Harold Newton 'Hal' Abrams (1903-1966)
Harold Abrams was born in Evansville, Indiana on March 17th, 1903. The eldest of five children, a young Harold went to work to help support his family after completing the 8th grade. According to San Diego Architects 1868-1939, “His father, a carpenter, could not afford to send the children to high school. Abrams furthered his education while an apprentice through night school and correspondence courses. Early in the 1920s, he left Buffalo, New York, and travelled to Hollywood…”
In Los Angeles Abrams designed sets for the studios including the films Wings and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, before he moved on to designing homes for the stars, the entrance to Paramount Studios and “…some principal Los Angeles civic buildings,” according to his obituary.
By 1926, Abrams moved to La Jolla. He worked for architect Thomas Shepherd (ca. 1928-32) as a draftsman, before, in 1933, he graduated from Columbia University.
Abrams married June Esther Underhill of La Jolla, a UCLA graduate, and although the couple made their permanent residence in La Jolla, Abrams also owned a number of ranches in Southern California, one of which was near Campo, where the couple enjoyed their leisure time. Abrams enjoyed rural living, according to his obituary, “…at one time he was a forest ranger.”
Moving to La Jolla in 1926, Abrams established his design practice. Securing his California Architectural License (No. 118) in 1933, he officially opened his own office in 1934 at 908 Silverado while living nearby at 7623 Girard Avenue.
In 1935, Abrams designed a Library for the San Diego City Engineer's Office that was to be built at 8th and E Streets. This major project was later enhanced and built by his friend and colleague William Templeton Johnson (Johnson, Hatch & Wolff) in 1952.
In May 1939, ‘Hal’ married his 23-year old secretary, Jane, at La Jolla Congregational Church. Their son Clem Harold Abrams, named after Hal’s dad, was born on July 31, 1940. Jane would petition for divorce in 1953.
In 1942, Abrams volunteered as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers – where (as did his peers Lloyd Ruocco, Russell Forester and Sim Bruce Richards) he designed structures for the War effort. Abrams was reportedly “…making enough money to develop his own home from a recycled barracks building from nearby Camp Callen. He pulled a permit to move the building on rollers to the new site and added two wings and a wrap around deck, making a nice home for his family.”
Several architects worked in Abrams’ office including Sim Bruce Richards (ca. 1944-45), Russell Forester (possibly having worked on the Clairmar Garden Apartments with Richards), and Bill Slatton – who arrived in San Diego in 1959 after working for Frank Lloyd Wright.
According to Sim Bruce Richards, “I had met Harold Abrams, a gentle sensitive architect in La Jolla who also loved houses, and went to work with him. One of my first jobs was to design a La Jolla house for Barry Goldwater. Barry said, “Well, we’re the first Jews to break the barrier in La Jolla.”
While working for Johnson & Abrams, Richards worked on the Barry Goldwater Residence, an apartment complex to be built on La Jolla Boulevard and a ‘small house’ project of which a rendering attributed to Sim Bruce Richards was published in a San Diego newspaper.
In 1956 his office was noted at 1150 Silverado – while he reportedly lived in a cottage behind this address. By 1959, Abrams and his brother, Everett (also an architect), moved their offices next to one other. Harold Abrams died at his home on December 29th, 1969. His obituary listed him as a past president of the San Diego Chapter of the AIA, and that he had passed away in his home at 7540 High Avenue in La Jolla.
Partial List of Projects
Adelaide's Flowers Building
Bank of La Jolla Regional Office (1965)
Clairemont Shopping Center (1953-1956)
Clairemont Subdivision (1950)
Clairmar Garden Apartments (1948-50)
Commercial Building (date TBD)
Cooks, John House (date TBD)
Cosel Home (ca. 1967)
Fire Station Engine Company 13 Remodel (1936)
Gardanier Apartments (1941)
Goldwater, Barry Residence (ca. 1941)
Jessops Jewelers (date TBD)
Kaysen House (date TBD)
Krapp, Judge and Mrs. Frank M. Residence (1936)
La Valencia Penthouse (date TBD)
League House Addition (1960)
Library for Rancho Santa Fe (1966-67)
McVay, John Residence (1941)
Mosier, Harold A. Residence (ca. 1952)
Richmond, Nicholas Residence (1935)
Skoog, Eleanor N. House (1954)
Stuards Men's Shop (date TBD)
Tavares, Carlos Residence (date TBD)
Village Center for Mr. Gifford Cochran Ewing (date TBD)