—William MacDonald, ‘The California Expositions’, The Nation, 21 October 1915.1
The Churrigueresque form of Bertram Goodhue and Carleton Winslow Sr.’s buildings for San Diego’s Panama California International Exposition of 1915 were far more learned than any Mission building … The outcome of the Fair was to make this mode popular and fashionable.
—David Gebhard, ‘The Spanish Colonial Revival in Southern California (1895–1930)’, 1967.2
Exposition in San Diego commanding whole town both tributes to people—I covered much ground outside the cities studying rural potentialities bringing knowledge up to date— extraordinary gains from water distribution followed by splendid yields. Resources Cal. by no means fully developed—wealth great prospects golden.
—Alfred Deakin, Diaries, 25 April 1915.3
In the process of architectural and artistic assimilation between Australia and California, the year 1915 stands as a particularly symbolic moment for both countries. James Peddle and George Taylor were both newly returned from their American adventures; and Richard Stanton had just imported the bungalow Redwood from an American building company. The California bungalow style was at the height of its popularity and articles with illustrations of Australian and Californian housing examples filled the pages of the magazines. Australian cities continued to expand, with suburban construction demanding new plans and new ideas in architectural design.
This optimistic situation would soon be muted, as the world began to feel the effects of the catastrophic war that had begun in Europe in August 1914. That war would be particularly traumatic for Australia. In April 1915, the horrific battle at Gallipoli in Turkey claimed thousands of Australian lives. The sacrifices at Gallipoli helped to establish the image of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) ‘digger’—the Australian soldier—that is still the central iconic symbol of Australian nationhood and patriotism.4 The real costs of this battle and those on the European front, both physically and psychically, would not emerge at home until the end of the war in 1918 and the return to Australia of the soldiers who survived, no longer innocent of or isolated from the world’s problems.
Fig. 5.01 Cover, Sunset, vol. 34, January 1915. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
But in 1915, other more peaceful events, already planned years
before the war began, continued to stimulate the exchange of
aesthetic ideas between California and Australia. As early as
1904, two Californian cities, San Francisco and San Diego, began
to vie for the right to hold an international exhibition to
celebrate the completion of the American led engineering
triumph, the Panama Canal.5 In the
end, both cities were to hold fairs, one with international
scope, the other maintaining a more regional focus. The
phenomenon of two ‘Pacific’ international expositions held in
California caught the attention of an audience at home not
otherwise preoccupied with the war in Europe. Since America did
not enter World War I until 1917, the conflict’s impact on the
expositions was only indirect, as many European countries that
had planned to attend either dropped out completely or limited
their participation. The completion of the Panama Canal, such a
monument to American technological progress, offered the perfect
opportunity for Californians to demonstrate symbolically their
economic potential and their cultural significance within the
United States and throughout the world.
Not only did the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San
Francisco and the Panama–California Exposition in San Diego
represent an important and self-conscious coalescence of
Californian cultural ideals, but they also offered the first
substantial opportunity to formulate visual iconographies that
focused on the new conception of America’s ‘Pacific Empire’. In
this formulation, Australia’s presence at the fairs would offer
symbolically significant evidence of a connection to the other
English-speaking countries situated on the Pacific Rim. Such an
attitude was in keeping with the rhetoric that had accompanied
the appearance of Theodore Roosevelt’s naval White Fleet in
Sydney in 1908—rhetoric in which the United States took the lead
as the power in the Pacific.
Even before the Panama Canal offered a valid excuse for
California to express its claim to hegemony along the Pacific
Rim by hosting an international exposition, some had already
proposed a fair in San Francisco that would celebrate Balboa’s
discovery of the ocean itself. This claim rankled some
Australians, who pointed out that the Portuguese had already
ventured near the Australian continent and into Pacific waters
before Europeans had found America’s western shores. George
Collingridge (1847–1931)—the same Collingridge who had worked as
an engraver on the Picturesque atlas and an authority on
exploration in the South Pacific6—suggested
that Australia should rightfully host such celebrations:
… the point I wish to stress is this, that the first discovery of the Pacific Ocean was made not from the American but the Australian side. By right of first discovery it is “our” ocean rather than America’s. It is seriously proposed to hold an International Exhibition in Australia … to advertise our progress under Federation. Why not fix the date at 1911 and make it a Grand Pacific Exhibition, in celebration of the real quarter-centenary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean?7
Nothing seems to have come of the proposed exposition, neither in America nor in Australia. But in 1913, one of the San Francisco Fair’s commissioners, former Colorado Governor Alva Adams, visited Australia and New Zealand and convinced both countries to participate in the Panama–Pacific event of 1915.8 Once war was declared in Europe, America’s early isolation was a real bone of contention for the most imperialist Australians, including Building’s George Taylor who had previously been such a booster of American architecture. Despite some initial grousing from some Australian politicians about the expense of the fair during a time of war, most officials in the country nonetheless felt it was important to participate in this first ‘Pacific’ World’s Fair to be held in California. In keeping with the jingoistic spirit that coloured much of the Australian–American talk of ‘Anglo–Saxon’ affinities of the day, the ‘official’ story of the exposition, published long after the event, presents a particularly imperialist interpretation of this decision:
Larger motives of racial interest and statecraft played their part in bringing about the Australian participation when war had called a halt to all the early plans, and every man, horse, and shilling that could be spared were needed for military service. For Australia felt that she needed settlers, and English-speaking settlers, if the history of the Pacific was to be formed by men of the English-speaking races and this great, isolated continent secured to the control of an English-speaking posterity.9
The very fact that two Californian cities felt compelled to celebrate the opening of the canal with such ambitious ostentation demonstrates the great significance still attached to the international exposition as a symbolic expression of civic pride, tourist promotion and commercial opportunity. San Francisco had an added incentive to demonstrate its cultural resurrection by mounting such an ambitious undertaking. Still reeling from the destruction of the 1906 earthquake, civic leaders in the Bay Area were desperate to show that the city had recovered and could take its place among the world’s leading cities. Civic leaders were intent on taking advantage of the canal opening to promote the city as the new ‘Paris of America’ as well as a salubrious ‘playground of America’.10 Given that so much of the old Victorian-built city had been destroyed, the opportunity to construct new buildings, albeit for a temporary purpose, offered tantalising possibilities for those on the West Coast ideologically intent on constructing a Californian aesthetic. Whether the businessmen and politicians of the city were up to the task remained to be seen.
