Thursday, January 3, 2019

Harwell Hamilton Harris and Fellowship Park

With the exception of his mentor, Richard Neutra's 1929 Lovell Health House, never has a singular project advanced a career as much as Harwell Hamilton Harris's and Jean Murray Bangs's award-winning 1937 Fellowship Park House (see below). On a fame and cost per sq. ft. basis the 500 sq. ft., $430 (for Phase I) Fellowship Park House exceeded by any measure of comparison with the over the ten times larger 4,800 sq. ft., $60,000 Lovell Health House. (Author's note: In fact Neutra paid Harris $500 (more than the construction cost of the initial phase of Fellowship Park) just to build a model of the Lovell Health House for the 1932 International Style Architecture exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art. For much more on Neutra's career-making Lovell Health House see my "Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism: Richard Neutra's Mod Squad.").

(Click on images to enlarge)
Fellowship Park House, 2311 Fellowship Park Way. Harwell Hamilton Harris, architect. Fred Dapprich photo.

Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin met Harwell Hamilton Harris likely at one of the salons at the Schindler Kings Road House sometime in the early 1930s. Pauline Gibling Schindler had promoted Schindler-Neutra disciple Harris's work from at least 1931 until he moved in with her friend Bangs upon final completion of the now iconic Fellowship Park House in early 1937. (See my "Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism"). 

Pauline first included Harris's work in a Fall 1931 exhibition at Franz Ferenz's Plaza Art Center in conjunction with the restoration of the historic Plaza and events coordinated with "La Fiesta de Los Angeles" celebrating the City's 150th anniversary (see announcement below). It is not known what Harris work was on display but it more than likely included his and fellow Neutra disciple Gregory Ain's efforts from Neutra's "A Practical Course in Modern Building Art" class at Ferenz's Academy of Modern Art including perhaps their efforts on Neutra's "Rush City Reformed". (Author's note: For much more on Harris and Ain's Neutra apprenticeship see my "Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism: Richard Neutra's Mod Squad." For much more on this and Ferenz's subsequent commissioning of a mural by Siqueiros at the Plaza Art Center see my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club".).

Announcement for an "Exhibition of Contemporary Architecture, Interior Decoration and Store Design", October 5, 1931 Plaza Art Center. Graphic design by Pauline Schindler.

Ibid, verso.

Practising what she preached in the above announcement, Pauline taught the principles of graphic layout at USC the  previous spring (see below). (Author's note: Pauline perhaps learned the basic principles of graphic design from her husband and Antonin and Noemi Raymond during their tenure at Taliesin together in 1919 before the Raymonds left for Tokyo with Frank Lloyd Wright to work on the Imperial Hotel. (Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond by Marie Sakamoto Nakahara, et al, Princeton Architectural Press, 2007, p. 17).

Announcement for A Course in the Principles and Practice of Design in Printing Layout to be conducted by Pauline Schindler, Spring Quarter 1931 at University of Southern California. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

Pauline was also the second to publish the work of Harris by including his Lowe House in the January 1935 issue of California Arts & Architecture which she guest-edited (see below) (Author's note: In his oral history Harris explained the evolvement of his long term relationship with architectural photographer Fred Dapprich and working with Pauline on the January 1935 issue of CA&A.).. She likely also took the opportunity to befriend publisher George Oyer's secretary Jere Johnson who would become publisher in December 1936 and befriend the Harrises after their move into the same building in 1937 (see discussion later below). (Author's note: This is also evidenced by Johnson hiring Pauline's father Edmund Gibling in 1939 for the magazine's sales staff.). 

From Chapman, Christine. Archetype, Hybrid, and Prototype: Modernism and
House Beautiful’s Small House Competition, 1928 - 1942. (2007), p. 129.

Likely prodded to enter his first solo project in House Beautiful's Seventh Annual Small House Competition by either his mentor Richard Neutra or his close friend Gregory Ain, then still working for Neutra who also entered, Harris submitted his just completed first solo project after leaving Neutra's employ, i.e., the Lowe House. On the recommendation of his furniture designer friend and collaborator Carl Anderson, architectural photographer Fred Dapprich agreed to photograph the job contingent upon Harris winning a prize. Harris was awarded an Honorable Mention in the competition which allowed him to pay Dapprich and thus establish a three decade relationship (see below). (Author's note: Neutra's first appearance in the same magazine was the previous month with his Sten-Frenke House which was also awarded a $1000 first prize in a special category of the same competition. Both Neutra's and Harris's work was exhibited in House Beautiful's traveling show which stopped at leading department stores across the country including Barker Brothers in Los Angeles. (Winner in House Beautiful Competition, Los Angeles Times, March 4, 1935, p. 15).

