Today, January 23, is the birthday of Henry Mather Greene. He and his brother would form one of the most influential and innovative architectural firms in the country – Green & Greene. Their story is really remarkable and one worth noting. Growing up in their early years on their mother’s farm in West Virginia, they spent their teenage years in a cramped and dark apartment in St. Louis, Missouri.
The dark and airless nature of that apartment would inspire them to embrace a philosophy of building that brought the outside in. They were particularly inspired by Asian design. Their parents moved to Pasadena, California, and the sons decided to join them there in 1893. The train passed through Chicago where they stopped off to visit the World’s Columbian Exposition. There they were impressed by the Japanese exhibit which combined outdoor and indoor spaces.
In Pasadena they opened an architectural firm. Henry was 25 years old; Charles was 23. Charles eye for design coupled with Henry’s administrative and construction management skills made them a powerful team. They combined Arts and Crafts elements with Asian influences to create what would become known as the California Bungalow.
Their most famous and the ultimate bungalow is the Gamble house built as the winter residence of Mr. Gamble of Procter & Gamble. I’ve gathered exterior and interior photographs and displayed them below. The house is now open to the public and I strongly recommend a personal tour whenever you’re in the area. Sadly, of the 150 or so bungalows designed and built by the Greene’s, only 74 remain. The style fell out of favor and the others were torn down to be replaced by more modern construction.
The Greene’s philosophy is best defined by Henry Greene himself who said, “The idea was to eliminate everything unnecessary, to make the whole as direct and simple as possible, but always with the beautiful in mind as the first goal.”