Local Architecture: Irving Gill’s Lewis Courts

Growing up in San Diego, I have had the pleasure of seeing much of Irving Gill’s architecture in person. From various residences to the Women’s Club and my middle/high school in La Jolla, his work is so reflective of the tenants of simple, modern design. Moving to Sierra Madre, I loved to drive around and one day drove up Mountain Trail and saw a row of buildings that looked very Gill-like to me….. Run home, google, and yes! The Lewis Courts, one of his first “social architecture” projects (built in 1910) still stands here in our small town.

Sadly, as is the case with so much historic architecture, the courtyard-style apartments are only a small reflection of what they once were. The courtyard, around which the complex was designed and oriented, is now filled with a large post-war apartment building that is incongruous in both style and scale. Peeling paint and cracking stucco also tell of the years of wear and tear that the buildings have endured. But…..there is life there still- good bones, great lines, good light….and people are still living and using the buildings every day. That is significant, and comforting. Also impressive, these apartments were designed and built before our 1912 bungalow, and yet they look modern, current and timeless….interesting.

If you are ever in this neck of the woods, drive up Mountain trail, almost to the top, and you will see them on your right…best seen in the early more or dusk, in my opinion. Worth the drive….

Historic courtyard image courtesy of San Diego History Center.

One Response to “Local Architecture: Irving Gill’s Lewis Courts”
  1. MJ says:

    I’ve always loved those apartments, even if they aren’t at their best. Thanks for the architecture lesson 🙂

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