May is National Historic Preservation Month and the Coronado Historical Association is celebrating by highlighting the places and buildings that make our community special. Despite being closed, CHA's research volunteers are busy working from home to continue expanding our knowledge about Coronado's past. One of the projects that they are working on is to write biographies of architects to add to an index of architects who have known work in Coronado. Below are two new architect biographies compiled by CHA research volunteer Cornelius O'Leary.

Reginald Davis Johnson

compiled by Cornelius O'Leary

Johnson focused on the Los Angeles area and southern California in general, with a mixture of residential and commercial work. Johnson's later work was influenced by his progressive ideas on housing policy. In the 1920s he designed houses in Montecito and Pasadena. In 1926 he designed what is now the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. In 1931 Johnson won an award for best design for a small house, receiving the award from Herbert Hoover.Reginald D Johnson was born in New York on July 19, 1882, the son of Joseph Horsfall Johnson, who would become the first Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles. Johnson studied architecture in Paris and then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1910. He returned to Pasadena where he based his practice. His father would consecrate St. Paul's Cathedral in Los Angeles in 1924, designed by Reginald.

Although he became noted by designing houses for the rich, he also designed more affordable housing, a cause that assumed greater importance to him as the Great Depression wore on. Johnson designed Rancho San Pedro for Los Angeles as a public housing project in 1939. Through the 1930s Johnson worked on the design of Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles, which was designed as an up-to-date community of inexpensive housing.

Johnson’s only known work in Coronado was at 708 A Avenue (pictured above). The two-story house was built in 1915 and designated as a Historic Resource in 2013. It is an example of the Italian Renaissance architectural style with a stucco exterior and a double hipped roof with two chimneys at the center.

He died in Pasadena in 1952 at the age of 70.

Thomas Shepherd

compiled by Cornelius O'Leary

Thomas Leroy Shepherd was born in 1897 in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University in New York, where he studied architecture. Although Shepherd studied in the United States, his designs were clearly influenced by his travels in Europe, particularly from the Mediterranean region. He moved to southern California in the 1920s working in Pasadena. He then went on to work for noted architect George Washington Smith in Santa Barbara.

In 1926, he relocated to La Jolla. While he worked designing residences throughout the San Diego region, he primarily designed subdivisions in the La Jolla area. He briefly entered into partnership with Herbert Mann, also a Master Architect. This partnership was dissolved in 1932.

In 1936 he competed his only known work in Coronado at 732 I Avenue. He partnered with a notable San Diego Master Builder, Edward Depew and  his Depew Building Company.  This was Depews’s only known partnership with Shepherd. Shepherd designed the home exhibiting the defining features of colonial revival style architecture.

In addition to his houses, Shepherd designed the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, the Marine Room, the Spanish‐style Arcade building and an addition to the La Valencia Hotel. His architectural influence on La Jolla is substantial as he designed buildings and homes primarily in the community throughout his lengthy and prolific fifty‐year career. 

Shepherd was recognized as a Master Architect by the City of San Diego. He passed away at the age of 82 in 1979.

Architect biographies compiled through the use of:
Coronado Historic Resource Commission  Agendas &Minutes
City of Coronado's Searchable Register of Designated Historic Resources 
Coronado Designated Historic Resources Map
Biographies of Established Masters - City of San Diego 2011
California Digital Newspaper Collection
City of San Diego Historical Resources Board minutes
San Diego History Center website
Modern San Diego website
Legacy 106 website
Friends of San Diego Architecture website
California Historical Resources Inventory Database, City of San Diego
The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects
Save Our Heritage Organization
Internet Archive