"House Beautiful" Exhibition announcement, Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1935, p. D3. (Author's note: Neutra Sten House and Harris Lowe House on display at Barker Brothers.).

"Suggesting the Japanese," Lowe House, Harwell Hamilton Harris, architect. House Beautiful, October 1934, p. 73. 

Annotated Lowe House plot plan. Ibid.

Ibid. Note the sliding doors which were soon removed and inspired the design of Harris's 1936 Fellowship Park House as discussed later below.

House for Pauline Lowe, Altadena, California, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Designer, Carl Anderson, Associate, The Book of Small Homes by the Editors of Architectural Forum, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1936, pp. 98-99. (Author's note: This project was earlier published in Architectural Forum in the October 1935 issue on pp. 360-361 as discussed later below.).

Publisher Howard Myers featured the Lowe House in the October issue of Architectural Forum (see above) along with the just completed Laing House, which was again republished in the November issue of California Arts & Architecture. Both the Lowe and Laing Houses were again in the Pauline Schindler guest-edited December 1935 issue of Architect & Engineer (see later below). (Author's note: The first publication of the Lowe House was titled "Suggesting the Japanese" in the October 1934 issue of House Beautiful magazine which garnered Harris an Honorable Mention in Class III of their 7th annual House Beautiful competition. Author's note: Harris ended up being lifelong friends with Architectural Forum publisher Myers evidenced by his feting the Harrises along with a group of modern designers in the Rainbow Room on the top floor of Rockefeller Center after their 1943 move to New York. Harris also took advantage of his time on the East Coast by befriending  Architectural Forum associate editor George Nelson and getting most prominently included in Nelson's very well-received Tomorrow's House published in 1945. Coincidentally, Fellowship Park and the Lowe House are included on pp. 156 and 158 respectively.).

The House of Mrs. Pauline Lowe by Harwell H. Harris, Carl Anderson, Associate. California Arts & Architecture, January 1935, p. 20. Pauline Schindler, guest editor.

"In Designing the Small House", Ibid, p. 21.

Oyer, George, "Concerning Competitions", California Arts & Architecture, May 1935, p. 27.

The April after Pauline Schindler published Harris's Lowe House in California Arts & Architecture, Time Magazine, Architectural Forum and Pencil Points announced the winners of the General Electric architectural home design competition. Schweikher and Lamb of Chicago were awarded first prize of $2500 for a submittal which was virtually identical with Harris's Lowe House design causing an immediate controversy. Likely prompted by Pauline Schindler and Harris, CA&A publisher-editor George Oyer immediately published the above side-by-side comparison of the two designs with a rebuttal in support of "California's" Harris. Oyer's article prompted a defensive response from Schweikher & Lamb to the Architectural Forum. ("California Charges," Architectural Forum, June 1935, p. 42.). (Author's note: In support of Harris, Pauline Schindler published another comparison in the June issue of Aperitif titled "What Constitutes Plagiarism in Architecture?" Coincidentally, Harris's close friend Gregory Ain also submitted an entry as did  their mentor Richard Neutra who was awarded a Second Prize of $1250.).

A Frank Lloyd Wright House With a Hat, Residence of Professor and Mrs. Graham Laing designed by Harwell Harris, California Arts & Architecture, November 1935, p. 20.

The sympathetic publicity Harris received was seemingly worth more to his fledgling career than the General Electric prize money would have been (Harris's oral history The Organic View of Design, p. 127). George Oyer and his successor at CA&A, Jere Johnson, published almost all of his succeeding projects without question from that point on. (Author's note: This held true for the most part until May 1940 when John Entenza officially took over control of the magazine.  In an attempt to be fair with Harris, Architectural Forum also published his Laing and Lowe Houses in its October 1935 issue on pp. 316-17 and 360-1 respectively (see earlier above). See much more on this at my "California Arts & Architecture: A Steppingstone to Fame:Harwell Hamilton Harris and John Entenza: Two Case Studies."

Ibid, p. 21.

Announcement that the December 1935 issue will feature modern architecture graphically laid out by Pauline Schindler. Architect & Engineer, November 1935, p. 76. Features a Brett Weston photo of R.M. Schindler's Wolfe House on Catalina. (Author's note: Pauline also redesigned the cover and masthead and was responsible for the weekly graphic layout and ad design for the Carmel, California weekly The Carmelite between 1928 and 1929. (Vagabond)).

Cover of Architect & Engineer, December 1935, featuring the Oliver House, R. M. Schindler, architect. Graphical design by Pauline Schindler.

