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William H. Weeks

Architect Extraordinaire


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[N.B. All links & references have been updated as of 19 April 2010]

     If you live in California, odds are that there is a building nearby which was designed by William H. Weeks. And if you live in Central Califronia, the odds are even greater that you have been in one of his buildings, for he began his California architectural career in 1892-94 after settling in the town of Watsonville on (or near) the Monterey Bay.

     While W.H. Weeks designed many private homes, a perusal of the list of building or structures crafted by him, and listed on pages 45-46 of Betty Lewis' outstanding book, W.H. Weeks: Architect, published in 1985, shows that he designed theaters, stores, schools, bandstands, libraries, garages, dance halls & pavilions, hospitals, office building, packing sheds, churches, breweries, hotels, and even a bridge (over the Pajaro River at the southern edge of Watsonville; the bridge has been replaced by a newer structure). And in other cities nearby he designed courthouses, casinos, natatoriums [bathhouses], power sub-stations, and jails. Clearly Weeks was an architect for all seasons -- and all structures.

     When steel magnate Andrew Carnegie began donating funds for the construction of public libraries, W.H. Weeks designed 22 of them during the two decades from 1902 to 1921 according to this source. And many of Weeks Carnegie Library buildings still survive today.

     As his work became more widely know, he began to open offices in other cities: Salinas in 1897, San Francisco in 1905, Oakland in 1924, and San Jose in 1926. On that fateful morning of 18 April 1906 he was staying in the California Hotel in San Francisco and was fortunate to escape without injury. Since he had recently opened offices in "The City by the Bay," he helped not only to remodel some of the surviving buildings but he also designed some new structures. He also aided in the remodeling of the Santa Cruz Courthouse at Cooper Street and Pacific Avenue in 1906-1907.

     When the Neptune Casino on the Santa Cruz beach burned to the ground on 22 June 1906, owner Fred W. Swanton was on a trip promoting Santa Cruz. As Margaret Koch wrote in her 1973 book Santa Cruz County: Parade of the Past, "Swanton hurried home, rented a large circus tent and had a wooden floor built for it. The summer season in Santa Cruz went on as usual, in a 'tent casino.' A new wooden casino was built on the spot, in time for the next year's summer season and this is the casino that stands today...." The architect for the new Casino: William H. Weeks.

     Because most of the courthouses Weeks designed were made of various types of granite, they escaped the fate of many of the wooden buildings of the early 20th century. While most of his courthouses were built in California, such as the Inyo County Courthouse in Independence or the Yolo County Courthouse in Woodland, he did design one for the Nevada city of Elko in 1910. Here's a photo from an article titled "The Work of William H. Weeks, Architect" by B.J.S. Cahill in the May 1915 California Architect & Engineer.

     But William Weeks was justly proud of the great number of school buildings that he designed. They ranged from very small grammar or primary schools to multi-story secondary schools such as the one pictured in this architectural drawing by Weeks' firm of his vision for Eureka High School also pictured in the aforementioned Cahill article. It was built in 1914-1915.

     Note the similarity of Eureka High School with Santa Cruz High School, which was also completed in 1915 from a very similar design by Weeks. (This photo was taken by Kyer Wiltshire, a professional photographer, from the lawn toward the junction of California Street with Walnut Avenue in 2001 and is used with permission.)

     For those of your who have driven south on SR1 past Watsonville, you've probably noticed a large Victorian house just at one approaches Riverside Drive; the house, known as the Redman House, is now surrounded by a fence. A web site has been created by the Redman-Hirahara Foundation, which is attempting to save the Redman House that was designed by W.H. Weeks in 1897. Here's a link to brief history of their fight on their web site.

     When William H. Weeks died on 29 April 1936 in Piedmont, now an Oakland suburb, many obituaries appeared the next day in numerous Central California newspapers. Here are three of those obituaries.


