Edward Thomas Foulkes, Architect [1874-1967]
Edward Thomas Foulkes [†] opened his first architectural office in San Francisco, after completing a brilliant education and a remarkable series of apprenticeships. Born in Monmouth, Oregon, on August 14, 1874, Foulkes attended Portland High School where he reportedly spent a great deal of time working in the science lab. In 1893, he began his architectural studies at Stanford University, completing courses in Civil Engineering, Zoology, Physics, Mathematics, and Drawing. An excellent student, Foulkes left Stanford in 1895 to complete his studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated from M.I.T. with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1898, as "one of the top three in [the] Architectural course." His senior thesis project, a building for the exhibition of the Fine Arts, was a brilliantly draughted Beaux Arts composition in India Ink and sumi wash, preserved today in the Drawing Collection of the M.I.T. Museum. Foulkes accepted his first formal drafting position after graduation with Boston Architect Clarence H. Blackall in 1899. Blackall had graduated in 1877 from the University of Illinois, which, along with M.I.T., had offered the first architectural degree programs in the United States beginning in 1868.
After what must have been two influential years working for Blackall, Edward Foulkes moved to New York City in 1901 to work for Cass Gilbert, a fellow alumnus of M.I.T., who would achieve great fame in 1910 for designing the F.W. Woolworth Building in Manhattan. Two years later Foulkes left Gilbert's office to take a position with the prestigious firm of Carrere and Hastings, designers of the renowned New York Public Library. Since three of Foulkes' mentors (Clarence Blackall, John Mervyn Carrere and Thomas Hastings) had graduated from the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and one, Blackall, had been the first Rotch Scholar, it is not surprising that Edward Foulkes was encouraged to leave the United States in 1903, to study architecture in Paris.
Awarded a Rotch Scholarship, the most coveted study grant given by the A.I.A. at that time, Foulkes followed in the footsteps of his mentors: He made his way to Europe to attend the Ecole, then travelled worldwide for twenty-seven months. His journey led him to France, England, Wales, Germany/Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Turkey, India, China, and Japan. He then settled in San Francisco, where he established his first individual practice in 1906.
In 1910, Foulkes opened a small regional office in Fresno after winning a private competition to design the Hotel Fresno (1909-1913), his first commission in that City. Little is known about the competition, other than the fact that Architect Otto H. Neher of Los Angeles was considered for the project. Neher and his partner, Chauncey F. Skilling, are particularly remembered for their exotic "Pre-Columbian" Revival Hotel Cordova (1912), located in Los Angeles. The Foulkes' plan, which was ultimately selected for the Hotel Fresno, adapted the Caravansary model of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. While Foulkes was completing the plans for the hotel, he was also preparing drawings for the mansion for H.H. Brix, a major investor in the hotel project.
With the exception of the Hotel Fresno, none of the Fresno projects designed by Edward T. Foulkes received extensive coverage in the architectural journals of the day. His San Francisco projects, however, were widely acknowledged by the journals, including his competition proposal for the San Francisco City Hall in 1912. The local press, however, followed Foulkes' career attentively, and boldly described his three largest residences in Fresno as "Representative Homes" in a 1913 full-page photo spread. Foulkes discontinued his Fresno practice in late 1914 or early 1915. By that time, he had built a strong practice in his native Portland, as well as San Francisco. Awarded large commissions connected with the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, he may have seen those opportunities as more important than the small prestige office he had maintained in the Valley.
During the period when Edward Foulkes kept an office in Fresno, he was also establishing his practice in Portland, Oregon. In 1909, he was hired by Henry L. Pittock, owner of the Weekly Oregonian newspaper, to design a mansion for Pittock and his family. "Constructed of reinforced concrete and faced with Tenino sandstone," the French Renaissance Mansion sat above forty-six acres of timberland, "on a 1,000-foot-high promontory overlooking the city." Five years under construction, the twenty-two room house cost its owner nearly $2 million. In 1964, the City of Portland acquired the Mansion, in order to prevent a real estate developer, who intended to build tract houses on the property, from razing the estate. This distinguished site is now protected by that City's Historic Resource Inventory.
Not all of Foulkes' commissions in Portland were as large and extravagant as the Chateauesque Pittock Mansion. His design for a small hotel (1914) located at 310 N.W. Broadway was a little gem in the "Streetcar Commercial" style. A Colonial Revival Residence (1913) for Dr. Ammi S. Nichols was likewise moderate in scale with Palladian details typical of that style. Nonetheless, his Portland office (Foulkes and Hogue) did receive another grand commission during this period for the Oregon State Building at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The structure was "surrounded Parthenon-like by forty-eight magnificent log columns, each six feet in diameter and forty-eight feet high." Terribly controversial, the "log adorned building [typified] Oregon with its vast lumber industry better than any other design could," but "no matter how classical its proportions, [was] a somber heavy thing." Using color, the firm brightened up the "Monkish Brown" appearance of the building in order to squelch the controversy, and earned a medal for its design in 1915. Foulkes' San Francisco office also designed an immense hotel on the exposition grounds called the Inside Inn. Almost a self-contained city, the hotel accommodated 3,000 persons, and provided everything from manicure parlors to Turkish and Russian baths.
For most of his lengthy career, Edward T. Foulkes resided in Oakland, California, where he was a leader in the growth of that City. His design for the monumental Oakland Tribune Tower (1922) has been that City's symbolic landmark for over sixty years. His Oakland projects received occasional press in the journal Architect and Engineer of California, including a photoessay on two small bank buildings designed for the Bank of Italy in 1923. Among his other prominent Oakland credits would be the Key Route Inn (1906), the Pierce Building (1928), and the Joaquin Miller Memorial Amphitheatre (1931).
Any catalogue of his works, however, will always be incomplete. Shortly after his death on December 10, 1967, at age 93, family members, fearing legal liabilities from the drawings in his estate, destroyed his entire life's work of tracings and blueprints. Many more buildings designed by Edward T. Foulkes could have been identified in the Bay Region, Portland and Fresno if this tragic loss of documents had not taken place.
† Ephraim K. Smith, Ph.D. and John Edward Powell, A.B., M.A., Allen Y. Lew & William E. Patnaude, Inc., H. H. Brix Mansion, Fresno County, California, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.