A trio of events will be hosted by the Santa Monica Conservancy in celebration of the architectural accomplishments of John Byers. John Byers was a renowned Santa Monica architect who incorporated authentic craftsmanship typical of Mexican and Latin American homes using adobe walls, terra cotta roof and floor tiles, handcrafted wood and wrought iron. He became a leader in popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style.
SUNDAY, JUNE 1 at 3:30 PM: John Byers lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1260 18th St, Santa Monica 90404.
The week preceding the tour, USC Assistant Professor Ken Breisch will give an illustrated lecture on John Byers at 3:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 18th and Arizona in Santa Monica. The church is also a Byers design. Breisch is on the faculty of USC’s Heritage Conservation Program and president of the National Society of Architectural Historians.
SUNDAY, JUNE 8 FROM NOON to 5 PM: John Byers tour. A self-guided tour of four early John Byers homes and Byers’ Miles Playhouse in Christine Reed Park will be featured on the Santa Monica Conservancy’s annual architectural tour. Docents will provide detailed information at each site.
Wristbands and tour booklets will be provided at check-in at 2101 La Mesa Drive, Santa Monica, 90402. Please plan on at least 3 hours to see all five tour sites.
SUNDAY, JUNE 8 FROM 5 TO 7 PM: A separately ticketed post-tour reception is a fundraiser to support the Conservancy’s educational programs. It will take place at a 1925 Byers adobe house originally owned by a member of the Carrillo family. The Carrillos were prominent in the early history of California and Santa Monica. The home’s current owner, a celebrated chef, is catering the reception.
If you have purchased tickets for the reception, please join us at 1602 Georgina Ave, Santa Monica, 90402.
Ticket prices are as follows: Lecture $15/ $10 for SM Conservancy members; Tour $45/$35 for SM Conservancy members; Reception $125/$100 for SM Conservancy members; Tour & Reception: $150/$125 for SM Conservancy members.
To purchase tickets visit www.smconservancy.org or mail a check by June 4 to the Santa Monica Conservancy at P.O. Box 653 , Santa Monica , CA 90406 . State the number of tickets requested, email and phone number contact information. A limited number of tickets may be available on tour day. Tickets and tour booklets will be provided at check-in at 2101 La Mesa Drive, Santa Monica , 90402. Questions can be answered by leaving a message at 310-496-3146 or emailing email@example.com.
A native of Michigan, Byers received a degree in Electrical Engineering from of the University of Michigan and went on to do graduate work at Harvard University. He became an English teacher at the North American Academy in Montevideo, Uruguay, before coming to Santa Monica in 1910 to chair the Romance Languages Department at Santa Monica High School. It is thought that during his time in Latin America he became enamored with the architectural vernacular he called, “Latin Houses.”
He began his architectural career building residences for W.F. Barnum, principal at Santa Monica High School, and for himself. Hired as a translator for Mexican workers building an adobe house in Brentwood, he became involved in its design and construction, leading him to pursue a new career as a builder and architect.
Byers was inspired by the vernacular building traditions of Hispanic cultures, designing in the Mexican Colonial the Spanish Colonial and the Monterey styles. To obtain quality handmade products, he opened his own tile factory at 26th and Colorado where workmen used their thighs as forms to shape the wet clay for curved rooftop tiles. The workshop also produced floor tile, decorative tile, wrought iron and woodwork.
By 1926 Byers was a licensed architect. His office was at 246 26th Street, now remodeled as a restaurant. Among his clients were Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, Shirley Temple, Joel McCrea, Laurence (Buster) Crabbe, and King Vidor. He went on to design Ray Bradbury’s house, a ranch house at the Getty in Malibu, and the Club House at Brentwood Country Club, where he was a member and an avid golfer.
Byers died in Santa Monica at the age of 91 in 1966. His home on La Mesa Drive, where he lived for nearly 30 years, will be open for the tour.
For more about the Conservancy’s plans to rehabilitate the City’s landmark 1890’s shotgun house as the Preservation Resource Center, click here.