Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) were brothers born in Brighton, Ohio, now part of Cincinnati. The boys spent part of their childhood living on their mother’s family farm in West Virginia while their father, Thomas, attended medical school in St. Louis, Missouri. The brothers developed a love of nature during those West Virginia years that would be ever-reflected in their art.
By the time the boys were teenagers, their father, now a respiratory physician, had moved the family to St. Louis and enrolled the boys in the Manual Training School of Washington University. Here, beginning in 1883 and 1884, respectively, they studied woodworking, metalworking, and toolmaking. The family lived in a small, poorly ventilated apartment during those years, and their father’s professional concern with the need for sunlight and freely circulating fresh air would come to influence them later in their work.
Their father decided for them that the two should become architects, and at his urging, enrolled at the School of Architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They grudgingly studied the traditional classic styles, hoping only to gain certification for apprenticeships with architecture firms upon graduation, which they accomplished — Henry finally settling in with the H. Langford Warren firm, and Charles with Winslow and Wetherell, among others.
Then in 1893, their parents, who had moved to the “little country town” of Pasadena, requested that their sons move out to California and join them. The brothers did so, and the cross-country trip proved fortuitous: while passing through Chicago, they stopped at the World’s Columbian Exhibition and for the first time saw examples of Japanese architecture. Their immediate admiration of the style would become a strong influence on their later designs.
Soon after their arrival in Pasadena, Charles and Henry set up shop together, and the architecture firm of Greene & Greene was born. Their art would culminate between 1907 and 1909 with the construction of the “ultimate bungalows” — one of which is the Gamble House in Pasadena.