress of a project really gets evaluated, with conversations like:
The building inspector is always late for inspection of my form work I cant pour concrete now, another day delay.
The architect wont approve the mahogany cabinet work without more samples.
The painter oversprayed the brickwork yesterday; hell have to pay.
But at some time in the future, a haze overtakes the pain of day to day work crises and the worker draws a more mellow view of the whole project as it nears acceptance and the owner is able to occupy. Word gets out, and hopefully, the public considers the building a worthy addition to the community. With this kind of affirmation a worker can:
*Proudly walk and talk the project with his son
*Drive past the project and point to it when the relatives are in town
*Show the wife the special detail work he completed
and with PRIDE say: I BUILT THAT BUILDING.
This paper is a series of interviews with people whose endeavors are representative of the variety of talents and abilities that sustain Redlands as a special place.
One Redlands story started in March 1946 when a man arrived at Fort McArthur. He had left his army duties in Okinawa, had been transported to the States and discharged. He took the Red Car to Los Angeles and then to Redlands, anxious to see his wife and a first view of their two month old daughter. But first there was another important consideration: What can I do now in Redlands to support my family? (His past experience was as a high school graduate in Chicago.)
He arrived at the Redlands station, and with his barracks bag in hand went directly to the office of builder Gordon Donald. Donald was an established builder of quality homes. His application was accepted so he had a job before he arrived home.
As an apprentice in a carpenters union program, his work for Donald paid 99 cents per hour. Journeymen were paid $1.47 per hour. He recalls one of his jobs was digging earth for the Fred Hill Packing House tipping pit, an excavation 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and deep, by hand. Mechanized backhoes were not used then.
He worked for Donald 1½ years. As an apprentice learning various skills of carpentry, he was directed by his foreman to make a sawhorse out of two-by lumber. Scott Yarrow may have wanted this apprentice to go away because he was highly critical of the joinery of several horses that were made and remade 32 high, exactly 30 degree leg angle, and a 32x 48 foot print.
This apprentice also worked for contractor George Forsberg for two years. He was among several other WWII veterans participating in a 1½ year G.I. Bill union apprentice program at San BernardinoValley College. They attended night classes three days a week after normal workdays for contractors.
When he received his contractors license in 1955, he entered the competative economy at a low point. Endeavoring to make ends meet he worked part time wherever: filling smudge pots and installing door hardware at the La Posada Hotel.
Between 1960 and 2000 and after a variety of FHA residential houses and commercial remodels, his extensive work in commercial contracting led to the construction of the Terracina Medical Center on Terracina Boulevard in Redlands. This two story square donut plan has a large landscaped garden atrium in the center. He considers this project one of the successes of his career and a fine example of project sitings in Redlands.
Parallel to the progress of the construction company, his involvement in community organization expanded from membership on commissions, to boards, to presidents of boards including 1994-1997 Mayor of Redlands, Swen Larson.
Another post WWII arrival in Redlands was Jack Barker. After service at Anzio, Italy, and discharge from the Army in 1945, his first work as a laborer was refitting WWII barracks moved from the state of Washington to serve as married students quarters on the University of Redlands campus. He also enrolled in the carpenters apprentice program at Valley College. During the years 1946-1960, he worked for Gordon Donald. When he started at work, the nurses home at Redlands Community Hospital was under construction. The concrete foundations had just set up. Jack Barkers first duty was pulling nails out of the concrete form boards. From that beginning his responsibilities grew and in 1957, Gordon Donald was selected to build the Thomas Davis House in Palm Springs. Jack was the superintendent for the construction of this 5,000 square foot house. The house was featured in the November 1958 issue of House Beautiful. While it is not located in Redlands, this extensive project can be pointed to with pride for both Gordon Donald and Jack Barker I built that building.
Subsequent to the Davis House, Jack Barker was superintendent of construction of the Safari house of James Sloan in Redlands.
After 1960, he obtained his contractors license and proceeded to produce quality houses and alterations for satisfied homeowners until his retirement in 1980.
Another post WWII arrival in Redlands was Clyde Gunlach. He too, participated in the union apprentice program at Valley College and eventually built custom homes in Redlands. Prior to that he had worked for Gordon Donald. One project noted in a Redlands Facts, Grain of Salt column in 1961: The house built for Thomas Davis in Palm Springs led to the construction of another house for Davis in Memphis, Tennessee. It had an area of 9,000 square feet and its distinctive feature was a circular bedroom twenty-nine feet in diameter, with a domed ceiling. Gordon Donald sent four people from Redlands for the one-year construction period. Clyde Gunlach was superintendent of construction. Thus the Gordon Donald house building abilities reached far beyond Redlands.
