Bolles, John S(avage)
Entry Author: David
Savage Bolles was born on June 25, 1905 in Berkeley, California.
His father Edward Grosvenor Bolles was also a prominent San
Francisco architect who had moved out to San Francisco in
1893 and worked as an architect for over forty years, until
he died in 1939 at the age of 68. John obtained his Bachelor's
degree in Engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1926
and graduated from Harvard with a Masters degree in Architecture
in 1932. He worked as a structural engineer in Oklahoma and
as an archeologist for the Oriental Institute of the University
of Chicago on the excavations at Persepolis, the ancient capital
of Persia, 400 miles south of modern-day Teheran, and also
for Washington's Carnegie Institute on a comprehensive study
of one of the most important Mayan sites in the Yucatan. Many
years later he found time to assemble that work in a book
titled Las Monjas, A Major Pre-Mexican Architectural Complex
at Chichen Itza, published by the University of Oklahoma
Press in 1977.
In March 1935 John married Mary Piper, a Radcliffe alumnus
and daughter of the aircraft manufacturer, and after living
and working abroad for almost a year they moved out to San
Francisco in 1936 with John joining his father's architectural
practice. Together they designed the Temple of Religion and
the Christian Science Monitor building for the Golden Gate
International Exposition held on Treasure Island in 1939.
Bolles passed his State Architectural license examination
in 1941 (license number C379) and in 1942 linked up with Joseph
Francis Ward (1898-1970). Ward, a New Zealander, had been
associated with architect Albert Farr (1869-1945) since 1922.
Ward & Bolles collaborated on two wartime housing projects,
one in Marin City and one in Oakland. After the war, they
formed a partnership. One of their house designs, built in
1946, is located on an L-shaped lot at the end of Pacific
Avenue, overlooking the Presidio, with its entry at 16 Spruce
Street. Designed for Richard Walberg of construction company
Swinerton & Walberg, it was featured as "Tomorrow's
House Today!" in an article published in Architect &
Engineer magazine. Many conveniences were noted including
213 electrical outlets, fluorescent kitchen lighting, a garbage
disposal, and an automatic garage door. Other notable San
Francisco residential designs by the firm include 1047-49
Lombard (1949, 2 flats), 1025 Lombard (1950, built as 6 apartments,
now condominiums), and 17 Presidio Terrace (1951).
In May 1951, after living in Marin County since they moved
to the Bay Area, John and Mary Bolles bought a 34' x 127'
parcel on the northwest corner of Jackson and Lyon. The original
Victorian house there, 3100 Jackson, designed by J. Cather
Newsom in 1892, had burned down a year later, to be replaced
in 1898 by a second one, designed by Samuel Newsom and Frederick
Meyer. This house was demolished circa 1940 and the lot sat
vacant until Bolles began construction of the house which
is the subject of this article - 2201 Lyon.
Perhaps mindful that two previous wood-frame houses on the
lot had not survived, Bolles designed this one to last and
to require little maintenance. It is a fine example of Bay
Region Modernism, of reinforced concrete construction with
six-inch thick pre-colored concrete floors. The wood beam
ceilings and paneling, along with the floors, all remain intact
and largely unpainted today. Even the original Hoyt copper
water heater continues to serve the house!
The west wall of the dining area on the main level has a
spectacular original San Francisco Cityscape painted by artist
Jose Moya del Pino (1891-1969), with whom Bolles had collaborated
on the murals for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.
Along with Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the
Ferry Building, Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge are
just a few of the San Francisco landmarks easily identifiable
in the mural. A triangular deck accessed from the dining area
overlooks the level south garden, which is built up as the
lot slopes down to Jackson Street, where there was a 3 car-wide
carport (since enclosed).
The second level has a master suite on the west side and
a flexible arrangement of additional bedrooms (four small,
or two large ones) with an additional bathroom. A 7' 6"
square skylight above the staircase brings a lot of natural
light into the house. The present owners have rectified the
only original deficiency (no powder room on the main level)
with a sympathetic extension to the north which also allowed
for a larger breakfast area off the kitchen. A full basement
provides ample storage, another bedroom and bath, and a family
room opening to the garden.
After Ward & Bolles separated in July 1954, Bolles focused
on commercial, industrial and major residential projects,
most with an adventurous incorporation of modern art and sculpture.
Some of his major clients included IBM (33 buildings at their
San Jose campus), Macy's (17 department stores and 3 distribution
centers in Northern California), General Motors (the Fremont
plant), and Gallo and Paul Masson wineries.
Active in the local architectural community, Bolles was Secretary
of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of
Architects for 2 years, 1945-46, and was honored as a Fellow
of the AIA in 1963. He was influential in the public housing
arena in the 1960's, chairing San Francisco Planning and Urban
Research (SPUR) Association committees on housing and redevelopment,
and designing a number of buildings for the San Francisco
Housing Authority, including a dramatic 1964 curved high-rise
for senior housing in the Fillmore neighborhood - the JFK
Towers at 2451 Sacramento. As a patron of the arts and Board
member of the San Francisco Art Institute from 1958-1966,
his major projects, such as Ping Yuen in Chinatown, would
always include a large mural or other significant artistic
component. In 1956 he opened an art gallery in the same Jackson
Square building as his office (14 Gold St. at Sansome) and
1965-70 he also owned a gallery in New York promoting California
Bolles is best known, however, for the design of Candlestick
Park, on which construction began in August 1958. The stadium
opened on April 12, 1960 as the new home of the former New
York Giants. Then Vice-President Richard Nixon threw out the
ceremonial first pitch and the Giants beat the Cardinals 3-1.
The 43,000 seat stadium at first was open in the outfield,
allowing icy winds to whip in from the Bay, which often dropped
temperatures 15 to 20 degrees during the course of a night
game. In the ninth inning of the 1961 All-Star Game, Giants
pitcher Stu Miller was actually blown off the pitching mound
by a strong gust, forcing a balk which took the game into
extra innings (the National League eventually won 5-4).
A decade later, the stadium was enlarged and the open end
enclosed. Retractable seats were added in right field to allow
the conversion to a football field for the 49'ers, who played
their first game there on October 10, 1971. The expansion
to 58,000 capacity made Candlestick the National League's
largest ballpark at the time and reduced the wind problem
somewhat, but it remained an uncomfortable place during most
night games. Bolles' boomerang-shaped concrete shell baffle
behind the upper tier's last row of seats, intended to protect
the park from the wind and cold, just couldn't combat the
natural elements. Under the new ownership led by Peter Magowan,
which saved the Giants from being moved to Florida in 1992,
a downtown stadium was finally built and the team opened the
2000 season in Pacific Bell Park.
John and Mary Bolles sold 2201 Lyon in August 1973, moving
to 1250 Jones, combining two units on the 15th floor to create
what is still the only full-floor apartment in the Clay-Jones
condominiums. After Bolles retired in 1978, his eldest son,
Peter P. Bolles, continued the practice, eventually moving
it to Las Vegas, where it remains today. John Bolles died
on March 5, 1983 at his home in Santa Rosa.
Entry taken from the website of David Parry at www.classicSFproperties.com
and is used by permission. Unauthorized use of this copyrighted
material is strictly forbidden without permission from the