Ibid, p. 2. Graphical design by guest editor Pauline Schindler.

Pauline's continuing support of Harris was evident in her republication of his Lowe and Laing Houses in the December 1935 issue of the Bay Region-centric Architect & Engineer. It was especially nervy of her as CA&A publisher George Oyer had also gone to bat for Harris in a big way over the Lowe House plagiarism scandal in his May issue. Using two of the same three Fred Dapprich Lowe House images and the identical floor plan that she included in the January CA&A article, Schindler echoed her June Aperitif piece by stating, 
"The floor plan, after achieving honorable mention in the "House Beautiful" contest, won honors for a second time only shortly later. But not for its originator. A floor plan of basic identity with it, descriptive accompaniment and all, was submitted by two Chicago architects in the General Electric competition, and won a prize of $2500. 
Delicate questions of plagiarism arose and remain unanswered. The idea that an excellent architectural solution should become the property of society, - a parallel to the socialization of medical knowledge, - was not questioned. But whether a prize for a solution by one architect, should be received by another who adopts it in toto, is a question of professional morality." (Schindler, Pauline, "The Pauline Lowe Residence in Altadena, Harwell H. Harris Architect," Architect & Engineer, December 1935, pp. 42-43. Author's note: Further angering George Oyer, Pauline had also used her husband's Oliver House to illustrate her January CA&A issue.).
In 1935, while Harris was working on the Laing House (see earlier CA&A images above), Pauline Lowe asked Harris to replace her sliding doors with hinged doors due to the wind causing the sliding doors to rattle. Harris bought the doors for a dollar apiece from the contractor and stored them in a shed on a lot recently purchased by his soon-to-be wife Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin near where she was then living. (Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany, Center for the Study of American Architecture, University of Texas, 1985, p. 31). (Author's note: Bangs Plotkin was then living next door to soon-to-be husband Harris' furniture designer collaborator friend Carl Anderson at 2310 Lake Shore Drive.(see map below). 

Street map of Fellowship Park, 1937-1942 home of Carl Anderson, Harwell Hamilton Harris and Jean Murray Bangs.

September 5, 1935 City of Los Angeles Building Permit for 2311 Fellowship Parkway owned by Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin.

Bangs Plotkin then took over from her close mutual friend Pauline Schindler the promotion of the the early career of future husband Harris. He designed his now iconic Fellowship Park House and began construction on phase I in September 1935 (see above building permit). Bangs and Harris were married in early 1937 around the time they moved into their finally completed house. 

From The Modern House in America by James Ford and Katherine Morrow Ford, Architectural Book Publishing Co., New York, p. 54. Photograph by Fred Dapprich.

The Fellowship Park House was developed in two phases due to monetary concerns. The first phase served essentially as just a 12 ft. X 24 ft. design pavilion for Harris and longtime friend and fellow Neutra disciple Gregory Ain during much of 1935-36. The second phase added a kitchen and bathroom facilities, financed by a $2000 congratulatory gift from Harris's mother, in preparation for Harris and Bangs to move in after their 1937 marriage (see permit below for example). (Author's note: After leaving Neutra's employ in 1936 Gregory Ain designed the second floor addition for Neutra's Galka Scheyer House and his Edwards House while working with Harris at Fellowship Park. City of Los Angeles Historical Building Permits were dated 11-2 and 11-13-1936 for the Scheyer and Edwards houses respectively. The below 11-5-1936 Building Permit for phase II kitchen and bathroom at Fellowship Park which allowed Jean and Harwell to live there full time when completed in early 1937. Harris also designed his Laing, Kershner and Gramer Houses while working with Ain in the Fellowship Park design pavilion. Stella Gramer was John Entenza's father's law partner. She decided not to build the house in Westwood that Harris designed for her because she won Richard Neutra's Plywood Demonstration House in a post-exhibition raffle and commissioned Harris instead to design her a new foundation in Brentwood Park on which to move the house to. In a stunning coincidence, Neutra won a second prize of $1250 for his entry in the same competition which Harris's plagiarized Lowe House design won the $2500 first prize. While still working for Neutra, Ain also submitted an entry to the same General Electric competition. See more at "Steppingstone" and "Gregory Ain's Boyhood and Early Residences and Workplaces".).

November 5, 1936 City of Los Angeles Building Permit for 2311 Fellowship Parkway owned by Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin.

The two permits covered both phases as delineated in the below plot plan.

Plot plan for 2311 Fellowship Parkway owned by Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin.

