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John August Reed (b. 1926)


David Reed Residence (1956)

Among the founders of the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, John Reed left the US Army in 1946 and within a couple of years had designed his first building; a beach house built while an associate of Lloyd Ruocco (in 1948). He then worked three years with Lloyd Wright (in Los Angeles) before working as an associate with Sim Bruce Richards (between 1953-1955). John would relocate to Los Angeles, grow a firm peaking at nearly two-dozen employees, and later scale back to form a practice with his son, and become responsible for designing over 500 projects. John Reed continues to practice at age 81.

The story starts with John’s grandfather retiring to San Diego in 1913. Soon after the birth of grandson John, the family left Ohio to clear up grandpa’s estate in San Diego in 1932. John’s family lived in Mission Hills. Young John attended school at Francis Parker.

Before joining the War effort (he enlisted at age 16 and entered the war in 1945 at age 18), John studied industrial design and roamed San Diego learning about the region’s architectural assets. He discovered Irving Gill while reading “Sticks and Stones” by Lewis Mumford (published in 1924). John, out of the military by 1946, entered USC’s School of Architecture in 1947. While still engaged in San Diego’s recent architectural history and its progressive movement (Gill and others), the young Reed’s USC classmates were none other than Conrad Buff, Donald Hensman, Thornton Ladd, Henry Hester and Pierre Koenig. Among his teachers (and dinner partners) were Gregory Ain and Garrett Eckbo.

During the summer of 1948, away from campus, John helped nail together Lloyd Ruocco’s La Mesa architecture studio (adjoining his Il Cavo home prior to building the Design Center in 1949/50) for whom he worked as a draftsman for a short while. Here he designed the Baranov Beach House, which was built, in 1949, after he returned to his coursework in Los Angeles. At the time of his summer employment, John introduced Lloyd to several Reed family friends - the Baranov, Burnett and Goodman families all would become Ruocco clients. While playing classical 78s in the office, John assisted the team of Ruocco and Jim French on the Holmgren and Jacobsen residences.

During this same summer, and among his return trips to San Diego John would borrow his father’s car (and gas card) and drive around San Diego hunting for notable architecture. During one of these trips he set his eyes on Sim Bruce Richards’ Cohu Residence (1948) and Richards Residence #1 (1949). He searched out the young building designer at his first office on Pearl Street (a pre-fab 20’ x 40’ one-board-thick cottage circa 1915) in La Jolla and started a long-term friendship.

John broke from coursework for a short time, in favor of working for Lloyd Wright. Between 1948-1951 John made $50/week helping out Frank’s son on working drawings for Wright’s Wayfarer’s Chapel (built between 1949-1951) in Rancho Palos Verdes. He would later finish his studies and pass his exams in 1956.

Between 1953-55 John Reed became an associate to Sim Bruce Richards. Renting living quarters in the back of Richards’ Prospect Street office, Reed worked from his own drafting table as well as collaborating on Richards’ projects such as the Olney Residence (1954). During this time, John completed RM Schindler’s Schlessinger House (1952-54) “…Schindler's final complete design, realized the year before his death.” Reed helped the client, a philosophy professor at Los Angeles City College, finalize Schindler’s drawings into a more structurally sound, potentially longer-lasting home.

Not that John designed buildings with three sides (The Triangle House) nor in threes (Spec Houses 1-3, 4-6), but two of John’s most notable (and publicly viewable) projects are two sets of Spec Houses. Following the development of a large parcel of land on Bangor and Gage streets, John sold the houses one by one through local realtor Betty Tate. In exchange for part of the purchase(s), Betty threw John a small parcel of land on Macaulay Street in Point Loma where he designed three row homes for sale (as well) through Tate. Just a stone’s throw from Nimitz, these three tiny homes (1,000 square feet) sit on 2,500 square foot lots.

John Reed's interest as an Irving Gill historian began while growing up in San Diego. Having lectured throughout Southern California on Gill's work as early as 1954, Mr. Reed assisted Esther McCoy with her book “Five California Architects” in 1959. Among his activities in Los Angeles, John joined The Architecture Panel aiding in shows on Frank Lloyd Wright (in 1956!), RM Schindler, Welton Beckett and Victor Gruen; published a book “Irving Gill 1870-1936” in 1958 (with The Art Center of La Jolla and LACMA); worked with others to launch a symphony, as well as a museum of modern art.


Spec House #3 (1960) and Spec House #1 (above)

Partial List of Early Projects

6 Residences for Fergen & Griffin (Designed 1963, Built 1964)
3438, 3442, 3446, 3434, 3428 and 3424 Alabama Street

Chew, John Residence (1959)
1576 Everview Road, Linda Vista

Costa, Joseph Residence Addition (1964)
3311 Trumbull Street, Point Loma


Imperial House Apartments

Imperial House Apartments (1961)
Several 400 sq ft apartments and two penthouses
2812-2886 Upshur Street, Point Loma

Katz, J. Residence (1957)
Los Angeles


Luana Apartments - Photo by Charles Aqua Viva ca. 1961

Luana Apartments (1961)
Crown Point

Rabin, Seymour Residence (1957)
3692 Liggett Drive
Later remodeled by Henry Hester

Reed, David Residence (1955)
1541 Garrison Place

Reed, John Residence #1
Los Angeles

Reed, O.P. Residence (1960)
Malibu, CA
This house is pictured in “1868-1968 Architecture in California"


Rosenblatt Residence

Photograph by Darren Bradley

Rosenblatt Residence (ca. 1956-57)
1689 Los Altos Road, Pacific Beach


Spec House #1 (1954)

Spec House #1 (1954)
946 Bangor, Point Loma
Also known as the John Reed Residence, Slocum Residence and triangle house. From the street, it is evident that this series of boxes is influenced by California Modernism, while from the valley below its Wrightian window assemblage is quite the opposite. John lived in the house for a short time following its completion. 1990 second story addition, interior renovation and structural changes were done by San Diego architect Steven Lombardi. Theatrical siting of this house can be seen from Talbot (canyon below).


Spec House #2 (circa 1955)

Spec House #2 (circa 1955)
999 Gage Drive, Point Loma
Next door (to the east) of Spec House #3, this is also know as the Lindsey Residence (the house’s first occupant). This is the second project from the coordinated land purchase and re-development of a large parcel of land at the north end of Bangor and the land below at the corner of Gage and Talbot streets. John and Sim Bruce Richards partnered on buying the land, making the required (by the City of San Diego) improvements and developing the land into several buildable (and unbuildable) parcels. Richards Residence #3 sits on the remaining parcel that John did not develop.


Spec House #3 (1960)

Spec House #3 (circa 1960)
995 Gage Street, Point Loma
Also known as the 8-Sided Star House, the structure of two interlocked square volumes offset 45-degrees. The exterior walls created by the solid square, or cube, become interior organizing volumes. While the original owner has maintained the exterior and landscape impeccably, additional fencing disallows understanding the concept fully. Best viewed from directly above in the Triangle House's living room or deck.


Spec House #4 (1958)

Spec House #4 (1958)
3226 Macaulay Street, Point Loma

Spec House #5 (1958)
3222 Macaulay Street, Point Loma

Spec House #6 (1958)
3218 Macaulay Street, Point Loma


Villa Point Loma Apartments (1964)

Villa Point Loma Apartments (1964)
3742 Curtis Street, Point Loma


Villa Point Loma Apartments (1964)