The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1974, Volume 20, Number 1

California’s Architectural Frontier. Style and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century. By Harold Kirker. Reprint. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1973. Bibliographical notes. Biographical Notes. Illustrations. Index. 244 pages. Softbound. $4.95.

Harold Kirker’s thoughtful interpretation of California architecture, first published in 1960 by the Huntington Library, has now been reprinted in a high quality paperback edition with new prefatory remarks by the author. Kirker examined California’s architecture from 1769-1900. He concluded that during that period “California was an architectural frontier” characterized by “architectural colonialism.” Each group of Europeans or Americans who came to California implanted its own architectural styles, rather than adapt to local conditions and produce a style with regional distinctiveness. Kirker termed his work a “social history of architecture” which “is not the direct study of an art, but the indirect study of a civilization.”

Kirker’s chapter on “The Adobe Builders” might be especially interesting to San Diegans who are witnessing the restoration of Old Town, for he sets to rest a number of romantic notions about the grandeur of Spanish-Mexican architecture in California. Sixty-six plates enhance this volume, and are neatly keyed to the text. Almost all these illustrations depict buildings located in northern California. Peregrine Smith, Inc., whose address is P. O. Box 11606, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111, has reprinted only a few volumes to date, but those have been of high quality and we look forward to more of this publisher’s discriminating work. DJW