John Hudson Thomas was born in Ward, Nevada and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Yale University, graduating in 1902. Later that year he entered the U. C. Berkeley Department of Architecture where he studied under Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard. After graduating from Berkeley, he worked for two years in Howard's office. In 1906, he entered into a partnership with George T. Plowman and established an independent practice in 1910.
Thomas' work shows influences of Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner, Charles Mackintosh, and Charles Voysey. He explored a wide variety of styles including Craftsman, Prairie School, Mission, Gothic, Tudor, Art Nouveau, English Cottage, and Viennese Secessionist. His earlier work exemplifies what has become known as the "First Bay Tradition," where clashes in scale and unorthodox juxtapositions of details from a wide range of historical styles were explored with great vigor.
Thomas' work after 1915 is much more tame. There is less whimsy and a more literal interpretation of historical styles. This change in expression mirrors what was happening in Bay Area architecture in general in the 20's and 30's--what has come to be called the "Second Bay Tradition." Throughout his career though, Thomas paid particular attention to the siting of his buildings, taking full advantage streams, views, street exposure, and whatever else the site had to offer. Hallmarks of his work include picturesque silhouettes, bold massings, and always an element of the bizarre.
©1997-2009 Jim Stetson