San Diego’s boosters, on the other hand, saw the moment as a
golden opportunity to extol the virtues of their still sleepy
little harbour town. They had in fact proposed a fair before San
Francisco had, arguing that their city was the first American
port reached by the ships passing through the canal or by those
coming from the South Pacific, and so had some claim to symbolic
priority.11 After prolonged
political negotiation that reached all the way to Washington,
D.C., political leaders agreed that San Francisco would take on
the more elaborate task of presenting an international fair,
while San Diego would present a regional focus and an event that
had a longer run than San Francisco’s.12
The preparations began years before the realities of World War I
disrupted and tempered the implementation of these utopian
visions of artifice and theatrical fantasy.13
What could not have been foreseen was that these contrived
constructions in California, and most particularly San Diego’s
determination to manifest the visual stereotypes of Spanish
California, would have as much lasting aesthetic impact as they
These Pacific sites, on the periphery of their home cultures, looked to international expositions not only as important economic opportunities, but as symbolic venues for verification of their place among Western nations—as validation of their cultural identity. As Graeme Davison has written, these exhibitions ‘provide an excellent vantage-point for reviewing the import and export of cultural baggage’.14 Perhaps because it was located so far from its home culture, Australia had always been an especially eager participant in these international fairs. From the first great International Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, Australian colonies had sent representative products and crafts to all the world expositions and reported extensively on these events in newspapers and journals, publishing numerous illustrations and explanations of new products and new artistic trends presented there. Each exhibition was preceded by a display at home of the Australian goods to be sent abroad.
Intercolonial exhibitions had also been held frequently since the first one in Melbourne in 1866. In explaining the purpose of this first intercolonial event, the Australian Illustrated News included pages of images and columns of hopeful text:
Complete in all essentials, brilliant as a spectacle, substantial as a display of Australian industry and enterprise, it is at once a testimony to the wise use we have made of the past, and a prophecy of what we may expect to accomplish in the not very distant future.15
These fairs were as fervent in their ambitions as the
international exhibitions were: leading artists such as Eugene
von Guerard, Nicholas Chevalier and Louis Buvelot exhibited
their newest paintings,16 and the
grounds included such alluring entertainments as a ‘Medieval
Court’.17 This Melbourne Fair was a
great success, with more than 240,000 people attending (at a
time when the entire population of Australia was less than two
million) and garnering a profit of 9000 pounds.18
Longing to participate on the world stage, Sydney held the
first International exhibition in Australia in 1879.
Fig. 5.02 'The International Exhibition, Sydney, 1879-80,'
supplement to Illustrated Sydney News, January
1880. Chromolithograph, National Library of Australia,
The affair saw the construction of an enormous Garden Palace,
then one of the largest buildings in Sydney, and had an
attendance of over one million visitors.19
Not to be outdone by its rival New South Wales, Victoria
followed in 1880, erecting an exhibition building in Melbourne’s
Carlton Gardens for its own international fair. As the chapter
on the Picturesque industry describes, this grandiose structure
was deemed elegant enough to hold the Centennial exhibitions of
1888 and the first meeting of the Australian Parliament after
Federation in 1901.20
Australians had also participated in (as New South Wales) and
attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893,
the famous White City that had such an effect on people like the
Greene brothers en route to California. They were as affected by
its architectural splendour and displays of the era’s
progressive culture as everyone else had been. (As late as 1914,
George Taylor was reproducing images of Louis Sullivan’s
Transportation Building in his magazine as an example of
America’s ‘rational’ architecture.21)
Aside from some impressive examples of Australian artisanry, New
South Wales’s entries at the fair were largely agricultural,
industrial and—in keeping with the international fair’s love of
‘authentic’ displays of ‘people as trophies’— ethnological.22 The Chicago Exposition’s official
guide wrote of the Australian entry:
Represented particularly by the New South Wales exhibit, one of the most extensive and interesting of the Exposition. Occupies 60,000 square feet of space. Display covers Mines, Agriculture, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Woman’s work, Ethnology, Electricity, Fisheries, Plants, Machinery, Live Stock and Forestry, Wool, Wine and woods./ Australia is represented on the Wooded Island by a bushman’s cabin. Fourteen Australian natives may be seen in the ethnological section.23
The New South Wales exhibit was wedged between the exhibits of Haiti, Canada and Spain, and across from the Clam Bake and Soda Pavilion.
Fig. 5.03 Harry Fenn, The California Building, in Walton, World’s Columbian Exposition: Art and architecture, G. Barrie, Philadelphia, 1893-95, opp. p. 173. Balch Art Research Library, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California.
The Chicago Exposition also offered visitors the opportunity to see California’s first concerted expression in architecture of a ‘Mission Style’ structure. The California Building, designed by A. Page Brown (1854–1896) and inspired by leading San Francisco architect Samuel Newsom (1854–1908), displayed an eclectic mixing of various design elements taken from several of the coastal missions, along with references to Richardsonian Romanesque features as well.24 In terms of the progression towards a ‘Pacific’ architectural style, the significance of this building at the most influential of world’s fairs cannot be overstated. As Karen Weitze has written, ‘[w]ith the 1893 opening of the Columbian Exposition … missionizing began in earnest’.25 Millions of visitors, including Australians, and thousands of articles in the press, including in Australian newspapers, saw and wrote about The California Building and its new stylistic approach to the Spanish traditions of the American Pacific coast.
