Richard H. Peterson, Book Review Editor
The California to Remember. Sketches by Eugene Gilbert, Text by Richard F. Pourade. San Diego: Copley Books, 1979. Illustrations. Index. 191 pages. $17.50.
Reviewed by Clare W. McKanna, California history instructor, San Diego Evening College. Copley Books has completed another volume on California history entitled The California to Remember.
Like many of the previous works, it is well illustrated with drawings provided by Eugene Gilbert, a very talented and well-known architect responsible for the design of Duke University, the Philadelphia Public Library, and the New York Evening Post Building, and for the development of Westwood in Los Angeles. It is obvious that he has spent many years studying the art form and his excellent drawings show fine detail. He has chosen some 300 or more of his drawings that depict various aspects of California architecture. They include such diverse buildings as the St. James Episcopal Church in Sonora, Mission San Luis Rey near Oceanside, the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Jack London’s “Wolf House” near Glen Ellen, and the Trujillo Adobe in Riverside. The drawings illustrate the subtle changes in architecture that occurred beginning with the Spanish in 1769 and ending with the Americans in the early twentieth century.
Richard F. Pourade has provided a short text to introduce each of the three chapters and captions with some historical data for each of the illustrations. In a few pages of introductory information he attempts to provide a short historical synopsis to explain the Spanish-Mexican Period, the Gold Rush, and the Railroads and the development that accompanied them.
While this book provides some historical information, it is, unfortunately, difficult to evaluate its real worth to historians. It has several inherent weaknesses that detract from its otherwise interesting format. For instance, the introductory text does not add to an understanding of the illustrations. It would have been more useful to explain the changes that occurred in Spanish architecture from 1769 to 1822 and continue with the influences brought about by the later Mexican and American periods. Harold Kirker, in his California’s Architectural Frontier, has chronicled the various nuances and changes that have transformed California architecture since the Yuroks built redwood lodges several centuries ago. Perhaps a few words in this vein would have made the text more meaningful. Also, there is a lack of information regarding whether the historical buildings still exist today. This data would be invaluable to historians conducting research on architecture. Finally, it might have been useful to show a few drawings of Indian structures that existed prior to and during the Spanish Period. This would have provided a more complete picture of California through drawings depicting dwellings of all Californians. Despite these problems, Copley Books should be congratulated for providing California history buffs with another beautifully illustrated volume that will be a welcome addition to any coffee table.