by William A. Gage, Department Head
Harold G. Stoner (1890-1971) was an American architect and artist who lived in San Francisco and worked in the early and mid-20th century and helped define some of the architectural style of the San Francisco area. Born in Brighton, England he moved to Canada in 1908 and completed schooling in design drafting at the University of Saskatchewan. After graduating he worked for the Provincial government and went into private business. He next moved to the San Francisco area in 1915 and worked with the architect George Dixon in Oakland. He fought in France in WWI and shortly after became a US citizen. After working for several architectural firms he settled into the firm of Lang Realty Company as their chief architect in 1921. He worked on many of the housing developments in many of the San Francisco neighborhoods including the Marina, Monterey Heights, Sherwood Forest and many others.
Although most of Stoner’s work was involved in residential housing he did work on some commercial projects which became his most acclaimed work. These included the Tamalpais Theatre in San Anselmo, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch at the Golden Gate International Exposition and Sutro’s Ice Rink. Two of his works are included in the National Trust Guide to Art Deco in America (Independent Order of Forester’s Lodge Hall and the Streamline Moderne Lakeside Medical Center Building). One of Stoner’s best achievements was designing “La Avenzada” the magnificent medieval mansion atop Mt. Sutro. It was featured in a 1930 issue of Architecture and Allied Arts. It succumbed to neglect and in 1948 was raised and replaced by the giant Sutro Tower which still stands today.
In 1937 Stoner was involved in the redesigning of the Tropic Beach into an ice rink. He was instrumental in designing the steel trusses which allowed an unobstructed area for the ice rink. It was on the walls of the ice rink we see Stoner’s artistic talent. Large murals surrounded the rink but succumbed to fire as the Sutro Baths burned down in 1966. It is this artistic talent we see in the oil painting that will be featured in our annual summer auction. It is in mural format with an image of Stoner kneeling down and at his feet are architectural blueprints. He is overlooking a large bridge being completed over the San Francisco bay with the city’s skyline beyond. It is signed “Stoner” and dated 1926. It was during this time when the city was soliciting plans and design concepts for the bridge that was to span the bay. In his vision is a bridge with an Art Deco design. Whether he fancied his participation in this project or was asked to participate, it was the prize of any architect at that time in the “City by the Bay.”
As Jacquie Proctor says, “throughout San Francisco and beyond, Harold G. Stoner’s British architectural philosophy and artistic talent have given the Bay Area a unique and timeless legacy that enriches the architectural character of some of its most beautiful neighborhoods.” For more information on Harold G. Stoner’s architectural legacy see Jacquie Proctor’s book: Bay Area Beauty: The Artistry of Harold G. Stoner, Architect.