John Hudson Thomas

John Hudson Thomas (from great-grandson Justin Patrick Burns)

An early image of John Hudson Thomas

One of my favorite local architects of the Arts & Crafts period is John Hudson Thomas. He was born in Nevada in 1878 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. He completed his undergraduate work at Yale University in 1902. After completing graduate work in the Department of Architecture at U.C. Berkeley in 1904, Thomas spent the next two years working for John Galen Howard, implementer of the master plan for the UC campus, and founder of the school of Architecture in 1903. In 1907 Thomas formed a partnership with George Plowman who had also been working for John Galen Howard. Together they designed more than 50 homes that fall within the styles of the Arts & Crafts movement. Considered one of the most innovative architects of the first quarter of this century, John Hudson Thomas designed homes which defy simple categorization, spanning, and sometimes combining, shingle styles, California bungalow, Prairie, mission, even gothic and chalet elements. He was also a master at combining materials in his exteriors.

In 1910 Thomas set up his own office. At about this time he became familiar with the Seccesionist movement, and for the next several years his works included the use of signature motifs, often geometric patterns carved in the exterior and repeated in wood or tile in the interiors.

John Hudson Thomas has several Berkeley landmarks to his credit, including Hume Cloister in the hills on Buena Vista, the shingle-style Capt. Maury House on Shattuck, and the Prairie style Loring House on Spruce Street. He also designed an amazing four-story shingle and siding home that I sold on Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. It has the most exceptional wainscotting I have ever seen, made from burl from an old-growth redwood tree. I am honored to currently be representing the Pratt-Thomas House at 800 Shattuck, an iconic example of this work using patterns within the heavy stucco finishes, with the design motifs echoed in wood and glass within the interior.

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