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Male, US, born 1871-05-15, died 1936-10-27

Associated with the firms network

Kelham and Day, Architect and Engineer; Kelham, George William, Architect; Trowbridge and Livingston, Architects

Professional History


Kelham was listed in the Boston, Massachusetts, City Directory, 1889, (p. 700) as a clerk working at 101 Devonshire Street in Boston. His name appeared in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, city directories for 1890-1892, as working as a clerk in Boston. (His name appeared on p. 291 of the 1890 directory, p. 300 of the 1891 directory, and p. 265 of that of 1892. His business address was not included in the 1892 listing.) In 1890, there were 18 architectural firms located on Devonshire Street, forming a relatively dense concentration. Some notable architects operated on Devonshire Street at the time, including such partnerships as Lockwood, Greene and Company (131 Devonshire), Peabody and Stearns (62 Devonshire) and Rotch and Tilden (85 Devonshire). It is possible that Kelham worked as a clerk in one of these firms before moving to New York, NY, in the mid-1890s, and finding work with the new, but prestigious, firm of Trowbridge and Livingston, c. 1898.

Evidence of Kelham's work with Trowbridge and Livingston is relatively scant. The Catalog of the Annual Exhibition of the Architectural League of New York, 1900, listed Item #844, "Dwelling in Course of Construction at Tuxedo Park, NY--Plan of First Floor and Grounds," by Trowbridge and Livingston, G. Kelham, Draughtsman." (See Catalog of the Annual Exhibition of the Architectural League of New York, 1900, [New York: Architectural League, 1900], p. 51.)

Kelham may have collaborated with Nelson Goodyear (1872-03/1917), an heir to the immense Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company fortune, to produce an uninvited competition design for a Washington, DC, Public Library building financed by a $350,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. (See Catalog of the Annual Architectural Exhibition by the T-Square Club, [Philadelphia: T-Square Club, 1899] , p. 26, and the Quarterly Bulletin of the American Institute of Architects, vol. I, no. 1, 04/1900, p. 12.) It appears that Goodyear and Kelham had a short-lived partnership that was located at 255 4th Avenue in New York, NY, in 1899. At about the time that Goodyear and Kelham were collaborating, the former worked as a draftsman for the New York architectural firm of Howells and Stokes.Goodyear attended the École des Beaux-Arts studying in the Atelier Du Monclos, and could have provided Kelham many details about the school's operation and methods. By all accounts, Goodyear was a brilliant man, both an artist and an inventor, an expert in the use of acetylene in engineering. (SeeJohn Mead Howells, "Nelson Goodyear, Architect and Inventor," Architectural Record, vol. XLII, no. 3, 09/1917, p. 265.)

Designer, Trowbridge and Livingston, New York, NY, c. 1898-1909; Kelham traveled as Trowbridge and Livingston's Project Supervisor for Palace Hotel, San Francisco, CA, 1906-1909. Trowbridge and Livingston maintained an office in the Crocker Building from at least 1907 until 1909, with Kelham as its supervisor. Kelham was still listed as being an employee of Trowbridge and Livingston in the San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1909, p. 882. Additionally, the Crocker-Langley San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1909,(p. 1710). did not list him as an independent architect, which it did in 1910 (p. 1846).

Principal, George W. Kelham, Architect, San Francisco, CA, 1910-1936; from 1910-1912, Kelham continued to work in the Crocker Building, where the Trowbridge and Livingston office had been. From 1913-1924, Kelham's office was located in the Sharon Building, 55 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco. This would have made sense, as the Sharon Family owned the Palace Hotel, and may have invited Kelham to lease space in their building. Buoyed by lucrative commissions during the 1920s, Kelham, in 1928, could afford costly, upper-floor office space in Room #1600 of the building at 315 Montgomery Street.