Inspired by the overwhelming success and aesthetic power of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, San Francisco mounted its own Midwinter International Exposition in 1894. California’s first attempt at a world’s fair also caught the eye of Australian journalists (and at least one Melbourne commercial participant among 12 included in the British section).26 The more modest fair was meant to promote California’s climate and natural resources, but it also highlighted its Pacific location by mounting ‘authentic’ Japanese and Hawaiian villages, displays of South Sea Islanders, and a Chinese Building. This design of the fair, which ran for the first six months of the year, followed a traditionally High Victorian aesthetic in its buildings and print materials, despite incorporating a few ‘exotic’ touches that simply imitated on a smaller scale what had appeared in Chicago and at earlier European expositions. Most of the novelty buildings were simple structures with external ornamentation applied in styles evocative of foreign cultures or themes it was meant to represent. The erection of a miniature Eiffel Tower and Ferris Wheel on the fairgrounds was as derivative as the appearance of the event’s printed ornamentation, which followed
Fig. 5.04 Agricultural Building, California Midwinter international exposition, 1894, San Francisco. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.
Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau styles of the day. Still,
the construction here of early formulations of a Mission Style
architecture in the Agricultural and Horticultural Building,
built by Samuel Newsom, and in some of the County Buildings
elicited interest internationally. The Australian press
admiringly depicted several of these buildings, including
renderings drawn with surrounding vegetation as if in situ.27 This vegetation already demonstrated
the abundance of Australian eucalypts in the California
landscape—an aspect of the location that would become
increasingly important in the visual image of the American
Pacific as the new century began. On a more vernacular level, a
Redwood Tree Cabin and Foster’s Tamale Cottage—the latter
captioned as ‘built exactly after the style found throughout the
land of the Montezumas’28—promoted
sales in buildings constructed to evoke the product itself. The
Californian phenomenon of the fantasy theme park that would
become so prevalent in the twentieth century originated in such
ephemeral entertainments at the 1894 Midwinter International
By 1915, Australia was closer to California in its attitudes about a shared Pacific culture than it had been in earlier decades. Participation in San Francisco’s first large-scale international exposition—one of Australia’s first opportunities to exhibit internationally as a separate and unified nation within the British Empire—promised to be an important moment. The initial announcement of the California Fair was widely advertised, with colourful brochures and postcards heralding in florid prose San Francisco’s location at the edge of the American continent and as a gateway to the nations of the Pacific (see Fig. 5.06 on page 216):
By gift of America the nations of the world become, as it were, shareholders in America’s greatest enterprise. Each is entitled to its dividends in international trade and friendship; each has an open field of opportunity. The East and West will meet more freely.29
Fig. 5.05 The Midwinter fair at San
Francisco, in The Illustrated Australian News, 1 May
1894. La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria,
Fig. 5.06 ‘The Pacific Limited: Chicago to California, San
Diego Exposition All of 1916’, postcard from the Chicago,
Milwaukee, St Paul and the Southern Pacific Railways. Courtesy
of San Diego Historical Society, San Diego, California.
Given such explicit ‘Pacific’ emphasis, it is no surprise that George Taylor’s Building began reporting on the exhibition as early as the planning stages in 1912. Indeed, in the same issue of the magazine in which he presents one of his many pleas to save Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for Canberra, Taylor included an announcement about the upcoming San Francisco Fair.30 By February 1914, Taylor was even more focused on the Californian city that he persisted in calling ‘’Frisco’, despite knowing that San Franciscans hated that term for their city.31 In this month’s issue of the magazine, he published both a report called ‘Through Australian Eyes—’Frisco’ by one of his correspondents who was able to experience the city’s Portola festivals. This annual celebration, held since 1909, was now seen as a prelude to the 1915 festivities.32 This issue also contained a comment on the plans for the upcoming California Fair from none other than Walter Burley Griffin himself.33 In the issue of 12 April 1915—the month of the unfortunate battle at Gallipoli—Taylor wrote about ‘color’ in the planning of the fair; and his pages of advertisements included one for the Oceanic Steamship Co. announcing special voyages to the exhibition.
The Panama–Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) would also
figure prominently in segments of Taylor’s accounts of his trip
to America. He visited the fairgrounds while they were under
construction and published his thoughts about the significance
of its varied architectural statements in the magazine’s pages
throughout 1915. These comments were accompanied by profuse
numbers of photographic illustrations.34
Taylor was particularly taken with the architectural diversity
displayed in the fairgrounds, which he labelled ‘a magic city of
On 6 February 1914, a parliamentary committee in Melbourne wired Charles C. Moore, President of the San Francisco Exposition, accepting an offer to participate in the event and notifying the fair’s committee that its appointed ‘architect leaving probably seventh March to erect Australian Pavilion’.36 Plans for Australian participation in the PPIE were approved by the parliament in March 1914—only a few months before the onset of World War I. Once hostilities commenced, transit across the Pacific was sometimes delayed because of ‘German Cruisers’ on the seas, but travel under an American flag eased this danger, according to correspondence sent from Australians dealing with travel to the United States.37
Fig. 5.07 ‘An architectural gem: ‘Spring’ niche in Court of Four Seasons, ’Frisco Exhibition, 1915’, in Building, 12 April 1915, p. 67.
The old champion of Australian Federation and former Prime
Minister Alfred Deakin (1856–1919) was appointed as Commonwealth
Commissioner of the Australian contingent.38
Deakin had longstanding associations with the United States. He
had first come to America in the 1880s and was partly
responsible for bringing the Chaffey brothers to Victoria to
implement irrigation projects at Mildura and elsewhere in the
colony.39 While he took on the
commissioner’s job with some hesitations—he was ill and out of
favour with the Australian politicians of the day—he did see it
as a chance to get back into service where he was on familiar
ground. After much political drama and many emotional
compromises, he would manage to see out his term as commisioner.
