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Earnest Coxhead

Ernest Coxhead, Architect [1863-1933]

Ernest Coxhead was born in Eastbourne, England in 1863. He trained at the Royal Academy and Architectural Association in London. He and his brother, Almeric, immigrated to Los Angeles, California, in 1886, where they opened an architectural practice together. Three years later, they relocated to San Francisco, where Coxhead stayed until his death in 1933. Inspired by the natural beauty of the Bay Area and influenced by the English arts-and-crafts movement's search for "truth" in design, Coxhead aspired to create a regional style that celebrated and respected the natural surroundings of the area. He favored English country architecture in his domestic designs—steeply pitched roofs, restrained informal exteriors that offered few clues to the interior design, formal interiors, and asymmetrical floor plans that lent themselves to elements of surprise and freedom of expression. His early houses were clad with brown shingles, and although shingled houses had long been popular in the American suburban and rural landscape, he, along with such contemporaries as Willis Polk, A.C. Schweinfurth, and Bernard Maybeck, was responsible for bringing idealized rustic beauty to an urban environment.

A trip to Europe, with a stop en route at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, along with America's growing interest in classicism and Beaux-Arts architecture, influenced Coxhead's later, larger houses, but their impact did not have the same reach as his earlier, shingle homes. Coxhead died in Berkeley in 1933.

† Janice Thomas and Fredrica Drotos, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Panoramic Hill, Alameda California, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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