Thursday, March 4, 2010

Elmer Grey on the Cover of California Southland

I recently purchased a copy of the December, 1927 issue of California Southland Magazine pictured below because of the cover art which led to this post. CS chronicled California's "Golden Age" of architecture, gardens, art, literature and high end lifestyle from 1918 through the "Roaring 20s" until 1929 when it merged with Pacific Coast Architect and became Arts & Architecture's predecessor, California Arts & Architecture. This was during a time when Los Angeles was experiencing it's second major growth spurt fueled by the discovery of oil, real estate development, and the emergence of the movie and aviation industries. It was a lifestyle magazine for the wealthy similar to what Sunset Magazine, another popular regional California publication, was for the common man.

Click images to enlarge.
California Southland, December, 1927, Vol. IX, No. 96 (from my collection)

The cover photo epitomizes the essence of the publication and just happens to be from a painting by the much under-appreciated architect Elmer Grey of his unbuilt personal "cottage" just above the Bel-Air Bay Club which he also designed with Mark Daniels at 16801 Pacific Coast Hwy. in Pacific Palisades. (See below). Three more renderings and a floor plan are included in the articles "The Hill-side House on the Mountain" and "An Architect's House Set Into the Hillside."

Bel-Air Bay Club House, Mark Daniels and Elmer Grey, California Arts & Architecture, June 1931, p. 63. Photos by Renest Pratt and Viroque Baker.

The cover painting appears to have been commissioned by Alphonzo Bell, the developer of  Bel-Air and the Bel-Air Bay Club for a marketing book (see Bel-Air Bay Book referenced in lower right caption) for the club and his nearby exclusive housing development which the cover article states Grey will design many of the houses for.

At a precocious 26 year's of age, Grey's work (10 illustrations) appeared in the "First Annual Architectural Exhibition" at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Art Gallery which opened in 1898. The exhibition was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. (See exhibition poster below).

Click on image to go to source.

On the basis of the design of his personal residence in Fox Point on the shores of Lake Michigan, Grey was named a Fellow in the AIA the same year, a rare occurrence for someone that young. See David Gebhard's excellent chapter on Grey in "Toward a Simpler Way of Life" edited by Robert Winter illustrated below. See also for another brief introduction to Grey and his oeuvre. The included bibliography just scratches the surface of this architect's prolific writings and body of built work.

University of California Press, 1997 (from my collection)

This particular issue of California Southland contains many more interesting items including announcements on the openings of the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs designed by Walker & Eisen and the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara designed by Reginald D. Johnson. (See below).



Additional articles on the new La Quinta Resort Hotel, new commercial developments in Santa Barbara, and architecture by Roland Coate, Curlett & Beelman, Palmer Sabin and Gable & Wyant are included. Issues of "California Southland" rarely become available on the open market and are highly prized by collectors. They provide a fascinating window into the lifestyles of wealthy Californians as the state was undergoing it's initial large-scale development in the 1920s.