Tuesday 30 April 1936 Santa Cruz [Evening] News, p. 2
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Architect of Many Buildings in Santa Cruz Dies
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W.H. Weeks Designed 4 Schools Here As Well As Palomar
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     W[illiam] H. Weeks, prominent California architect who, among numerous other Santa Cruz buildings, designed the Palomar hotel built here in 1929, died yesterday afternoon at his Piedmont home at the age of 72.
     From 1894 to 1912 a resident of Watsonville where he first became established in his profession, he became widely known in the area. The Laurel, Bay View, Branciforte and senior high schools, the Leask Seaside store and others were among his works in this city.
     He was also designer of the DeAnza [and St. Claire] hotel[s] in San Jose.
     A native of Prince Edward Island, Canada, he is survived by his widow, Mrs. Maggie Weeks, and three sons, Harold, Foster, and Arthur, all of the family home; two daughters, Mrs. John Lorim of Oakland and Miss Mary Weeks; two sisters, Mrs. John Covell and Mrs. E. Steinhauser, both of Oakland, and a brother, Hammond, also of Oakland.
     [Burial of his ashes was in what is now the Pioneer Cemetery in Watsonville.]
Tuesday 30 April 1936 Watsonville Evening Pajaronian, Page One
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W.H. Weeks Last Rites Scheduled Friday Morning
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     Funeral services for W.H. Weeks, 70, prominent architect who formerly resided in Watsonville for many years, will be held Friday morning at 11 o'clock at the Chapel of the Thyme on Piedmont avenue in Oakland, followed by cremation at the chapel's crematory.
     News of Mr. Weeks' death yesterday afternoon at 1:20 o'clock at his home in Piedmont cast a pall of sorrow among his many friends here.
     The widely known man made his home in Watsonville between 1894 and 1918 during which time he gained considerable fame as the designer of many beautiful buildings which were erected here and in other cities of the state.
     Among the local building which he is credited with having laid the plans for are the Resetar hotel, both the old and new high school buildings, the Jefsen building, the Stoesser building, Lettunich building, Notre Dame Academy, St. Patrick's church, Mintie White school and the Aromas school building.
....
Planned Churches
....
     He not only designed the present beautiful Christian church, but the two previous buildings which housed the church but which were destroyed by fire. One of these occupied the ground on Main street where the Jefsen building now stands and the other was situated at the corner of Alexander and East Lake avenue where Wethey's service station is located at the present time [1936].
     He was the owner of the W.H. Weeks building at the corner of Main and East Lake avenue, but was not the achitect for this structure.
     Deceased was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada. He was married at the time he came to Watsonville in 1894 to make his home and to establish business offices in the Pajaro valley bank building. It was here that he started on a career which gained him considerable prominence in his profession, although he later established offices in San Francisco. In 1918 he and his family moved to Piedmont.
     Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Maggie Weeks of the family home; two daughters, Mrs. John Lorrin of Oakland and Miss Margaret Weeks; three sons, Harold, Foster and Arthur, all of the family home; two sisters, Mrs. John Covell and Mrs. E. Steinhauser, both of Watsonville, and one brother, Hammond Weeks of Oakland, and Mrs. Chesley Stowe of this city, a cousin.
     All local relatives are in Piedmont where they will remain until after the funeral.
Tuesday 30 April 1936 San Jose Mercury Herald
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Obituary
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A Great Architect
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     The profession of architect is [a] most exacting one, for a good architect not only must be an ultra-practical man, with a keen knowledge of everyday matters like the strength of building materials and the cost of gravel, hinges, window glass, etc.,etc., but, if he is to be a great architect, he must also be something of a dreamer, able to visualize beautiful buildings and pin his visions down on paper.
     In a way you would expect that no man would combine the hard and practical qualities of the builder with the more ethereal and dreamy qualities of the designer, and yet some men do. William H. Weeks, who died in Piedmont yesterday, was one.
     Weeks was a genuinely great architect and all over California there are monuments to his skill. For that matter, all over California there are thousands of youngsters whose lives are a little more happy and a little more healthy because of what W.H. Weeks knew about school architecture. Mr. Weeks was a specialist in school design and knew what exposures provide students with the best light, what type of hallway permits quickest passage from one class to another, what type of exterior brings with it the greatest beauty, etc., etc.
     Yet schools were not all of Mr. Weeks' life. He could design other buildings as well, and the Hotel DeAnza and Medico-Dental Building here are but two of his structures. Schools, however, were his chief love and he used to say that no man in California has designed as many. His pride in his schools was justified. No man would need a finer monument than the beautiful Herbert Hoover or Woodrow Wilson Junior High Schools in San Jose.
References [Some new on 19 Apr 2010]:

http://freepages.misc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hughlemmon/wmhweeks.htm

Last revised on 20 April 2010
Copyright © 2005-2010 by Robert G. Lemmon Jr.