Greene Brothers

Charles Sumner (1868-1957) & Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954), 6th cousins 6x removed

Charles Sumner Greene (1868–1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870–1954) established the architectural firm of “Greene & Greene”.  The brothers were influential early 20th Century American architects.  The firm which they established was active primarily in California, and their houses and larger-scale “ultimate bungalows” are prime exemplars of the American Craftsman style of the “Arts and Crafts” design movement.

Charles and Henry were born in Brighton, Ohio, now part of Cincinnati, and they grew up primarily in St. Louis, Missouri.  The boys also spent part of their childhood living on their mother’s family farm in West Virginia while their father, Thomas, attended medical school.  The brothers developed a love of nature during those West Virginia years that would be later reflected in their art.  By the time the boys were teenagers, their father, now a respiratory physician, had moved the family to St. Louis and enrolled the boys in the Manual Training School of Washington University.  Here, beginning in 1883 and 1884, respectively, they studied woodworking, metalworking and toolmaking. The family lived in a small, poorly ventilated apartment during those years, and their father’s professional concern with the need for sunlight and freely circulating fresh air would come to influence them later in their work.

Their father decided for them that the two should become architects, and at his urging, enrolled at the School of Architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They grudgingly studied the traditional classic styles, hoping only to gain certification for apprenticeships with architecture firms upon graduation, which they accomplished — Henry finally settling in with the H. Langford Warren firm, and Charles with Winslow and Wetherell, among others.

In 1893, their parents, who had moved to the “little country town” of Pasadena, requested that their sons move out to California and join them.  The brothers agreed and, while traveling by train from Boston, they stopped at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and saw a few examples of Japanese architecture.  This experience made a lasting impression on both of them, according to a late-in-life interview with Henry.  There was actually very little Japanese influence upon their work until after Charles visited the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

 

Ultimate bungalows

The Architectural firm of Greene and Greene was established in Pasadena in January 1894, eventually building toward the crescendo of their “ultimate bungalows”, such as the 1908 Gamble House in Pasadena, generally considered one of the finest examples of residential architecture in the United States.  Two other landmark ultimate bungalows were the Robert R. Blacker House in Pasadena and the Thorsen House.  Such ultimate bungalows were completely custom affairs, where the vast majority of ingredients – light fixtures, furniture, even woven textiles – were created for specific spaces in the home.  In 1901 Charles Greene married Alice Gordon White, and they honeymooned in Europe and her native England.  It was following this trip that the firm began developing the distinctive stylistic elements that finally came together as a cohesive whole in their grand works of 1907-09.  The Greenes developed a personal idiom within the “Arts and Crafts” aesthetic, receiving commissions to design furnishings for their houses.  Charles’ sketches for the 1903 Mary Darling house were published in England in Academy Architecture the same year, representing the first foreign publication of the firm’s work.

 

In 1905 the Greenes began an association with Peter Hall as the primary contractor for their major commissions, and from 1907 with his brother John Hall, who ran a millwork shop producing their decorative arts and furniture designs.

 

The firm of Greene & Greene was officially dissolved in 1922 after Charles moved his family north to Carmel, California.  Henry remained in Pasadena, doing architecture projects on his own.  The brothers remained lifelong friends until their deaths in the 1950s.

 

The “Garfield House”, 1001 Buena Vista, South Pasadena, California. Designed by Greene & Greene and built 1903-04 for Lucretia R. Garfield, widow of the assassinated president of the United States. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Obscurity and rediscovery

The Greenes took on few commercial projects.  Their attention to detail would not have been possible in a larger firm, or one that focused on commercial buildings as well as residential.  The Greenes repeatedly turned down offers to construct buildings in downtown Los Angeles.  The Greene brothers were masters in their area of domestic concentration for which, until the year of 1948, they received little acclaim.  In 1948 they received citations from the Pasadena Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and from the national body in 1952 for creating a “new and native architecture.”  In 1960, they were among the pioneer modern architects included in the book Five California Architects by Esther McCoy, in which the chapter on the Greenes was written by Randall Makinson.  The Greene & Greene style’s influence on California’s architectural history is undeniable.  Their style wedded practical comfort and fine art into a refined, crafted masterpiece in which every detail contributed to the overall subtlety of the work, essentially a masterpiece of design.

Charles Sumner Greene (1868 – 1957), 6th cousin 6x removed – Thomas Sumner Greene (1842 – 1931) – Elihu Greene (1802 – 1878) – Christopher Greene (1748 – 1830) – Rev. Nathanael Greene (1707 – 1770) – Jabez Greene (1673 – 1741) – James Greene (1626 – 1698) – Dr. John Greene (1597 – 1659) – John Greene (1620 – 1708) – William Greene (1652 – 1680) – Mary Sayles Greene (1677 – 1761) – Edward Dyer (1701 – 1788) – John Dyer (1733 – 1791) – Freelove Dyer (1759 – 1831) – Phoebe Pearce (1779 – 1872) – Oratio Dyer Clarke (1811 – 1899) – Harriet Allen Clarke (1839 – 1898) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

They are also our 9th cousins 3x removed through Thomas Mather (1575-about 1633) and Margarite Abram (1574- ).

 

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