While initial plans had been enthusiastically grand—there had been serious talk of sending Australian military vessels to remain on display in San Francisco Bay for the duration of the fair40—the war necessarily curtailed the Australian contribution. In the end, only New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland participated. Just as had been the case at every other international fair, the exhibits to be displayed in California focused on Australia’s natural resources and items for trade. Black opals were a major draw, as were the various arrays of live kangaroo, wallabies and cockatoos. One report at the end of the exposition indicates that at least one joey was born during the running of the fair: ‘the little Paddymelon, which was born in the Grounds has left its mother and is hopping round as strong as a kangaroo rat and is at present not unlike a rat.’41 Displays included a surprising amount of perishable goods, including two tonnes of butter from the state of Victoria. California did have an embargo on Australian fresh fruit, much to the Australian delegation’s consternation, so only canned and bottled fruits were sent. The Australian Pavilion’s most popular events, however, were performances: the brochure for the dedication of the Australian Pavilion includes in its program demonstrations by ‘Saltbush Bill’ (Mr W. Mills) in a ‘display of aboriginal boomerang throwing, and manipulation of Australian teamsters’ stockwhips’.42
Art from Australia was not entirely neglected. The printed guides to the fair pointed out approvingly:
The commissioners have made it their boast that nothing has been exaggerated; everything is “real.” Even art critics who visit the pavilion will not be disappointed, for on the walls they will find many paintings of merit by Australian artists, including loan collections from the National Gallery of New South Wales and the Victorian Art Society.43
Most interestingly, for a country that can hold claim to
having produced some of the first fulllength films in the world,
motion pictures about Australia were shown every day at four pm
and were by all accounts very well-received.44
Adhering to the mandate of the fair’s organisers to be conscious of the symbolic importance of each country’s exhibition buildings, the Australian Committee commissioned an ambitious pavilion for the fair. Designed and constructed by government architect G. J. Oakeshott (1861–1949), it covered some 15,000 square feet (140 x 200 feet) and received as many as 4000 visitors a day during the run of the exposition.45 Oakeshott received 3000 dollars for the contract; the pavilion itself cost 77,115 dollars and 10 cents.46 Oakeshott, described by the PPIE’s chronicler Frank Morton Todd as ‘an architect in the employ of the Commonwealth Government’,47
travelled to San Francisco to oversee and supervise
construction himself. The design of the building was essentially
a single large ‘sample room’ with a modified Classical facade,
friezes depicting Australian flora and fauna and the requisite
tower with observation decks.48
Oakeshott also created elaborate wooden cases for the displays.
One Australian report described the interior design: ‘On the
walls of the Pavilion, care has been taken to advertise the
products of Australia in flaming characters on polished
Australian timbers.’49 The southern
end of the pavilion had an aviary housing Australian birds and a
garden ‘with Tasmanian tree ferns over a century old and other
examples of antipodean plant life’.50
The exterior of the pavilion was described in some of the official exposition literature as symbolising ‘the union of the several states in the Australian Commonwealth’.51 Since ardent symbolism was at the heart of all of the fair’s architecture and public art, the guidebooks felt compelled to place the Australian contribution into the organic scheme so sought after by the exposition’s planners. While some Australian accounts suggested that the building might ‘symbolise the industrial cohesion of the six Australian States’,52 others were floridly descriptive:
Mr. Oakeshott devoted especial attention to the designing of the tower, which is quadrangular and gracefully massive in effect. From its base to the top of its flagpole there is a height of 120 feet, and two observation platforms at different elevations are approached by a winding staircase. In the high ceiling of the entrance are set five electroplated stars, representing the Southern Cross emblem of Australia, which are arranged so that they will constantly tremble and twinkle.53
Fig. 5.08 G. J. Oakeshott (arch.), Australian Pavilion at the Panama–Pacific international exposition, San Francisco, 1915. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, California.
Most descriptions of the Australian architectural contribution dwelt on more pragmatic matters. Describing the pavilion for Building readers, Taylor pointed to the products used in its manufacture—American products available for Australian builders through agents in Sydney: ‘The Australian Building at the Panama Exposition is lined throughout with grained Amiwud … The Australian representatives of Amiwud are the Paraffine Paint Company.’54 This company was the same San Francisco-based firm that sold Malthoid roofing for Californian and Australian suburban bungalows, and one that Taylor and others promoted so avidly in the pages of Australian trade journals. These commercial ties were the real impetus for most fair participants; certainly the majority of Australian exhibitors and planners were more interested in the economic possibilities offered by international exhibitions than in any artistic resonances. Still, this display of products, filled with printed emblems of nationality and place, encouraged a visual template of the land called Australia for all who came to the San Francisco Fair. The displays represent another important example of the power of itinerancy—in this case, the self-consciously grand itinerancy of a world’s fair—to affect aesthetic change and to disperse a particular iconography of place to the visitors.
Commisioner Alfred Deakin and his wife departed Australia for Vancouver on board the Oceanic Line’s Sonoma on 16 January 1915, arriving in early February. They were in San Francisco for the exposition’s opening day ceremonies on 18 February. The event was, according to Deakin’s diary entry, ‘imperfectly managed’—he was not seated properly on the grandstand.55 Aside from this ‘confusion’, for which exposition President Moore immediately sent a letter of apology,56 Deakin had a pleasant time on this trip to California. Signs of his deteriorating mental faculties occasionally surface in his diary entries, but the chance to see old friends and to examine progress made in the Californian cities and landscapes that he had not seen in 30 years encouraged him to continue. At the fairgrounds on 24 February, he met with his old friend George Chaffey (1848–1932), whom he had not seen since the Canadian had left Australia in the 1890s. Chaffey was by this time immersed in his development of the Ontario colony in Southern California.57 When the Deakins visited Los Angeles in April—their favourite part of the trip—they toured the region with Chaffey while staying in Pasadena, and met him again when back in San Francisco in May.58 Deakin gave the opening speech for the dedication of the Australian Pavilion on 10 March, in a ceremony attended by California’s Governor Hiram Walker and San Francisco’s Mayor James Rolph. Music for the occasion was provided by the Young Australia League Band, then touring California from Western Australia, and Saltbush Bill gave a performance of boomerang throwing.
