"We don’t give a damn about your fame but we do like your prowess at golf"
--Arthur Brown to Edward H. Bennett, Undated
Arthur Brown Jr. (1874 — 1957) was an American architect based in San Francisco. He and Bennett met when Bennett lived in San Francisco between 1890 and 1895. They both studied under Bernard R. Maybeck, who sent them each of them to study at Paris' École des Beaux Arts, where they both graduated from in 1901. Brown and Bennett remained friends throughout their lives despite living in San Francisco and Chicago, respectively. Below are letters from Lake Forest College's Edward H. Bennett Collection, the dates of which range from 1908 to 1943.
How are you? Your various communications have been received with pleasure, and only a lack of anything of interest to recount has prevented a more precipitous response. As you know, I lead a down hill existence. At present we are up to our ears in uninteresting and the cheapest sort of work. Cheapness is the only quality that anyone seems to demand of us. Why is it I wonder, when we care so little about it? We are certainly the candy cheap guys, and yearly incomes also tend to prove it. I have been interested in hearing the occasional rumors that drift to these parts concerning E Bennett. Your work on the Chicago scheme has interested me—what I have seen of it. I shall hope soon to see more. What have you been doing this winter apart cela? Any more affairs de coeur? Apropos. I think that Miss M. Bourn would like to see you if you happen to be in New York these days. She will pass through Chicago about the 1st of May. Why don’t you drop her a line at the Gotham Hotel, 5th Ave and ask when she is to go through for I am sure she wants to see you again. Surely that will do no harm and it will be a great pleasure to M.B. who, d’ailleurs, I shall expect to bring me fresh news of you.
Please forgive my intrusion into your arrangements but you understand and please do as I have suggested. Today is the anniversary of the earthquake. It has been rather a mix up since that time hasn’t it? Of for the good times on the Peaks. I often look up there and long for those foggy evenings spent so cheerfully about the big fireplace when I used to make myself a nuisance by my famous and inimitable readings from the eighteenth century French, and the bully sleeps I had in the gallery with no place to urinate but out of the window. Please come back and revive the old regime. A visit, at least, is about due us. Come out and inspect something. With best regards and good wishes for Mr. Burnham and the petits comrades. Believe me always
April 18th, 1908
A very nice sort of correspondent you are indeed! As it is, report of you comes filtered through Willis’ imagination. Which, when distilled by [unknown] becomes thin and meagre enough. When are you coming to visit us. I hear sometime soon and hope that it is true. We still continue to live a self-absorbed existence trying to keep up courage in a rather desolate milieu. Did you know that we have the Berkeley City Hall? That is some consolation. I have just passed a happy weekend at Grass Valley. Do you ever have regrets at not going there more often? The young lady claims to be heart-free, etc.! And I have wondered if that would not seem glad news to you. Write me soon and tell me about yourself and others and when you are coming out.
July 29, ‘09
My dear Ben,
I was very glad to get your very improving work. Thank you very much. It has an honored place on the special shelf of my library with the Guadet and the Blondel. I had hoped to get a chance to read it through before writing to you but it is such a serious job that I haven’t been able to do it in yet. Glancing through it as I have done, I was very much pleased with the general schemes and the development of the principal motifs. The presentation has been very wisely calculated to appeal to the layman I think without scaring him with too much technique. Now that you have come to a resting place in the big work I suppose you are taking a little time for recreation. By any chance will you come to us? I am hoping that you will, and we would do our best to give you a good time. We shall have a new club house to entertain you in. We are still jogging along without much to inspire or enthuse. A few houses, a factory, a railway station, all cheap and mean, that is all. California is very beautiful always and that helps. So far this year no vacations. I wouldn’t know what to do were I to have one. Bourgeois is still with us. Struggling with the emotions. Johnie grinds along patiently, playing golf in the intervals. I still play around with your friends in San Francisco. I see the Josselyns very often. I am hoping to get away to the East in the Autumn and if I have good luck I will arrange it. Then I shall surely see you. Au revoir, be good and let me hear from you.
I was very much touched at getting the book.
Tuesday Mar 22
Please don’t think me a perfect beast. I have been very happy to have word of you this winter but just as I would get ready to write there would come another word from some wide & distant point. Your address has been so peripatetic. Any how I have been hugely pleased to hear from you and most of all that we are to have a glimpse of you. This is a formal invitation for you to come to me at the University Club or I’ll know the reason why not. R.S.V.P. We are all crazy to see you. We don’t give a damn about your fame but we do like your prowess at golf as well as your face & figure. I am in doubt where to send this missive but am trusting the Commercial Club will get you.
A bientot & affectionately
Wire me when you arrive & I will endeavor to get the civic bodies—Elks etc to go to the station, at any rate, myself.
The Hoover Tower Library at Palo Alto, which I have been designing.
275 ft high
6895 Monkland Ave.
Thanks for your two last letters. I thought these articles in the “Times” would interest you. I have [unknown] article no. 2 which I enclose.
We have had a coolish and rather damp summer, but preferable to the sometimes unbearably hot ones we ordinarily get.
I’m leading a rather lonely life of it since Annie’s death and the fire in the furnace etc. Harry wants me to pay him a visit in a while and look around with a view to retiring to his there, but the idea does not now appeal to me, my roots are too deeply set in this [unknown] land. And I have a business, small as it is, that bears watching, so I shall try to hang on as long as I can.
I came across the enclosed design for a bungalow that you were good enough to send me now getting on to fifty years ago! When H & J were in Florida. I thought you’d be amused, particularly at the ‘gator making a meal of a pickaninny.
This morning I went to the service at Christ Church Cathedral. Tis a rather fine type of a cathedral but not of course a large one, and Annie & I went there fairly often passing to the higher one. But I find much comfort in the thought that she may not be very far away after all, and that we may be reunited in the not very far off future. I made a break away from the house last week & pumped into my motor and drove up to Cornwall, Ontario, a small town about 70 miles away, by myself, as a friend who would have accompanied me could not go. C. is nothing much of a town, but it is the scenery [unknown] that’s so attractive. Great views of our great St. Lawrence River and of fields and woodlands. Annie loved that drive and she was greatly in my mind as I took it.
As the French here say: ‘L’river l’approache’ and soon I shall be struggling with double windows. Nowadays I’m rather prone to listen in to the church services regularly broadcasted here. On Friday night last the archbishop of Canterbury gave a very fine address which came fully clearly.
The war news of late is very heartening. It looks as if the fighting may be over in 1944, but not without further ‘blood, sweat and tears’ I’m afraid.
With all good wishes to you & yours.