Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - performing arts structures

Designers: Kaufmann, Gordon B., Architect (firm); Gordon Bernie Kaufmann (architect)

Dates: constructed 1930

2 stories

551 South Hill Avenue
California Institute of Technology Campus, Pasadena, CA 91106

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Building History

British-born Los Angeles architect Gordon Bernie Kaufmann (1888-1949) designed many Southern CA university buildings during the 1920s-1930s, at Scripps College, Claremont College and Caltech, including the South Houses (often referred to as the "South Hovses," 1931), a dormitory complex. The Athenaeum, according to the Caltech web site, " a prestigious private club promoting social, cultural, and intellectual interaction within its membership and the community it serves. The club provides a meeting place to stimulate friendship and the exchange of ideas among lovers of science, art, engineering and literature." It was completed in 1930, and in 2013, had over 4,000 members. (See "About the Club,"Accessed 12/04/2013.)

Early Caltech Trustee Allan C. Balch (1864-1943) and his wife, Janet Jacks Balch (1863-1943), provided the funding for the Athenaeum, and had worked with Kaufmann at Scripps College, where he designed Janet Jacks Balch Hall in 1929. Janet Balch had come from the wealthy land-owning family of David Jacks (1822-1909) in Monterey County, and Allan had been an engineer, active in setting up electrical utlities in Seattle, Portland, and Southern CA. Balch moved from the Pacific Northwest down to Los Angeles during the great recession of 1893-1897; he began collaborating with Los Angeles businessman William Kerckhoff (1856-1929) and the electric rail entrepreneur and financier Henry Huntington (1850-1927) to own and manage three large utilities providing electric power to the fast-growing LA region. Balch and Kerckoff owned a significant block of shares in Huntington's Pacific Light and Power Company, a large gas and electric utility.

PCAD id: 2010