Deakin’s most exciting moment while in San Francisco occurred when he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of California in Berkeley in a presentation at the university’s Greek Theatre on 12 May. The day before the ceremony, he had travelled to Stanford University in Palo Alto, where he was shown the campus’s ‘fine buildings’ by Stanford’s famous President, David Starr Jordan (1851–1931) and Payson Jackson Treat (1879–1972), already a well-known scholar of Asia and Australasia teaching at the university. In San Francisco he met with the artist Ernest Peixotto (1869–1940), the
newspaperman M. H. De Young, and ‘Mrs Hearst’, probably Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1842–1919), benefactor of the University of California and mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In Los Angeles in April, he attended a ‘splendid’ baseball game with San Francisco’s Mayor Rolph and spent several days touring through Yosemite on the way back to the exposition at the end of the month.59 He met with Dr Jordan again in early June, just before he left for Vancouver and the ship back to Australia. He was back in Melbourne by early July.
This was his last trip abroad; he spent the last four years of his life in worsening mental health. His writings about the San Francisco Exposition nonetheless give a good sense of how impressed he was with the whole undertaking, and proud that Australia, in its ‘small but artistic building’, was able to present a positive picture of the country and its achievements as the world’s youngest nation. Of the exposition’s grand ambitions expressed in its architectural extravagances, Deakin said, ‘If the riches of the earth as a whole have ever been summarised pictorially anywhere it is here. If the full extent of man’s genius or his grasp of practical and commercial matters have ever been graphically figured it has been in and by this Exposition.’60 While the realities of the fair’s enduring aesthetic impact may not have justified such hyperbolic speech, Deakin’s sentiments epitomise the most optimistic of feelings about the shared destinies of the United States and Australia at this critical moment during World War I.
In the end, some concrete, practical, effects did result from the presence of Australians at the Californian Expositions. One of the most ambitious product displays at the San Francisco fair appeared in the exposition’s South Gardens: the erection of ‘The Home of Redwood’ by The California Redwood Association—the same organisation that provided Sydney developer Richard Stanton with his Redwood bungalow and that opened offices in Sydney in 1916.61 While there is so far no evidence that Stanton personally attended the exposition in San Francisco to see the exhibition house before he purchased and erected his own model home in Rosebery, he may have been inspired by the Redwood Association’s advertisements for the project to contact them to arrange for a similar building to be sent to Australia as a prefabricated structure. He may also have contacted the association while in America in 1913. A comparison of the two buildings’ designs show striking similarities in form if not scale, and were constructed of similar materials made by the same companies.
Fig. 5.09 ‘Home of the Redwood’, exhibition home at the Panama–
Pacific international exposition, brochure. Courtesy of the
Alice Phelan Sullivan Library at The Society of California
Pioneers, San Francisco.
On a smaller, less ostentatious level, then, the architecture
on view at the San Francisco Exposition of 1915 influenced
directly the evolution of a suburban architectural style across
the ocean—or at least manifested similar intentions and
While such relatively modest architectural displays were discussed in Taylor's Building and other Australian journals, the grandiose architectural fantasies of the PPIE's main buildings, with their vaguely Orientalist–Romanesque-Moorish cast and 'ancient' effects, were also not lost on Australian commentators. They wrote with approval of the much-touted colour schemes of the fair's designer, the artist Jules Guerin (1866-1946), and the wildly successful modulations created by night-time electrical illumination. Under the title 'A magic city of temples', George Taylor wrote:
This artificial impress of time was everywhere. Nothing seemed new and garish. Even the material of the building was not that glaring white plaster distinctive of Expositions of the past, but an ivory-yellow toned hydraulic lime trowelled to represent the streaked laminations of old travertine lime stone. That ivory tone was the base for the play of the whole of the color glories of Master Artist Jules Guerin's palette.62
All these brightly coloured confections succeeded as lofty, if
ambiguous, metaphors both of exotic empires and Anglo–Saxon
ideals to which California was meant to aspire. Grey Brechin
called the exposition a 'make-believe
imperial city' and 'a brief realization of the Byzantine myth'."63 Their artistic and architectural impact on subsequent styles in California, however, was not groundbreaking. Some of the exposition's conceptions of city planning—in terms of the grouping of public buildings, parks and sculptural monuments did have some impact on California towns and cities, such as the project for the Pasadena civic centre built in the 1920s; but its architectural fantasies were too grandly phantasmagoric to have much practical application (see Fig. 7.13 on page 308). The aggressively imperialist attitudes of the exposition planners, moreover, became immediately problematic given the real tragedies of the war then being fought in Europe."64
The exposition organisers were certainly not aspiring to be avant-garde. One need only read what the fair's critics thought of the Italian contingent's exhibition of Futurist art to see how far they were removed from any modernist aspirations. Ironically, the Australian Francis McComas, then firmly ensconced in the Bay Area's artistic life, was highly praised as one of 'fifteen distinguished American artists' and received medals, while the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni's Dynamism of a footballer (1913) hardly received a mention in any of the official documents or reviews of the fine arts section.65 John Barry, who wrote the most thoughtful review of the exposition's art exhibits, was willing to recognise the 'revolutionary' qualities of the Futurists' work on display, describing Boccioni's Dynamism of a foothaller as 'sheets of beautifully colored tin, massed together'. But, he goes on to say, 'whether the force that is represented here is mere eccentricity and wildness, or whether it is going to open new avenues to the artists of the future is a big question'. Of McComas, Barry writes, Itlhough McComas was born in Australia, he is now accepted as a Californian on account of his long residence in or near San Francisco, and on account of his talent for painting Californian scenes'.66 In the end, the officially approved artworks as well as the modified Beaux-Arts buildings were so overladen with exotic emblems of Empire that they were ill-suited for models of realistic modern artworks or structures—nor were they meant to be.page 238
Ironically, the majority of sites, always intended as
temporary constructions, were summarily demolished at the end of
the exposition, while the most ‘transitory’ architectural symbol
at the fair, Bernard Maybeck’s Palace of Fine Arts, survived the
ball and hammer. Maybeck himself, ever the eccentric, was both
pleased for the attention—it ‘marked the beginning of a second
career’67 for him designing larger
public buildings—and bemused by the fact of the palace’s
survival. Rife with allusions to melancholy and sentimental
elegy, the building was, even more than the structures of fake
travertine, intended to evoke the mood of crumbling ruins, which
by the 1920s it had become.68
Maybeck’s model for the Palace of Fine Arts was the German
conception of Einfühlung, aesthetic empathy; his design for the
building mirrors the structure in the German artist Arnold
Böcklin’s popular painting, The isle of the dead (1880), which
at that time was one of the most prodigiously reproduced
paintings in the world.69
Temporary structures seemed to be a leitmotif for Maybeck at this time, a fact he expounded upon in person to the Australian representatives at the fair. The architect had been one of many to submit plans for the competition to build Canberra, but he lost out to the Griffins.70 He continued nonetheless to voice his opinions that the Australian capital should initially consist of buildings meant to last only 25 years. While the San Francisco Fair was going on, a baffled officer at the Australian Pavilion’s information desk received a handwritten note from Maybeck addressed to Mr Deakin, which he dutifully if skeptically passed on to the commissioner. Maybeck had joined Mrs Deakin while she strolled through the Australian Pavilion with Mrs Hearst and, emboldened by their conversation about the Australian landscape, felt compelled to submit his ideas about the planned capital directly to Australian representatives. The architect continued this campaign more officially for several months, sending letters to the parliament and to Walter Burley Griffin himself: ‘The way is to make a temporary Capital in the same way that we build a [sic] exposition only a little more permanently using cement instead of lime for plaster.’ His reasons for this suggestion were that ‘Australia is not ready for any great permanent art achievements & it will not be ready for a generation or two’.71 Griffin’s response to these suggestions was understandably cool.
