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Walter Steilberg

Walter Steilberg, Architect [1887-1974]

Walter Steilberg was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1887, and grew up in San Diego, California. During his high school years, Steilberg spent his summers working in the offices of Irving Gill, widely recognized as one of the most influential architects in modernism. Steilberg moved to Los Angeles after high school graduation and worked for Myron Hunt, most famous for such projects as the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Caltech, Pomona, and Occidental College campuses, and the Pasadena Public Library. Steilberg studied architecture at the University of California, graduating in 1910 with a bachelor's degree in architecture and minor in structural engineering.

Steilberg worked with Julia Morgan for ten years, before establishing his own office in 1920. He continued to acquire significant engineering work from Morgan, including that of the Berkeley City Women's Club, Pasadena YWCA, and work related to Hearst Castle. The devastating 1923 Berkeley fire, which scorched the hills to the north of the University campus and destroyed 400 buildings, inspired Steilberg to develop more fireproof construction materials. He patented a method of making reinforced concrete known as Fabricrete, which utilized thin stucco membranes to create a vertical air cavity." Steilberg was designing residential structures during the Great Depression. At the start of World War II, Steilberg was 54 years old and rather than enlisting he worked for a company in Seattle designing army bases. After the war, Steilberg served as structural engineer for the 1949 renovation work of UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium.

† 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.