Ronald K. Davis (1928 - 2010)
Ronald Davis graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s architecture program in 1953 under the tutelage of George Haslin. Like his contemporary Homer Delawie, Davis left San Luis Obispo to return to his hometown of San Diego, drawn to the city’s burgeoning interest in modernist architecture. Davis intended to help re-shape the growing community with quality design.
Mr. Davis was born (on March 3, 1928) and raised in his parents’ home at 34th and El Cajon. Davis grew up in a poor household, working often as a lifeguard at Old Mission Beach to earn money. Ron and his sisters Phyllis and Sally attended Jefferson Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High and San Diego High School. Following high school, Davis attended San Diego Junior College (now City College). He worked summers for a defense contractor delivering war material to North Island.
The family lived on Mississippi Street until the end of World War II. One of Ron's favorite stories was on December 7, 1941 when he and his buddy Ned mounted their bikes and rushed to the San Diego waterfront with 22 rifles in hand to wait for the Japanese to enter the harbor. They did not show, so they biked to the Silver Castle Hamburger joint on University and bought a dozen burgers for $1.Then they were off to Balboa Stadium to watch the Bombers football team play Los Angeles.
With architectural drawing classes under his belt, he joined the US Navy. The GI Bill afforded Davis a low tuition and stipend at Cal Poly where he spent three years with his wife and their first child.
He was already skilled at drawing upon his arrival in San Luis Obispo, but he learned “to find the feeling” of a building design under George Haslin’s tutelage. Davis interpreted “the feeling” in his sketches until he understood the design was right.
For any young architecture school graduate, there was little work to be had in San Diego. Someone like Davis would have hoped to work for one of the larger firms in town – which at the time were run by either Frank Hope or Richard George Wheeler.
Upon arriving back in San Diego, Davis worked for William P. Lodge at 6th & C for one year, and was paid $1.50/hour. Next, he joined Walter Sea’s firm on Park Blvd. with four other recent architecture school graduates. In the mid-50s, Davis worked for Frederick Liebhardt in his rustic cottage office near Robert Mosher’s Green Dragon Colony office. At this time, Fred Liebhardt and Henry Hester joined in partnership (1957) while Fred Norris was still in Liebhardt’s employ.
Having met Hester earlier after appreciating a building he designed on Rosecrans – Davis was reintroduced to him through the Liebhardt collaboration. Awarded with his AIA certificate in April 1958, Davis worked for Henry Hester between 1958-59. Davis recalls Homer Delawie applying for work with Hester during this time period. Also having graduated from Haslin’s school, Delawie threatened Davis’ role in the Hester office. Instead, Davis’ fellow Cal Poly grad found work elsewhere with Lloyd Ruocco.
As Henry Hester’s designer/draftsman, Davis also worked for Cody & Hester. Palm Springs modernist William Cody partnered with Hester for a few years, and during the summer of 1958, Davis worked from Cody’s Palm Springs office. Among the few projects to come out of the Cody & Hester office was the Richard Silverman Residence on Miller Street in Mission Hills.
After helping Hester with the design of the Cornelius Residence, Solomon Residence and the Solomon Apartment Building (3200 Sixth Avenue), Davis was let go. Henry Hester heard on the golf course that Davis’ moonlighting with his own architecture practice was growing successful. In 1959, Davis set up his own firm and continued working for Fred Norris on the side. USC grad Robert Jones joined up as Henry Hester’s business partner immediately following Davis’ departure.
Davis’ solo practice was booming almost immediately, so he took on his first partner and Davis & Moises was in business, practicing together between1960-65. Davis recalls “…getting clients in the early days was easy. We didn’t advertise and our fees were cheap.” Davis would later go solo and then in partnership with his sons, both of who are architects.
He kept this office open until he retired in 2008.
Partial List of Projects 1957-1970
K. Residence (1960)
Enid Residence (1958)
Hilmen & Hilmen Professional Building (1971)
Smith, Edie Residence
Spec House (1962)