Fig. 5.10 Bernard
Maybeck (arch.), Palace of Fine Arts, Panama– Pacific
international exposition, San Francisco, 1915. In: Mullgardt, The
architecture and landscape gardening of the exposition,
San Francisco, 1915, p. 157. Courtesy of The Huntington Library,
San Marino, California.
Fig 5.10A Bernard Maybeck (arch.), Palace of Fine Arts, Panama-Pacific international exposition, San Frnancisco, 1915. Post card.
Deakin, on the other hand, made Maybeck’s suggestions known to
the press. An article in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in September
1915, where Maybeck was oddly referred to as ‘an American expert
in town-planning’, seriously considered the architect’s
suggestions. The newspaper’s writer determined that Australia,
‘where stability is highly valued’, was not the place for such
experimentation: ‘The mushroom city does not represent an
inspiring ideal, and it is out of harmony with the deepest
instincts of human nature.’72 That
Maybeck, the most eccentric of the good California architects,
should have expressed such interest in the architectural future
of Australia gives a good idea of the natural affinity between
Californian and Australian practitioners in the first decades of
the twentieth century.
Given the tremendous ballyhoo that accompanied the San Francisco exhibition, one can easily overlook that the San Diego Panama–California Exposition taking place at the same time, and for a substantially longer run, actually made a much more significant and lasting mark on California’s architectural landscape. Deakin, who attended the southern fair briefly and was given an official reception, summed up many people’s experience in his diary note that ‘San Diego … far finer in design than expected’.73 Its architecture was more cognisant of the aesthetic predilections that would inform the state’s builders in the next decade—the styles that would have an impact on Australian tastemakers as well. In the same pamphlet that had so effusively described the intentions for the San Francisco Fair, organisers explained the vision for the San Diego event:
An opportunity to learn of the American Southwest will be presented through the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego in 1915. Rapid progress has already been made upon the Panama-California Exposition, which will be devoted to a demonstration of irrigation, cultivation and reforestation of arid lands, and of the development and resources of the great Southwest, and to such exhibition illustrative of the lives and the tribal history of the various Indian tribes and natives of the United States and of Central and South America as would arrest at once the attention and the interest of ethnologists the world over in a race that is fast passing away. Such an exhibition of Indian life has never been successfully attempted in the world’s history. It is proposed to make it as complete at the San Diego Exposition as to cover all that is possible to learn of the Indian and his life and manners.
San Diego’s aims, then, were clearly defined as related to local ethnographic display, culture and art, a fact that gave the planners a more pragmatic set of symbols and forms with which to express their ideal California. Architecturally, the logical historic mode to employ was Spanish Revival, that is, Spanish Colonial building as it appeared in Mexico and the American south-west. The south-western emphasis, which was at the heart of the earliest planning, allowed fair designers to consider an interpretation of Pueblo Indian structures as well, although this aspect was eventually overwhelmed by the Spanish Colonial intricacies of the main buildings. The significance of the structures to the fair’s organisers was in any case paramount: as Phoebe Kropp has written, ‘[i]t would carry the weight of booster visions for the city and determine how residents and tourists saw it—in a romantic Spanish light rather than in political terms’.74
The seriousness with which this ethnographic opportunity was greeted is evident when one learns that the Archaeological Institute of America, at the time the leading scholarly organisation studying south-western anthropology and culture, saw fit to publish in their series of papers a thorough discussion of ‘Architecture of the exposition’, written by Edgar L. Hewett and William Templeton Johnson.75 Hewett (1865–1946) was the director of the School of American Archaeology and Museum of New Mexico, and a leading figure in the preservation of the archaeological sites of the south-west.76 Upon
learning of the fair’s intentions to highlight south-western
culture, and with the coaxing of the exposition’s flamboyant
director, ‘Colonel’ D. Charles Collier (1871–1934), Hewett
became intrigued enough with the possibilities for educating the
public at the event that he agreed to be the Director of
Exhibits for the entire exposition. Hewett’s participation led
the state of New Mexico to set up the largest of the state
exhibits, creating on the fairgrounds in Balboa Park an
astoundingly accurate replica of the mission church of San
Esteban del Rey at Acoma—one of the most extraordinary
structures ever built for any exhibition. As the online history
of the exposition puts it: ‘Whatever he did, Hewett’s main
motive was to promote the Indians as Indians in lands given to
them by spiritual powers to whom they were inextricably bound.’77 When President Teddy Roosevelt
addressed the fair’s visitors on 27 July 1915, he singled out
the New Mexico building for special comment:
I feel you are doing an immense amount from an educational standpoint for the United States in the way you are developing the old California architecture and the architecture of the Presidio, and I want especially to congratulate New Mexico on having adopted and developed the American form of architecture.78
The other author of the article, Johnson (1877–1957), was a
San Diego architect who, already interested in Spanish Colonial
structures before the exposition took place, became Hewett’s
assistant at the exposition; he would later build some of the
best-known of San Diego’s Spanish Revival buildings.79
The tone of the exhibition, then, was set at a high level of
ethnographic and historicist fidelity from the start. As The
California Building at the Chicago Exposition demonstrates, an
interest in Mission Style, Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial
architecture was already strongly ‘in the air’ in California and
elsewhere throughout the country years before the 1915 fair. The
prevalence of these modes in current architectural circles
nonetheless coincided with the desires of the organisers to
highlight through the fair’s buildings that San Diego was the
first American port of call directly to the north of the Panama
Canal and Latin America.
