Harold Newton Abrams

Architect | 1903-1966

Prior to moving to La Jolla (ca. 1926), Abrams designed sets for the movie studios before he moved on to designing homes. In La Jolla Abrams worked for architect Thomas Shepherd (ca. 1928-32) prior to opening his own office in 1934. Several architects worked in Abrams’ office including Sim Bruce Richards (ca. 1944-45), Russell Forester, and Bill Slatton following his work for Frank Lloyd Wright.

Harold ‘Hal’ 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. 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.

Abrams married June Esther Underhill of La Jolla, a UCLA graduate. While 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.”

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 wraparound deck, making a nice home for his family.”

Several architects worked in Abrams’ office over the years 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 – of which Goldwater was quoted as saying, “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 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 Abrams’ 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
7766 Girard Avenue La Jolla

Apartment Buildings (1947)
Six new apartment buildings with 4 units each, Chula Vista

Ascot Shop
7750 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Bank of La Jolla Regional Office (1965)
Located at Acacias and Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe

Building (1937)
7965 Prospect Street

Building (1937)
1495 Coast Blvd, La Jolla

Building (1937)
1497 Coast Blvd, La Jolla

Clairemont Shopping Center (1953-1956)
Designed with architect Earl Giberson for client Burgener and Tavares

Clairemont Subdivision (1950)
Alongside architects Benson Eschenbach and Richard George Wheeler, Abrams worked with clients Lou Burgener and Carlos Tavares on several development projects. Thje Clairemont subdivision was named after Carlos Tavares' wife Marjorie Claire. “Local architects, Harold Abrams, Benson Eschenbach and Richard George Wheeler, designed 20 floor plans for the first development of 500 homes. Built in South Clairemont, these deluxe houses ranged in price from $13,000 to $20,000, featured spacious floorplans, large view windows, fireplaces, tiled bathrooms, paneling and latest kitchen built-ins. After years of housing shortages, San Diegans rushed in to buy these modern homes."

Clairmar Garden Apartments (1948-50)
On La Jolla Blvd between Colima and Turquoise
*Later renamed ‘Park La Jolla’

Commercial Building
*For clients Gordon Gray and W.T. Johnson

Cooks, John House
High Road

Cosel Home (ca. 1967)
1550 El Paso Real, La Jolla
*1967 garden tour highlighted home designed by Harold Abrams as having 15 ft. ceilings, wood paneling, three fireplaces, kitchen has an island cooking area and marble counters.

Fire Station Engine Company 13 Remodel (1936)
7877 Herschel Avenue, La Jolla
*Funded by WPA

Gardanier Apartments (1941)
101 Prospect Street, La Jolla.

Goldwater, Barry Residence (ca. 1941)
Soledad Avenue, La Jolla
*Sim Bruce Richards wrote that he worked on this project while working for the firm (William Templeton) Johnson and Abrams. Richards was childhood friends with Goldwater while growing up in Phoenix and may have been instrumental in securing him as a client for the firm.

Jessops Jewelers
7851 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Kaysen House
6024 Avenida Cresta

Krapp, Judge and Mrs. Frank M. Residence (1936)
7025 Vista Del Mar Avenue, La Jolla

La Valencia Penthouse
Prospect Street, La Jolla

League House Addition (1960)
Pearl and Olivetas Streets
Residence for senior citizens administered by the Social Services League of La Jolla. The two-story addition added 12 new apartments.

Library for Rancho Santa Fe (1966-67)
Avenida de Acacias, Rancho Santa Fe
*Credited “as architect who built many ranch homes and the Plaza Business Complex. Commissioned by Mrs. Helen Weddell.”

McVay, John Residence (1941)
Las Planideras, Rancho Santa Fe

Mosier, Harold A. Residence (ca. 1952)
8303 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla
*Attribution

Richmond, Nicholas Residence (1935)
6240 Waverly Avenue

Skoog, Eleanor N. House (1954)
607 Westbourne Street, La Jolla

Stuards Men's Shop
7817 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Tavares, Carlos Residence

Village Center for Mr. Gifford Cochran Ewing
Rancho Santa Fe