Kelham's career was not without controversy. In 1913, three members of San Francisco's American Institute of Architects (AIA)--John Galen Howard, Frederick H. Meyer and John Reid, Jr.,-- formed a panel consulting with the City of San Francisco on the design of its Civic Center. One of the members, Reid, also happened to be Mayor James Rolph's brother-in-law. A group led by architects Edgar Matthews, William Mooser, W.H. Topke, and William Baker Faville, leveled charges of "evasion, duplicity and discourtesy" against the three because design work for the city went to the three and was not put up for a competitive design process. George Kelham supported the three accused and actually served as the "defense attorney" in the AIA chapter hearing. The San Francisco Call stated on 04/26/1913: "The chapter [Matthews et al.] claimed the consulting board deceived it about the character of work they were to do for the city; that they were led to believe the real work was to be allotted after a competition, instead of which it was done by members of the board." (See "Architect Board Sustains Charges," San Francisco Call, 04/26/1913, p. 3.) The AIA San Francisco Chapter voted 40-25 to condemn the three, but conferred no punishment on them. This was the first time that Kelham squared off against Matthews.

In 1914, he was accused by Matthews of plagiarizing Cass Gilbert's 1912 plan for the main Detroit Public Library. On 05/13/1914, the Sacramento Union wrote: "Edgar Matthews, an architect, filed a protest with the San Francisco public library trustees today in which he charges that the trustees, in accepting the plans of George Kelham for the new million-dollar public library, allowed an almost exact replica of the public library of Detroit to be foisted upon them. Drawings of the front elevations of the two libraries were submitted with the protest for the purpose of showing similarity." (See "Plan of Library Said to Be Old," Sacramento Union, no. 15, 05/15/1914, p. 1.) The Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Public LIbrary found the charges to be "unfounded" about two days later, as reported in the Sacramento newspaper. (See "Architect Cleared of Copying Charge," Sacramento Union, no. 17, 05/17/1914, p. 24.)

The Architect and Engineer covered this plagiarism controversy in its issue of 05/1916: "Although the board of library trustees is the formal defendant in the suit, and is expected by Mathews to finish the golden recompense if he is successful, the real targets for his pointed shafts are Kelham and two of the judges in the competition, Cass Gilbert, the famous New York architect who won the prize for the Detroit Public Library, and Paul Cret, professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, who served as one of the judges in the Detroit competition which Gilbert won. Mathews says that before the local competition started Kelham had full knowledge of the fact that Gilbert had won the Detroit competition with a 'peculiar and unusual' design, and that Cret had been one of the judges of that competition. Acting on this knowledge, Mathews says, Kelham submitted a design in which the front and side elevations were almost identical with the design by which Gilbert won the first prize at Detroit. In fact, the complaint charges, Kelham employed to assist him a draftsman who had assisted Gilbert in evolving the Detroit design. By thus following the lines of Gilbert's masterpiece, Mathews says, Kelham played upon the vanity and self-esteem of the New York architect who was judging the local competition, and also played upon the same human frailties in Paul Cret, who had voted for Gilbert's design in the Detroit competition. All of which contentions by Mathews are considered ridiculous by most of the members of the profession." (See "Mathews Sues San Francisco Library Trustees," Architect and Engineer, vol. XIV, no. 2, 05/1916, p. 71.)

Professional Activities

Chairman, Architectural Committee of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, CA, 1912-1915; Kelham received wide praise for his leadership of the PPPI. An editorial published in the Pacific Coast Architect stated: ""He [Kelham] has perhaps devoted more time and thought to the work of construction, and supervision of construction of the entire Exposition, than any other single individual, and to him is due the greatest credit for his important part in building this Exposition--a work of construction and beautification that represents an investment of approximately $50,000,000." (See "Editorial: Art and Nature Personified," Pacific Coast Architect, vol. IX, no. 2, 02/1915, p. 51.)

Vice-President, San Francisco Society of Architects, San Francisco, CA, 1917.

Supervising Architect, University of California, 1922-c. 1930; Kelham designed several buildings at the University of California, Berkeley, (UCB), and was a pivotal figure in the development of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Campus.

Chairman, Architectural Commission of the San Francisco Bay Exposition, San Francisco, CA, 1935-1936, also known as the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE).

Kelham was a patron, along with Arthur Brown, Jr., of the studio of the San Francisco Architectural Club, c. 1911. (See E.H. Hildebrand, "Work of Architectural Club Atelier," Architect and Engineer of California, vol. XXIII, no. 3, 01/1911, p. 75.)