At the time that plans for the exposition began in 1909, the small city of San Diego—its population in 1910 was under 40,000—had very few prominent architects. The visionary Irving Gill (1870–1936) had arrived on the California coast from Chicago in 1893, immediately following the world’s fair there, after working in the offices of Adler and Sullivan. Gill was steeped in Arts & Crafts philosophy—-his work was often the subject of articles in The Craftsman and he wrote many articles for the magazine himself. He had already built with his partner William Hebbard (1863– 1930)80 an exquisite Arts & Crafts home in San Diego for George W. Marston (1850– 1946), one of the city’s leading citizens and a major force behind the organisation of the exposition. Further, Gill had come into the circle of Charles Lummis and the Landmarks Club in 1900, when he and partner Hebbard had worked on restoration of the ruins of the Mission San Diego. For Gill, Mission architecture was a revelation, leading him to increasingly unornamented simplicity and geometric severity in his work—work that would later, in retrospect, place him at the pinnacle of the California modernist movement.
Irving Gill in 1910 would have seemed the logical choice to be
the designer of San Diego’s first international fair. When the
exposition committee appointed the great Boston landscape
architectural firm, the Olmsted Brothers, to lay out the
fairgrounds, Gill was still assumed to be the organisers’
preference to design the buildings.81
Tradition has it that Gill was responsible for the design of the
first building, the Administration Building, completed in 1912 (although recent research seems to indicate that he had less to do with its construction than previously believed).82 Word of the exposition’s grand architectural ambitions, however, reached other, loftier, personages back East, among them the esteemed New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (1869–1924), described as ‘the undisputed eclectic synthesist of his generation in America’.83
Goodhue’s work through his firm Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson
had already gained worldwide recognition. Young ambitious
architects from all over the world trained in his busy offices.
That Sydney architects John Moore and F. H. Earnest Walker, as
well as several other Australians, came to New York to work with
him speaks to his prominence as an internationally recognised
architectural voice. Despite his frequent concentration on
Medievalist and traditional forms and the directions shown in
the ecclesiastical work, Goodhue also had a deep and abiding
interest in other architectural forms, and most especially in
Spanish Colonial styles. He had travelled to Mexico with
Sylvester Baxter in 1892 and again in 1899, to measure colonial
buildings for subsequent publication in Baxter’s 10-volume Spanish
Colonial architecture in Mexico (1901). These volumes
became the leading illustrated resource on the subject for
decades and were a major inspiration for his buildings at the
San Diego Exposition.
As early as 1902, Goodhue had been able to put into practice some of the lessons of his Mexican experience within a Californian landscape, when his friend James Waldron Gillespie (1866–1954) commissioned him to design a house and gardens in Montecito near Santa Barbara. The house was named El Fureidis, Arabic for ‘pleasant place’. Gillespie was as fascinated with Moorish architecture as Hispanic and had sent Goodhue on a study tour to Persia as well as Spain. The house, ‘conceived as a Mediterranean villa with white walls and red tile roofs’,84 was praised for its simplicity and scholarly understanding of Hispanic forms. With Gillespie’s help, Goodhue had also received a commission to design a cathedral for Havana, Cuba, in 1905.85
Given his knowledge of the subject, the ambitious scale of the project and his desire to work in the West again, Goodhue made a vigorous attempt to get the commission when he learned of such an extraordinary opportunity as the Panama–California Exposition to work in a Latin American style. Goodhue wrote to a colleague Elmer Grey (1871–1962), then
Fig. 5.11 Church of Soledad, Puebla,
Mexico in Sylvester Baxter, Spanish-Colonial Architecture in
Mexico, vol. 4, no. 48. Courtesy of The Huntington
Library, San Marino, California.
still working with Pasadena architect Myron Hunt (1868–1952), to speak to the committee on his behalf. Grey and Hunt recommended Goodhue. A letter to Goodhue records Grey’s feelings about Gill, describing the local architect’s architectural direction as ‘dangerous kind of work’.86 Goodhue had earlier stated his admiration for Gill’s approach:
As for Gill, while I don’t, by any means, coincide with all his views, and not at all with his theory that ornament is unnecessary, I do think that he has produced some of the most thoughtful work done in the California of today, and that for the average architect, his theories are far safer to follow than mine, or even perhaps yours.87
Gill nonetheless was off the project, and in 1912 moved to Los Angeles to work with the Olmsted Brothers to help in the design of the model city of Torrance.88
When Goodhue was appointed by the exposition’s Buildings and Grounds Committee in 1911, he brought to California his own assistants from his New York office. While local architects, including Gill, continued to work with Goodhue on the project for a while, the main design and actual work was overseen by Goodhue’s site architect Carleton Winslow (1876–1946). (After the fair, Winslow seems to have become a confirmed Californian, setting up practice in Santa Barbara.89) While some of the exposition’s final buildings, especially those built by concerns other than Goodhue’s offices, related to variant styles within the Southwest/Hispanic mode, Goodhue’s overall
Fig. 5.12 Bertram Goodhue (arch.), The California Building, Panama California international exposition, San Diego, California, 1915. Author’s photograph.
design emphasised the most exuberant of the Latin American Baroque styles, the Churrigueresque. Goodhue and Winslow referred to Baxter’s volumes for inspiration. In Baxter’s pages, they would have found ample illustrations of the richly ornamented church facades and doorways, solomonic curlicue columns and ornate interiors that define the Churrigueresque style. These elements determined the major constructions of the San Diego Fair, several of which were built as permanent structures.