In 1959, John Hart joined the corporation that became Donald, McKee, and Hart (DMH). He returned to Redlands, where he had spent his youth, after extensive construction experience for James I. Barnes in Seattle, Washington. DMH constructed the additions of a basement and two wings to the Smiley Library in 1970. The firm has completed many expansion projects of the buildings at the Redlands Community Hospitals. In 1988-1990, construction of the five story patient tower and surgery unit was under the on-site supervision of John Hart. He recalls one phase of the work as being memorable because of the location and timing. The building is a reinforced concrete structure. The roof horizontal steel forms were in place on the surgery unit. A tight schedule was prepared in order to make this a non-stop, one-time pour. This involved ordering 700 cubic yards of concrete to be delivered by 100 concrete truck trips. Concrete was received in the hopper of a mechanical concrete pump at ground level and transported to the roof through a 6 diameter flexible hose.
Timing of the trucks was critical; there were several pump assemblies and teams of workmen who were spreading the fluid mix and screeding it against the form boards. Following the normal vibrating, floating, and finish troweling, everyone felt it was a job well done: a day that John Hart remembers when he built that building in Redlands.
(Of course, if there had been a series of truck or pump breakdowns who knows how it would be remembered.)
The process of planning what is required ahead of the placement of steel and concrete to give form to an architectural project can be an arduous time.
The use of the building determines the extent of the planning: area enclosed, mechanical utility services, people functions, appearance to the community, economics of structural systems, future maintenance.
Following the destruction of the First United Methodist Church in Redlands by fire in 1967, architect Leon Armantrout was selected to prepare a design and working drawings for a new sanctuary. The key to a successful project is the creation of a program of requirements which sets the basis for the physical design. In this case, the building committee, composed of church members with participation of the architect, spent many hours developing the objectives. The congregation was led by Reverend Mike Fink, Pastor, and his assistant Reverend Verne Cooney.
After many meetings, the committee was in complete agreement and listed bold objectives such as: total flexibility in the orientation of the seating, lighting and chancel, all with superb musical acoustics to encourage congregational singing and musical performances, and a tracker action pipe organ. The structure should be fireproof, of a timeless quality and simplicity to the extreme, to maximize mission and reduce expenditures on church edifices. Following the work of the building committee, and an elaborate presentation of scale models and illustrations, the project was approved.
Construction of the sanctuary progressed through 1969. Forsberg and Gregory of Redlands were the general contractors with George Fikrle in charge of the work. The completed building presented a sanctuary which included the objectives of the committee: an open plan with flat floor; a tall, rectangular structure using local brick with steel reinforcement. The exposed space-frame roof was adapted to make flexible lighting arrangements possible. The adjacent reception/entrance area leads to the landscaped exterior social area and a glass enclosed chapel looking into its quiet garden.
Careful tuning, using sound absorbing hanging fabric panels, presents acoustics suitable for choral and organ music in the sanctuary. The congregation installed a German-made tracker action Rudolph Von Beckerath organ, with exposed pipes, on the choir level.
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to focus on the disparate factors required from the ashes of the previous church to the presentation of a complete new sanctuary complex. Leon Armantrout says the process of planning, demonstrated by the work of the architect, building committee and consultants qualify all to say, I built that building.
While this paper pursues knowledge of Redlands buildings being built by Redlands individuals, it is necessary to recognize the accomplishments of Redlands corporations in other parts of California. One of these is Forsberg and Gregory, formed by George Forsberg and Arthur Gregory, Junior, later operating as Inland Contractors. Over a period of years (1947-1992), they completed vast numbers of multi-million dollar projects including Air Force facilities, high schools, dormitories, and air and freight terminals.
George Forsberg was discharged from the Air Force in 1944 with a new contactors license in hand. He came to Redlands where his grandfather was established as a masonry contractor. (His work included many of the rock walls seen along Sunset Drive.) Arthur Gregory, Junior, returned to Redlands having served in WWII and Korea with the Marine Corps.
Following some remodel work on the La Posada Hotel in Redlands by Forsberg, he and Gregory became partners in 1947. Their early work was development of residential housing tracts in the south side of Redlands, and custom houses designed by architect Ben Rabe.
An example of their commercial projects in Redlands includes the first phase of the La-Z-Boy chair factory. This factory was to be the largest industrial employer in Redlands when it opened. The La-Z-Boy Company, based in Michigan, specified design and construction be done by local contractors. Forsberg and Gregory were the successful bidders, using the design by architect Leon Armantrout. Incidentally, the contract for the design of the landscaping was awarded to Jack Dangermond (his first contract) who has, in subsequent years, provided the tools to map and redesign the world (as owner of ESRI).