Jean Murray Bangs (Plotkin) was the original owner of the lot where the iconic Fellowship Park House was built (see permits above). She purchased the lot for a song after moving next door to Harris's furniture designer friend Carl Anderson from a location six blocks to the east at 1436 Cerro Gordo. The 1936 City of Los Angeles Directory listed Bangs immediately downhill at 2310 Lake Shore Ave. with Carl Anderson listed next door to the west at 2300 Lake Shore. Bangs married Harris sometime in 1937 as they were moving into their completed new house. (Author's note: Gregory Ain designed his first solo project (Galka Scheyer's second floor addition) while working with by then close friend Harris at his Fellowship Park pavilion for about a year. For much more on this see my "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe' and/or "Gregory Ain's Boyhood and Early Residences and Workplaces." Pauline Schindler was a close friend of Bang's first husband, Abe Plotkin, from her Chicago Hull House days in sympathy with Plotkin's International Lady Garment  Workers Union organizing activities. Schindler met and immediately befriended then social worker Bangs when she and then husband Abe Plotkin arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1920s.).

Jean Murray Bangs Plotkin, 1937. Courtesy Harwell Hamilton Harris.

 "A House for Fellowship Park" designed by Harwell Harris, California Arts & Architecture, March 1937, p. 24.

The Fellowship Park House was published for the first time in the March 1937 issue of California Arts & Architecture (see above and below) and the same month in House Beautiful under the title "Oriental Calm for the West." (Author's note: Following up on his 1934 award, Harris was again given an Honorable Mention for his Fellowship Park House in the 1937 House Beautiful Small House Competition.) A full court media blitz soon followed, likely spurred in part by Jean. Harris was undoubtedly using Jean like his mentor Neutra was using his wife Dione, i.e., to send photos and plans of their new love nest to editors across the country. Jean at around this time quit her county social worker job to spend full time promoting Harris's career. (Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000, p. 53).

Ibid, p. 25.

House in Fellowship Park, Architectural  Forum, April 1937, p. 278.

Howard Meyers, the editor of Architectural Forum, was definitely a Harris convert proven by the four-page spread he gave the Fellowship Park House in the April 1937 issue (see above and below).

Ibid, p. 279

Ibid, p. 280.

Ibid, p. 281.

Following Myers's earlier advice to enter the Pittsburgh Plate Glass competition Harris submitted the Fellowship Park House and was rewarded with a bonanza of publicity when he walked off with a first prize in the "Houses for Under $12000" category. He may have coordinated his entry with that of Neutra since his erstwhile mentor also entered and received a mention in the same category. Fellow former Neutra disciple Rafael Soriano also entered, but did not receive an award. These same two and Harris also exhibited the same projects in the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris with William Wurster and others as discussed later below.

Glass in Modern Construction, Scribner's, New York, 1937

An exhibition of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass award winners then toured the country during 1937 under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts. (Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1991, p. 223).

Ibid, Plate 2, House in Fellowship Park, Los Angeles, California

Ibid, Plate 3, House in Fellowship Park, Los Angeles, California

After publishing Harris's Fellowship Park House in the April 1937 issue, Architectural Forum's Myers reprised the Pittsburgh competition with a major 68-page spread including bios on the winners, a jury's report, and two pages of reproductions of Harris's Fellowship Park House.

Report of the August, Ibid, p. 78.

It didn't  hurt Harris's chances that Californian William Wurster was on the selection jury (see above). Wurster was  also aware of the publicity surrounding Harris's Lowe House. Harris's bio also mentioned his association with Neutra who had just the previous month been featured in a special issue of Pencil Points. ("Steppingstone"). Brief bios of all the winners were included (see Harris and Neutra below).

Architectural Forum, August 1937, p. 76.

Category Winners, Ibid, p. 75.

Ibid, p. 79. Note William Wurster upper right and center left.

House in Fellowship Park, Los Angeles, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Designer, Ibid, p. 82.

House in Fellowship Park, Los Angeles, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Designer, Ibid, p. 83.

"Habitation dans un parc a Los Angeles", H. H. Harris, architecte, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, January 1938, p. 38.

Harris again exhibited his Fellowship Park House with Neutra and William Wurster and other former Neutra disciples Gregory Ain and Rafael Soriano in the 1937 Paris International Exhibition (see above). In the summer of 1937 Wurster made the trip to Paris to view the exhibition in the and then continued on to Scandinavia where he fatefully met Alvar Aalto. While Harris continued racking up awards for his Fellowship Park house in the U. S. in 1937, Wurster and Neutra each were each awarded prizes for their individual houses by the French Government after the Paris fair closed in 1938.

Harris review of Glass in Modern ConstructionCA&A January 1938, pp.

