Education and Early Career:
Coming to Pasadena, Early Commissions
“They are artistic both by instinct and by education.”
~Pasadena Star, heralding the new practice of Greene and Greene,
December 29, 1894
Charles and Henry Greene opened their practice in January 1894 on the corner of Colorado Street and Raymond Avenue in Pasadena. Following the New York Stock Exchange crash of 1893, the brothers had elected to leave Boston — the “Athens of America” — and its less promising professional prospects to join their parents in this new Southern California community. By then, Pasadena had become a bustling suburb of 10,000, a popular resort town for wealthy Midwesterners seeking a warmer climate and exotic surroundings. Promotional brochures described its “Spanish Breezes, Italian Sky and sunsets, Alpine mountains, tropical luxuriance of vegetation,” while the variety of its architectural styles — from Moorish to Mission to “Swiss chalet” — offered further validation.
The Greenes’ early commissions were modest (under $3,000) and came mostly from local residents — the president of a Pasadena bank, the owner of the local meat market, physicians. The 1896 office building for local land investors Joseph N. Kinney and Bela O. Kendall was the largest commercial commission the brothers received in these years. While its structure incorporated recent technological advances, the ornate classical detailing of its exterior was largely conventional.
Stylistically, the initial domestic designs of Greene and Greene also tended toward the derivative, as the brothers plumbed the past and then-popular East Coast styles for inspiration. Commissions for the homes of James Swan and Winthrop B. Fay demonstrated both a willingness to experiment and to accommodate clients’ desires, if occasionally to the detriment of aesthetic harmony. Such early experiments served as a kind of apprenticeship, from which the Greenes learned how to procure and manage clients, amass a list of reliable contractors, and further solidify the partnership that would make for a successful and productive practice.
Next: An Enlightened Client