In 1962 George Fikrle joined the company as chief project coordinator. He and Art Gregory became acquainted when both attended Marine Corps Reserve meetings in Riverside. Fikrle had moved to Riverside in 1960 to seek new opportunities in construction. He had previously served in the Marine Corps in Korea.
In 1963 William Anderson was added to the organization as chief estimator. This is a relatively unseen activity by the public, but is vital to a contractor and an architect. Without the right competitive construction cost estimates, a contract is lost or a design goes unbuilt for an architect. Close coordination between an estimator and an architect gets a project built within budget and without design changes. Anderson applied his experience in making critical path projections of construction schedules. Success in this brings a project to conclusion on time and produces a satisfied owner.
Concerning projects Forsberg and Gregory built in Redlands, both George Fikrle and William Anderson chose the Armacost Library at the University of Redlands as significant. Built in 1968, it houses student services on the ground floor, student carrels, computer stations, stacks and library staff offices above. The design was by the university architect, Herbert Powell. The building floors and frame are steel-reinforced, poured-in-place concrete.
The significance noted by Fikrle and Anderson concerns the perimeter walls. Use of pre-cast concrete wall panels of the size (14 wide by 30 long) was not typical in 1965. The panels were precisely cast in Los Angeles, using special concrete and given a textured finish. After delivery to the site, a crane lifted each one at specifically engineered pick-up points, to a vertical position. The problem was to get it tucked under the overhang of the cast concrete roof.
The solution involved two 12 inch holes cast in the roof slab at each panel location, through which the crane cables would move as it raised the panel under the eave. Adjacent panels were separated by 1 to permit sealing the joint. The lifting procedure was continued until the panels around all sides of the building were installed. Each panel was connected to the frame of the building by welding together steel plate inserts previously cast into the concrete members.
Thus the library demonstrates a significant application of their organizational and construction skills and qualifies them to say, I built that building.
Architect Clare Day established his office in Redlands in 1952. His work in the following years included custom homes, commercial structures and a Jewish temple.
By 1959, the Redlands School District was seeking the design for a new junior high school on a large site on San Bernardino Avenue. Clare Day was selected as architect for the project. The design concept of Clement Middle School (the program) was developed in conjunction with school superintendent Fred Heisner, and Bill Vroman.
The site has a long south frontage on San Bernardino Avenue. The resulting design created a master plan which placed an athletic field and tennis courts on the north half of the site, administration/library/utility core oriented in a north-south direction on the south half, classroom wings extending east and west from the central core. The structural system of each building was based on a 10 module with clear span, glue-laminated wood beams across the classroom and exterior walkway, supported on specially fabricated aluminum columns. This permitted the possibility of interior wall changes with minimum of change to the structural system.
This was the first Redlands school to be fully air conditioned. Additionally, each classroom was connected via co-axial cable and telephone to the administration building.
The administration of Clement School was the responsibility of Martin Munz for two years. He relates the central office-library core, with classroom wing extensions, facilitated the supervision of the complex by a short walk from his centrally located office.
Clare Day uses this as one of his public sector designs which he merits because of the creative input from educators, consultants and the approval of the innovative structural system. The building of this school has followed the master plan initially presented to Redlands School Board.
(This was a time when school funding could be relied upon and before the accumulation of leased wooden classroom boxes on school sites. As with most schools, the landscaping of the campus has not been satisfactory.)
Some projects people of Redlands get involved in are not particularly glamorous but are basic to the life of the community. People who create buildings which give form to a social program designed to aid others in need can point and say, I built that building.
The Family Service Association of Redlands is the umbrella under which Project Home Again operates. This undertaking was begun in 1991. Its objective is to provide assistance to families in need by giving take-home food, material goods, housing references and counseling. Swen Larson was president of Family Service at the time of its creation.
Utilization of an existing concrete block building on Lawton Street in Redlands was the beginning.
What followed was the conversion of this structure by the installation of a commercial kitchen, creation of a nursery, counseling rooms, and expansion of shower and laundry facilities. While $400,000 in funding was required, there were considerable donations of personal time and materials: architectural design by Terry Haden, on site supervision by board member Leonard Goymerac, and probably a walk-through of the project each day by Swen Larson, as his office was on the opposite side of Lawton Street.
The Redlands City Council gave unanimous approval when the project was presented to them in 1990. This opened the way for a $65,000 grant from a low-moderate housing fund; Frank Moore and Bill Moore each gave $5,000; RedFed Bank loaned $6,000; and other cash and building supplies were received.
HCH Construction of Redlands, Frances Carter, principal, served as administrator of contracts and permits. Her company assisted the construction and supplied materials. The completed building is seismic fitted, has new electrical and plumbing services and is now equipped with fire sprinklers.
