Boulder City Magazine® July 2007 Issue
|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride,
Boulder City Museum & Historical Association
Gordon B. Kaufmann
The Bureau of Reclamation’s first design for Hoover Dam wasn’t very attractive or innovative since engineers weren’t too concerned with aesthetics. This design included Mission-like appurtenant structures, cornices, and statues of eagles. In fact, this first design resembled a little too closely the St. Francis Dam in Southern California which burst in 1928, killing hundreds. Before construction on Hoover Dam began the Bureau hired noted architect Gordon B. Kaufmann as consultant. One look at the original designs and Kaufmann threw them out.
Kaufmann had come to the United States from England in 1914 and built his reputation in Southern California with designs for the Los Angeles Times building, educational structures at Scripps College and the California Institute of Technology, as well as the Santa Anita race track and Los Angeles Turf Club. What Kaufmann envisioned for Hoover Dam was a classic “form follows function” design where there was no embellishment for its own sake but instead an integrated structure where features such as the elevator towers, the crest, the powerhouses and the arch itself were one streamlined structure whose relatively plain surfaces were relieved by angle and shadow. Kaufmann’s design was striking and brought a unique aesthetic to Hoover Dam noted throughout the world.
Kaufmann’s work in Nevada didn’t end with Hoover Dam. At the outset of World War II Kaufmann was enlisted to design structures for Basic Magnesium Inc. in the new town of Henderson, and throughout the 1940s he designed a number of buildings in Boulder City which still stand.
|The first was the Visitors Bureau building on the corner of Arizona Street and Hotel Plaza, built from pre-fabricated concrete blocks. This building today houses Verizon wireless communications and Chiarelli’s Deli.
Boulder City Magazine®
|Kaufmann also designed the Boulder City Junior-Senior High School on Fifth Street in what was one of Boulder City’s finest examples of Mid-Century architecture. Finally, it was Gordon B. Kaufmann who designed the residence at 550 California Avenue, which today is the Treasured Times Tea House.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.
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