In 1938 Harris's Fellowship Park House won an Honor Award from the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Ironically, in January of that year Harris reviewed the Pittsburgh Plate Glass book for CA&A editor/publisher since December of 1936 Jere Johnson. Likely convinced by Jean, Harris had moved his design office from shared space (with Ain) at Fellowship Park into the same building occupied by Johnson and her magazine at 2404 W. 7th St., Los Angeles. Likely already close friends resulting from the Lowe House plagiarism scandal of 1935 when Jere Johnson was then publisher George Oyer's secretary, they cemented their relationship after the Harris's moved into the building ca. 1937. Fellowship Park also received an Honorable Mention in Class III of the 1937 House Beautiful competition.

2404 W. 7th St., Los Angeles. From August 1935 until John Entenza's takeover in May 1940, home to the offices of California Arts & Architecture, and from 1938-1943, home office of Harwell Hamilton Harris, architect. From Google Maps. (Author's note: Pauline Schindler's father Edmund Gibling was employed by publisher Jere Johnson in this building from September 1939 until the May 1940 Entenza takeover.).

California Arts & Architecture, March, 1940, Weston Havens House, Berkeley, 1941, Harwell Hamilton Harris.

Edgerton, Giles, (aka Mary Fanton Roberts) "The House Unpretentious But Convenient," Arts & Decoration, March 1938, pp. 27-29 and When You Build edited by Marshall Reid (aka Robert McBride), McBride, New York, 1946, pp. 127-129.

Fellowship Park continued to be published and exhibited throughout 1938 making Arts & Decoration's March issue (see above) with the Giles Edgerton article "The House Unpretentious But Convenient" and Architect & Engineer's December issue (see below). (The original Arts & Decoration piece by Edgerton perhaps came about through Neutra's earlier publications in the same magazine. Harris received continuing mileage from the Edgerton piece which later appeared in its entirety in Marshall Reid's 1946 book When You Build).

Architect & Engineer, December 1938, p. 42.

Besides being directly responsible for Harris's 1937 Clark House commision in Carmel, it was likely through Jean's largess that Harris one-man shows and exhibitions were arranged at Los Angeles City College, Washburn College Art Department in Topeka, Kansas, California Graduate School of Design in Pasadena, Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Scripps College in Pomona, Chaffee Junior College in Ontario, UCLA and New York Museum of Modern Art's "Three Centuries of American Architecture", which was worked on by Elizabeth Mock, soon-to-be sister-in-law to William Wurster. Fellowship Park was undoubtedly proudly included in all of these 1937-39 shows. Furthermore, the client of Harris's masterpiece, Weston Havens, selected Harris after viewing his Fellowship Park project on display in 1939 at the Museum of Modern Art. (Harwell Hamilton Harris by Lisa Germany, p. 85). (Author's note: Ensuring Harris's legacy for posterity, MoMA curator Elizabeth Mock included Fellowship Park again in her tour de force 1944 exhibition and book Built in USA since 1932, pp. 34-5 after the Harrises had moved to New York in 1943 (see below)).

Harwell Hamilton Harris, House in Fellowship Park, 2311 Fellowship Parkway, Los Angeles, California, 1935 in Built in USA Since 1932, by Elizabeth Mock, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1944, pp. 34-5.

"House in Fellowship Park, Los Angeles 1936," The Modern House in America by James Ford and Katherine Morrow Ford, Architectural Book Publishing Co., New York, 1940, pp. 54-55.

Another major boost for the Harrises was to again see their beloved Fellowship Park in the pages of James Ford and Katherine Morrow Ford's influential and prestigious 1940 The Modern House in America (see above). The Fords likely heard of Harris through their connections with Wurster, Bauer and her sister MoMA curator Elizabeth Mock and/or had been following his work since his Lowe House plagiarism scandal in CA&A and/or Architectural Forum. They also included Harris's 1938 Bauer House in their groundbreaking book.In answer to the author's request "to send brief statements indicating at what points American work in modern design and construction departs from European methods and may be termed distinctly American" Harris submitted the following,
Ibid, p. 125.

For much more on the Harwell Hamilton Harris saga, especially his relationship with John Entenza, see my "California Arts & Architecture: A Steppingstone to Fame:Harwell Hamilton Harris and John Entenza: Two Case Studies". I also highly recommend Lisa Germany's excellent biography Harwell Hamilton Harris and Harris's oral history The Organic View of Design. Reiterating my opening statement, "With the exception of his mentor, Richard Neutra's 1929 Lovell Health House, never has a singular project advanced a career as much as Harwell Hamilton Harris's and Jean Murray Bangs's award-winning 1937 Fellowship Park House".