Watsonville Architect William H. Weeks
Good architecture is one of the components in San Luis Obispo County's blend of past and present, urban and rural, northern-California-woodsy-redwood vs. southern-California-red-tiled Spanish. In part this may be due to the Architecture Department of California Polytechnic State University, whose graduates often choose to stay in the County, thereby adding to our stock of attractive and functional
buildings. But the tradition of interesting architecture has deep roots in county history, starting with the Spanish-style Missions of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa and
San Miguel Arcangel. The designs of the renowned architect Julia Morgan can be seen at Hearst Castle, at the storage and ranch houses on the Hearst property at San Simeon, in the Monday Club in San Luis Obispo, and even in a nearby child's playhouse designed by this most famous of California's women architects. The city of San Luis Obispo even boasts a building designed by the firm of Frank Lloyd Wright. And North-Coast eccentric Art Beal distinguished himself as the designer and builder of
Nitt-Witt Ridge, now a State Historical Landmark. But the
designer who may have made the strongest imprint on San Luis Obispo County
was a hard-working and incredibly prolific architect from
Watsonville, California. His name was William Weeks.
Soon Weeks was bidding on, and winning, contracts beyond Watsonville--in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and other towns throughout California.
He designed schools, libraries, hospitals, banks, hotels, theaters, opera houses, courthouses, private homes, factories, and even jails. He became known as the foremost designer of Carnegie library buildings in California at a time when the Carnegie fortune was determined to put a library in every small town, just as France's King Henri IV had promised his people "a chicken in every pot."
In our county, the cities of San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles were lucky to be in "growth mode" at a time when Weeks was at his most productive. Other
towns in the county were not so fortunate--San Miguel's position as railroad terminus had been pre-empted by Paso Robles, and
its commercial center was dying back as a result of the disastrous drought-years at the end of the 19th century. The beach towns had not yet benefited from the advent of the automobile, and Atascadero was still just a twinkle in the eye of entrepreneur E.G. Lewis.
Copyright © 2001 Lynne
Landwehr. All rights reserved.