An earlier version of PCAD (pre-08/12/2017) stated of Kelham's education: "B.A., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA;Diplôme,École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris, 1896." It has been widely reported that George W. Kelham attended Harvard University and obtained a degree in architecture. Take for example, Kelham’s obituary in the New York Times that stated, "After studying architecture at Harvard and in Paris and Rome, Mr. Kelham began his profession here in 1898." (See “George W. Kelham, Architect, Is Dead,” New York Times, 12/09/1936, p. 27.) After checking Cambridge, MA, city directories, and theHarvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates 1636-1930,(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1930), it appears that he did not attend Harvard. Alumni directories, abundant for Ivy League universities of this period, did not list him. It is also likely that he did not study in Paris at theÉcole des Beaux-Arts. When his brother passed away in a elevated train accident in 10/1895, he was reported to have been living with his mother and brother in New York City; sources had him being at theÉcolein 1896. In 1924, Kelham applied for a US Passport for a European vacation with his wife and son, and on this document he indicated that he had “never been abroad.” (See, Source Citation National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2618; Volume #: Roll 2618 - Certificates: 466350-466849, 06 Aug 1924-08 Aug 1924, accessed 08/12/2017.)

This is a sad and remarkable fact about an architect who would move at the highest levels of architecture on the West Coast, always claiming a first-class educational pedigree. It is known, however, that his brother, Frederick Keffer Kelham, attended Harvard University, graduating in 1888. (See Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates 1636-1930,[Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1930], p. 1334.) Frederick died in an elevated railroad accident on 10/12/1895. He was admitted to the bar in 1894, after attending Columbia College Law School for two years. (See "Obituary: Frederick Keffer Kelham, '88,"Harvard Crimson, 10/14/1895.) When his brother died at an early age, George would have been able to claim a Harvard degree without fear that his brother might dispute his claim. Having lived in Cambridge for a few years and having had his brother attending Harvard, George could have picked up enough information about the school that he could pass convincingly as a graduate of it himself. He lied to gain access to architectural firms that would have been off-limits without an elite academic pedigree. Personal pressures may have made the urgency to lie greater. His mother lost her husband and two sons prematurely, and George may have felt great pressure to succeed professionally to bolster her spirits and to enable himself to provide for her.

Regardless of his educational qualifications, it is clear that George Kelham got an education in architectural practice somewhere. This had to occur in either Boston or New York before his hiring at Trowbridge and Livingston, c. 1898. He may have picked up the rudiments of mechanical drawing as a boy in school or in his parent's furniture business. He needed more experience to gain entrée into a high-powered New York office, however, and for this it is likely that he "clerked" in a Boston architectural firm before moving to New York. Not only did he learn the rudiments of drawing, but he must have become quite good at architectural drafting and sketching to impress highly-trained architects.



In 1880, George W. Kelham lived with his parents in Manchester, MA; Daniel and Mary Kelham were prosperous enough in 1880 to retain a servant, Maria M. Duffy, (born c. 1859 in Ireland). Kelham and his wife resided at 1945 Pierce Street from at least 1909-1914 (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1909, p. 882) and 30 Florence Street in San Francisco in 1916-1917. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1917, p. 1112.)

In 1890, George W. Kelham lived with his mother and brother at 16 Prescott Street in Cambridge, MA. His brother, Frederick, was a student at Harvard University, at this time. George worked as a clerk at 101 Devonshire Street in Boston. It is not known where he worked, but it is likely that he was employed in an architectural office in this neighborhood. There were at least 18 architectural offices on Devonshire Street in 1890. (See Boston, Massachusetts, City Directory, 1890, pp. 1419-1420.)

