Charles Sumner Greene [1868-1957] and Henry Mather Greene, Architects [1870-1954]
Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) [†] were both born in the small town of Brighton, Ohio, near Cincinnati. In 1874 the family moved to St. Louis. When the boys' father, Thomas Greene, decided to go to medical school in Cincinnati, their mother took her children to Wyandotte, West Virginia, where she had grown up. Thomas Greene got his degree in 1880 and the family was re-united in St. Louis where Charles and Henry got their primary education in the public schools and then entered a new manual training school connected with Washington University.
Calvin Milton Woodward, founder and director of the school, was a follower of John Ruskin and William Morris and taught his students the dignity of hard work and fine craftsmanship as well as the value of the liberal arts. The motto of the school was "The Cultured Mind -- The Skillful Hand" which corresponded incidentally to the theoretical underpinnings of the Throop Polytechnic Institute, a similar school in Pasadena where the brothers would later move.
After graduation from high school they went on to the new architectural school at MIT where they had a typical Beaux-Arts education in Classical architecture strongly touched by French rationalism. They were given a two-year certificate in 1891, thereafter getting experience in various Boston architectural offices.
In 1893 they moved to Pasadena where their parents had already relocated. They opened an office, and their work for the next ten years was curiously conventional for architects who would one day be recognized as wonderfully creative. They tried all the current styles and often mixed them up until in 1904, when Charles Greene was summoned to the St. Louis world's fair by Adelaide Tichenor. She had been smitten by the Japanese exhibit there and wanted Charles to see it before he drew up the final plans for a house she and Henry were designing for her in Long Beach. Charles went, and thereafter the pair became noted, especially in the houses for very rich clients, for beautifully detailed wood interiors with strongly Asian details. In this work they were aided by a carpenter, Peter Hall, and his talented workmen.
The period of their greatest creativity lasted until about 1910 when commissions began to drop off, probably because potential clients discovered that they were the most expensive architects. Charles moved to Carmel where he worked in modes very different from the Asian style that had characterized his most famous work. Henry continued a diminished practice in Pasadena. The partnership finally broke up in 1922. The R. R. Blacker House in the Oak Knoll district is perhaps the highest art of Charles and Henry Greene. The brothers also designed architecture that was less expensive but equally accomplished.
† Adapted from: Lauren Bricker, Robert Winter, and Hanet Tearnan, Single-Family Residential Architecture of the Arts and Crafts Period in Pasadena, 1895-1918, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.