Francis Carter considers the Home Again project a personal and community success and worthy of the exposition by her and many people in Redlands as: I built that building.
What does a Redlands teenager do when his family owns a mill, shaping and finishing wood into doors, stairways and cabinets? A little bit of everything. He turns spindles on a lathe, glues panels, shapes and sands mouldings, snaps glass to fill window sashes, installs hardware to make doors close precisely, and plans ahead so components come together on time.
All of this has happened in the mill established by the Fletcher family in Redlands in 1909. Over the years, included among hundreds of projects, this mill installed the interior woodwork for The Memorial Chapel at the University of Redlands, The Baptist Church, The Lincoln Shrine (original building) and the homes of Frank Sinatra and William Powell in Palm Springs.
E. Ted Fletcher was the active partner during the period 1925-1975. His teenager (Louis Fletcher) worked in the mill during weekends and summer vacations in his school and college years.
After receiving his degree at Cal Tech in 1957, Louis Fletcher pursued a career in engineering (of water systems and sources) using Redlands as his base. Development of acreage in the south side of Redlands with fellow investors provided a site where he wanted to build a house for his family.
It is this house (occupied in 1976) which Louis Fletcher points to and says, I built that building, not in the sense that he physically hefted the roof beams in place, but he recalls successfully surmounting every conceivable problem in developing a property: personally surveying the sites, processing city planning and building approvals, concept of the house on the site, conversations with consultants - eventually being able to apply his Fletcher-mill-honed knowledge and experience to the detailing of the interior of the house. He attributes the involvement and interests of his family in the house development during the period 1965-1975 as the reason one of his children has completed a degree in architecture at Cal Poly.
(The mill was sold to new owners in 1977. They continued millwork services until the City of Redlands Redevelopment Agency gathered properties for a new commercial center. The area which was the mill is now located in the center of a Vons parking lot on Orange Avenue.)
Sometimes what is added can give pleasure beyond the basic function of a building. Rich materials, often meaning expensive, such as marble and exotic woods when carefully shaped and finished, add tactile and visual pleasure. Another delight can be a visual creation located in such a way as to be the focal point of a room or passage. There is a long tradition of composing pictures using colored glass to tell stories, depict scenes or sparkling images of natural objects. Many buildings and homes in Redlands have examples of this art produced by local artists.
One such artist lived in Pueblo, Colorado, in the 1970s when he apprenticed to a glass artist during his last year of college. Family connections brought him, his wife and first child, to Redlands in 1975. Early work in his field was thin, consisting of repair of existing art windows. Developing a business in colored glass art was a slow process. Along with some new designs for private clients there were major maintenance projects such as the two rose windows in the reading room of the Smiley Library in Redlands. In the 1980s, these windows were removed and taken to his workshop. There, rubbings were taken of the window design by laying paper on the windows and rubbing with graphite to form a paper pattern. All glass pieces were removed. All parts were cleaned and the design assembled, using new lead canes. The windows were now secure for the next 50 years. In 2000, the large three-panel Memorial Window in the chapel at the University of Redlands was cleaned in place. This consisted of working on the interior face of the window while standing on scaffolding. Cleaning means: vacuum the surfaces, degrease the glass, steel wool the lead dividers and then buff the whole assembly brightly.
A few of the new designs created by this glass artist, Tom Medlicott, can be seen in public: 1)The Pride Window (1994) in the Redlands Chamber of Commerce building. The design is an adaptation of an orange packing label from the Bryn Mawr Fruit Growers Association; 2) The interior Centennial Window in the church assembly room of Sacred Heart Church. The design is a composite of agricultural scenes in Redlands, giving recognition of the early support to the formation of the Sacred Heart Church by its Portuguese members, the assistance of a Jewish rabbi, and appropriate religious symbols of the faith;
3) In the childrens wing of the Smiley Library is a sparkling window depicting characters of Winnie the Pooh. This is a memorial window commissioned by John Hart for his wife.
Unseen by the public are designs in private homes which are not available. While being interviewed, Medlicott was assembling a new design, which is a major extension of a window he created for a client 25 years ago.
It was not possible to get Tom Medlicott to commit to one window design which would fit the premise of this paper: I built that building, or in his case, made a major contribution to its beauty.
He would prefer to enjoy the satisfaction of knowing there are many buildings where his designs give a sparkle to the daily life of their occupants.
These interviews are a sample of the moments when we reflect on our work of the day.
Sometimes - we pay money to be able to say I built that building.
Sometimes - we get paid to create challenging architecture and can say I built that building.
Sometimes - we donate our time to help others and can say I built that building.
Hopefully this feeling of fulfillment happens often enough to keep life interesting.
* The interviews herein were conducted by Dale Bauer between September and November, 2003.