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Gordon Converse Drake
(b. 1917 - d. 1952)

About architect Gordon Drake authors Douglas Baylis and Joan Parry wrote, "...at 19...living now in San Diego, he was a brooding, sensitive dreamer; he saw cloud patterns reflected on the high, sunlit lakes where he swam and fished; he watched the movement and shimmer of eucalyptus leaves and the play of light and shadow in the hills where he wandered; he felt the deep, challenging rhythm of the ocean on which he sailed."

Max Drake Residence in Coronado. Photo courtesy of Drake's great nephew, Gordon Converse Hiler Drake.

According to Craig Ellwood biographer, Neil Jackson, “Had Gordon Drake not died aged 35 while skiing in the Sierras in 1952, he might have become one of the great names of post-war Californian architecture. As it was, he had not yet finished taking his California architectural licensing exams. Nevertheless his immediate influence can be recognised in the framed terraces and enclosed garden courts of Craig Ellwood's three Case Study Houses of 1953, `55 and `58…“

Designed and built while he was still a student at USC in 1939-40, the ‘House in Coronado’ project was intended for Gordon’s brother Max, a Navy pilot during World War II , who did not make it back from the War.

According to John Crosse, “Gordon Drake received his first architectural notoriety in the spring of 1940, while still a student, for the design of his brother Max's house in Coronado. He designed and built the house in 1939-40, two years after enrolling in USC's School of Architecture and Fine Arts under the tutelage of Carl Troedsson, first as a student and later a draftsman in his private practice. Drake won the special award for architecture in USC's annual Art Appoliad for his "House in Coronado" which was exhibited in the Fisher Gallery on the USC Campus.”

Drake’s architecture, according to Jackson, “…was strongly influenced by Harwell Hamilton Harris who had taught him at the University of Southern California and for whom he had worked before and after the war. It was some indication of Drake's demanding character that Harris later wrote, “When satisfied there was nothing further to be discovered by continuing a design, he dropped it. Knowing this about him,' he added, `it is surprising that I let him come to work for me”. In July 1949, frustrated in his own attempts at architecture, Drake had written to Harris: “It has taken me almost three years to write this letter and perhaps my present low estate was necessary for me to tell you that should I ever arrive at anything of merit in architecture it will be because I was able to work for a time under your guidance.”

“It was from Harris that he had learned the benefits of modular construction and the flexibility of gridded plans. It was not just the simplicity of such systems which appealed to Drake but also what they implied: here was a building process which could provide, at minimum cost, a high-quality living environment even an egalitarian architecture. This was the intent of his first house, built for himself in Beverly Glen, Los Angeles, and the essence of all his later workSurprisingly, Drake never built a Case Study House. Perhaps he died too soon or was too faithfully wedded to timber, for from 1949 to 1960 the eight Case Study Houses which Entenza published had steel frames. Nevertheless, his David Presley House, built in Silver Lake, Los Angeles in 1946 was as experimental as any Entenza promoted….,” Jackson continued.

Drake is buried at Ft. Rosecrans in Point Loma

Max Drake Residence in Coronado. Photo courtesy of Drake's great nephew, Gordon Converse Hiler Drake.

San Diego Project

Lt. and Mrs. H. M. ‘Max’ Drake Residence (ca. 1939-1940)
374 Avenue D, Coronado.

Learn more about California Houses by Gordon Drake HERE.

Read an article on Drake by Craig Ellwood biographer, Neil Jackson, HERE.

Read the 'Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography' on Drake HERE.

Max Drake Residence in Coronado. Photo courtesy of Drake's great nephew, Gordon Converse Hiler Drake.