George may have moved to New York with his elder brother, Frederick, and mother, by 1893 or 1894. It is known that George lived in New York by 1895. Frederick relocated to New York by 1893 according to accounts published at his death in 1895. "...The young man came originally from Boston and had been in New York only two years. He lived at No. 160 West Ninety-second-st. with his mother, who is a widow, and a brother. [Frederick] was a Harvard graduate and took a course in law at Columbia College. Before being admitted to the bar he served for a time with a firm of lawyers in order to get practical experience. He had an office until a few days ago at No. 140 Nassau-st., but changed from there to a building in Nassau-st., near Wall." (See "A Young Lawyer Killed," New York Tribune, 10/13/1895, part II, p. 13.) It is very possible that Frederick had been something of a role model for George; he had graduated from Harvard, studied to become a professional in graduate school, worked with a professional firm to gain "practical experience," and then went on to open his own office.

Kelham was sent by Trowbridge and Livingston to supervise the Palace Hotel's construction in either late 1906 or early1907. His name appeared in the Crocker-Langley San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1907, (p. 902), as an employee of Trowbridge and Livingston living at 2517 Broadway. His mother, Mary, had moved West to reside with him at this time. He moved to lodgings at 1945 Pierce Street in 1908, although his mother was not listed as residing here at the time. (See the Crocker-Langley San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1908, p. 989.)

Between c. 1918-1928, Kelham, his wife, son, and a servant, Gertrude Hall (born c. 1891 in Norway) lived in a residence at 98 Sea Cliff Avenue in San Francisco. The US Census of 1920 noted that the Kelhams lived with their son, Bruce (born 12/17/1906 in San Francisco, CA-d. 12/14/1963 in San Francsico), at the Sea Cliff residence, along with a servant, Gertrude Hall, (born c. 1890 in Norway).

Ten years later, they dwelled at 2350 Scott Street in a residence worth a substantial $50,000. (They now had servant Sho Iwanaga [born c. 1865 in Japan] working for them.)

Kelham died in 1936, and was interred at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, CA.


George W. Kelham's paternal grandparents were Daniel Kelham, Sr., (c. 1809-1884), and Rachel C. Kinsman Kelham (c. 1811-1897). In 1860, the family lived together in Manchester, MA, where Daniel Kelham, Sr., was a reasonaly prosperous "cabinet manufacturer" who had some real estate worth $6,000, and a $2,000 personal estate. (See, Source Citation Year: 1860; Census Place: Manchester, Essex, Massachusetts; Roll: M653_500; Page: 671; Family History Library Film: 803500, accessed 08/13/2017.) Ten years later, the year before George's birth, the family continued to live together and its wealth had increased significantly, its real estate having increased to $8,000 and their personal savings amounting to $16,000. (See, Source Citation Year: 1870; Census Place: Manchester, Essex, Massachusetts; Roll: M593_611; Page: 755B; Image: 242271; Family History Library Film: 552110, accessed 08/13/2017.)

His father, Daniel Kelham, Jr., (born 09/11/1837 in Manchester, MA-d. 04/15/1883 in Manchester, MA) served in the Civil War as a 25-year-old, and worked, like his father, as a furniture dealer in Manchester. The 1880 US Census indicated that he continued to work as a furniture dealer. He married George Kelham's mother, Mary Isabella Brown Kelham, (born 11/24/1846 in Manchester, MA-d. 11/19/1915 in San Francisco, CA), on 10/26/1865 in Manchester. (See Source Information Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013, accessed 08/13/2017.) Daniel and Mary had at least three sons: Frederick K. Kelham (born 08/11/1866-10/12/1895), George, and Daniel III (12/29/1872-10/13/1874). In 1880, Daniel and Mary's family, lived just down the street from his father, Daniel, Sr., who was also a furniture merchant. George's father died at a relatively young age, 45, in 1883, leaving a widow in her 30s to care for two sons. By 1895, both Frederick and Daniel III had died quite young, leaving only George.

According to a US Passport application, Mary resided in New York, NY, in 1902, near her only surviving son, George. She was to take a trip to Dresden, Germany, at this time, accompanying her nephew, the son of the Columbia University French professor, Adolphe Cohn (1851-1930). (See, Source Citation National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Emergency Passport Applications (Issued Abroad), 1877-1907; Roll #: 40; Volume #: Volume 074: Germany, accessed 08/12/2017.) At age 68, she passed away in the city in which her son resided, San Francisco, at the Hotel Cecil. (See Source Information Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013, accessed 08/12/2017.)


