by Cornelius O'Leary, CHA Research Volunteer
William Templeton Johnson was born in 1877 in Staten Island, New York. Johnson came to San Diego in 1912 shortly after his studies at the L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He and his wife relocated to San Diego, primarily due to his wife’s family’s interest in Coronado and San Diego.
From 1912 to 1916, he established his own architectural firm. In 1912, he designed the Francis Parker School “quadrangle” plan buildings and several residences in both Coronado and San Diego. When Irving Gill closed his office in 1916, Johnson became perhaps the leading architect practicing within San Diego. Although Johnson was comfortable with the architectural styles of the era, his preference for structures with “Mediterranean” character prevailed.
In San Diego, he participated in numerous designs including the 1915 Panama Califomia exhibition buildings in Balboa Park. He also designed the Serra Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the La Valencia Hotel, and the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank.
From 1930 through 1933, he was involved with several construction projects in Balboa Park, including the base for the statue of El Cid Campeador and the design of the Museum of Natural History.
Between 1935 and 1938, he designed several public structures for the Federal, City, and County governments including the County Administration Building. From 1939 until his retirement in 1955, his architectural firm designed a number of residences, at least ten school buildings, the San Diego State University Master Plan, and the main branch of the San Diego Public Library.
For his contributions to the city, San Diego designated Johnson as a Master Architect.
Johnson was a resident of Coronado for a number of years in the early 1900s until he moved to San Diego. He designed and built a number of Coronado homes. Four of his designs were designated as Historic Resources.
- 1236 Alameda Boulevard was the first house designed by Johnson. Built in 1912, the home was designated as a Historic Resource in 2002 as an example of the Italian Renaissance architectural style. Johnson lived in this house while waiting for his home on Ocean Boulevard to be finished.
- 1111 G Avenue was built in 1914. The home was designated as a Historic Resource in 2006 as a special element of Coronado's cultural, social, and architectural history and as an example of the Craftsman Bungalow architectural style. For this home, Johnson teamed with local builder S. D. Chapin.
- 1117 G Avenue was built in 1915. The home was designated as a Historic Resource in 2004 for its association with significant individuals William Templeton Johnson and Clara Sturges Johnson and as an example of the Transitional Ranch architectural style. For this home, Johnson again teamed with the builder S. D. Chapin.
- 1000 Glorietta Boulevard (pictured above) was built in 1916. The home was designated in 2007 as a Historic Resource, as an example of the Pueblo Revival architectural style. For this home, Johnson teamed with the builders Winter and Nicholson, and renowned landscape architect Kate Sessions.
Johnson died in October of 1957 at age 80.
Architect biographies compiled through the use of:
Coronado Historic Resource Commission Agendas & Minutes
The 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