Goodhue’s design of one of the main buildings around the central plaza—one that was planned to remain after the fair closed— epitomises his use of the Mexican style: The California Building, on the north side of the plaza, appears in the form of a Mexican church, complete with a colourfully tiled dome and ornately decorated tower. The facade includes sculptural, nearly overwhelming, ornamentation created in stucco, characteristic of the style throughout Latin America. Goodhue’s building, unlike its historical models, was constructed of concrete—a fact that contributed to the plain, massive effect created by the unadorned expanses of the exterior walls. This expansive element, along with the use of decorative tiles, reminded contemporaries of that other significant influence in Spanish Colonial style—what was then called ‘the Moorish’. Eugen Neuhaus (1879–1963), an artist and Professor of Design from the University of California who had already written profusely about the San Francisco Fair, wrote about The California Building in San Diego:
The colored tile so typical of the Spanish colonial is traceable to the Moors, who were fond of the liberal use of this highly decorative material. Another typical note of Arabic work was their great simple expanses of plain wall surfaces, broken only here and there, as need demanded, but always most picturesquely emphasized by windows, great and small … There is no end to Moorish influence.90
The mixing of Islamic elements and Spanish forms that Goodhue
had already displayed in El Fureidis informed his most ambitious
designs for San Diego as well. Such integration of elaborate,
yet superficial, ornamentation on an essentially geometric form
with solid, unembellished masses would begin to characterise
Goodhue’s subsequent work, and marks his transition to a more
modernist, even avant-garde, style.
Fig. 5.13 Bertram
Goodhue (arch.), The California Building, dome, Panama
California international exposition, San Diego, California,
1915. Author’s photograph.
Other temporary buildings on the fairgrounds, designed and carried out by Winslow, appeared to many, including Goodhue, to carry ornamental elaboration to theatrical extremes: of one of these buildings, Goodhue wrote that it appeared as if it were ‘stage scenery’.91 At the end of the exposition—the event was so popular, in its beautifully landscaped setting, that its run was extended into 1917—the citizens of San Diego overrode Goodhue’s hope that the more extravagant temporary structures would be razed. Citizens of the city voted to keep almost all of the buildings that occupied Balboa Park. An article in the San Diego paper in January 1917 captured the feelings of the city planners:
The gardens with the buildings that count in the picture are to remain and where inharmonious or useless structures are removed, additional landscape features will be installed so that, far from passing, the real exposition will be growing ever more beautiful. That which differentiated San Diego from every other exposition is a living thing, a heritage for the children of today, and not a passing show. Possibly it might be worth the while of those who send abroad the message of the city to emphasize THE LIVING, not the passing of our Exposition.92
The exposition grounds, then, with their integration of
parkland, landscaped gardens and unified architectural style,
became a central part of San Diego’s cultural conceptions.
For Southern California—and to a lesser extent, the rest of the state—the fair marked a watershed in regional architectural development. While Spanish Colonial styles—whether in earlier incarnations of Mission Style or less coherently formulated borrowings of Hispanic elements—had been appearing on the West Coast since the 1880s, now, after 1915, Churrigueresque and other earnest evocations of Latin American forms began to dominate California’s architectural directions. For some, this was seen as a derivative catastrophe that hampered the development of a truly modernist architecture on the West Coast. Esther McCoy, the great exponent of California modernism and the earliest champion of Irving Gill, wrote that: ‘[t]he effects of the Fair were almost immediate. The Churrigueresque style of the buildings, with their concentration on ornament, ushered in a period of cultivation and refinement in which there was little appreciation of Gill’s austere simplicity.’93 Other critics recognised that in many ways, the rampant popularity of the Spanish Revival styles at all levels and in all types of building throughout California in the 1920s actually represented a movement toward an identifiably modern, Pacific architectural style.
David Gebhard, in his groundbreaking article ‘The Spanish Colonial Revival in Southern California (1895–1930)’, examines this dichotomy. While acknowledging that the Spanish Colonial style as it appeared in Southern California from the time of the San Diego Exposition into the 1920s had little to do with anything that had really been built there in the Spanish period, he asserted that ‘[f]ew artificially created myths have succeeded in retaining a firm hold for so long and at the same time have been able to maintain a consistently high quality of design’.94
The arrival of these Hispanic and Mediterranean styles in
Australia was not as immediate or as widespread as was the case
in California after 1915, but their appearance by the 1920s in
Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne was certainly evidence of contact
with and knowledge of their Californian counterparts. Just as
they were in California, these styles were promulgated as
appropriate for Australia’s Mediterranean climate and for a
modern way of living in such a climate.
This step in the process of architectural exchange between the two coasts is even more intriguing when one considers more closely the other important aspect of the two California exhibitions in that fateful year of 1915: the gardens, the landscaping of the fairgrounds. In their very concentrated efforts at aesthetic and symbolic effects through the planting of the grounds, the directors of landscaping for both San Francisco and San Diego Expositions selected, as the most appropriate accompaniments to the architecture, a substantial number of introduced Australian plants. Central in both sites to their landscape design was the eucalyptus. Why and how this Australian tree came to be associated with a Californian lifestyle—along with the palm tree, and often in conjunction with Spanish Style architecture, a symbol of Pacific modernity—will be the focus of the next chapter.
In its native Australia, the ubiquitous gum tree had already filled a different, if at times ambivalent, aesthetic role. But Australians continued to look throughout the 1920s to the other Pacific coast for its emblems of modernity, emblems which now included their own native tree in its panoply of Californianness. At the same time, reception of Mediterranean modes of building in Australia, filtered through a California lens, represents the second phase of architectural exchange between the Pacific Rim countries, enhanced and complicated by California’s appropriation of antipodean flora as its own. These conceptions came to the self-conscious attention of Australia in large part because of their participation in, and the press’s coverage of, the California Expositions of 1915.