He married Katherine Taft Bruce Kelham, (born in Madison, WI, 05/17/1875) on 04/23/1901 in Cincinnati, OH; her father had been born in NY, her mother, OH.


He and Katherine had one son, Bruce Kelham, (born 12/17/1906, San Francisco, CA-died 12/14/1963, San Francisco).

Biographical Notes

Soon after arriving in San Francisco, Kelham was noted in the society pages of the San Francisco Call, golfing with H.C. Breeden, Director of the San Francisco Savings Union, and other local business leaders. (See "Society by the Outsider," San Francisco Call, 10/16/1910, p. 46.) He was noted in 1911 as playing for the San Francisco Golf and Country Club team playing a match against the Claremont Country Club. (See San Francisco Call, 04/15/1911, p. 18.) Kelham would have found golf to be an effective means of meeting potential wealthy clients and socializing with existing ones.

Kelham took his first trip abroad in 1924, visiting England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland; he was accompanied on this trip by his wife and son, Bruce. They left for Europe from New York, NY. (See, Source Citation National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2618; Volume #: Roll 2618 - Certificates: 466350-466849, 06 Aug 1924-08 Aug 1924, accessed 08/12/2017.)

According to the New York Times, Kelham belonged to Company K, Seventh Regiment, New York National Guard. (See "George W. Kelham, Architect, Is Dead," New York Times, 12/09/1936, p. 27.)

Associated Locations

  • Manchester, MA (Architect's Birth)
    Manchester, MA

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PCAD id: 294

Anglo and London Paris National Bank of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA1908-1910San FranciscoCA
City and County of San Francisco, Public Library (SFPL), Main Library #5, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA1915-1917San FranciscoCA
Continental National Bank Building, Downtown, Salt Lake City, UT1924Salt Lake CityUT
Dollar, John Harold, Building, Downtown, San Francisco, CA1920San FranciscoCA
Farmers and Merchants Bank, Branch, Stockton, CA1917StocktonCA
Hills Brothers Coffee Company, Plant, San Francisco, CA1926San FranciscoCA
Mills, Darius Ogden, Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1890-1891San FranciscoCA
Mount Davidson Cross, Mount Davidson, San Francisco, CA1934San FranciscoCA
Palace Hotel #2, San Francisco, CA1906-1909San FranciscoCA
Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), Master Plan, San Francisco, CA1912-1915San FranciscoCA
Russ Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1928San FranciscoCA
San Francisco Golf and Country Club, Club House, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), Marina Middle School, Marina District, San Francisco, CA1936San FranciscoCA
Security 1st National Bank, Office Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1922
Sharon Building, South Beach, San Francisco, CA1811-1912San FranciscoCA
Shell Oil Company of California, Office Building, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1929-1930San FranciscoCA
Standard Oil Company of California, Office Building #2, Financial District, San Francisco, CA1922San FranciscoCA
Standard Oil Company of California, Office Building, Los Angeles, CA1923-1924Los AngelesCA
Stanford University, Roble Hall #2, Stanford, CA1917-1918StanfordCA
United States Government, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Headquarters #1, San Francisco, CA1920-1924San FranciscoCA
United States Government, Postal Service (USPS), Main Post Office #3 and Federal Court House, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA1897-1905San FranciscoCA
University of California, Berkeley (UCB), Engineering Materials Building, Berkeley, CA 1930-1931BerkeleyCA
University of California, Berkeley (UCB), International House, Berkeley, CA1928-1930BerkeleyCA
University of California, Berkeley (UCB), Life Sciences Building, Berkeley, CABerkeleyCA
University of California, Berkeley, Men's Gymnasium, Berkeley, CA1932-1933BerkeleyCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Bridge, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA1926-1927Los AngelesCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Haines Hall, Westwood, Los Angeles, CALos AngelesCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Kerckhoff Hall, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA1931Los AngelesCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Men's Gymnasium, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA1932Los AngelesCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Moore Hall, Westwood, Los Angeles, CALos AngelesCA
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Powell Library, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA1927-1929Los AngelesCA
Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Building, Downtown, San Diego, CA1912San DiegoCA
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