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Male, born 1820-11-26, died 1892-10-01

Associated with the firms network

Huerne and Everett, Architects; Huerne, Prosper L.E., Architect and Engineer

Professional History


Huerne worked as a both a civil engineer and an architect in Gold Rush era San Francisco, and proved very versatile in designing the myriad of building types a booming young city required.

In San Francisco, Huerne worked periodically for François Pioche's F.L.A. Pioche, a leading investment house operating in San Francisco from the 1850s through the 1870s. Pioche's establishment raised funds in France and applied them to sizeable, infrastructure and housing projects in San Francisco, such as narrow-gauge, intra-urban street railways, one of which was the Market Street Railway Company. Pioche and his partner, Lester L. Robinson, also founded a number of homestead associations in the Bay Area, including the Noe Garden Homestead Union Association, Market Street Homestead Association, Buena Vista Homestead Association, Visitación Land Company and Redwood City Homestead Association. These organizations sold land to buyers of modest means, who could then pay off their debts over time. (See Mae Silver,, "The Gold Rush Financiers: Pioche and Robinson," accessed 01/17/2019.)

The book, The Bay of San Francisco, stated that Huerne worked as a civil engineer in France, focused on building roadways and bridges: "After graduating he was engaged in engineering in the road and bridge department of the Government—Ponts and Chaussees. Mr. Huerne came to California immediately following the early discovery of gold, arriving in San Francisco June 17, 1850. Unlike most of those who came in the early years of the gold excitement, he did not join the throng hastening to the mines, but applied himself to the demands of his profession, and not only was the first architect of his own nationality to locate here, but is the oldest now in the active practice of his profession." (See The Bay of San Francisco, Vol. 2, [Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1892], p. 452-453.)

The book, The Bay of San Francisco, outlined his work as a civil engineer, mentioning that he was consulted on some important, large-scale works, including the Panama Canal: "Mr. Huerne also had charge of the engineering of several mines. He was the chief engineer of the first Market street railroad. Mr. Huerne is thoroughly devoted to the interests of his profession. In 1881 he went to Panama by invitation of Count de Lesseps, the eminent engineer of that great work, and again during the following year, remaining several months, until taken with the fever and obliged to return, having succeeded to introduce the American mechanics in the canal work. He was engaged to report on the harbors of San Diego, San Pedro and San Francisco. Mr. Huerne is one of the founders of the Society of Architects, and is a member of the California Academy of Sciences and of the Society of Civil Engineers. He has been a contributor to journals of engineering and architecture, and is the author of many valuable papers of scientific and historic interest." (See The Bay of San Francisco, Vol. 2, [Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1892], p. 452-453. Other works mentioned Huerne's role in the initial dredging of the Panama Canal, including David McCullough, Great Moments in History, [New York: Simon and Schuster], n.p., and David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, {New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977], n.p.)

Huerne worked for the diplomat and developer of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894) in Panama in 1883. Huerne was a partner in the firm of Huerne, Slaven and Company, (renamed as the American Contracting and Dredging Company), that obtained a lucrative contract to dredge ten miles inland from the coastal city of Colón, known at that time as "Aspinwall." While in Panama, Huerne also supervised the design of several camps for French workers laboring on the canal's construction and alterations to the Grand Central Hotel in Panama City. The New York Times reported in 1888 that "...Huerne personally was given the contract to dredge 2,000,000 cubic meters at 32 cents a meter. With this contract also was a promise that if the work was well done other contracts would be forthcoming." (See "A Big Suit on Hand; An Engineer Sues H.B. Slaven, the Panama Canal Contractor," New York Times, 03/02/1888, p. 5.) The efforts of de Lesseps's Panama Canal Company spanned the period 1882 until 12/1888, when it declared bankruptcy. Mechanical problems, periodic failures of shoring efforts on rain-soaked embankments, and the scourges of malaria and yellow fever drained the manpower and assets of de Lesseps's company. Additionally, corruption and bribery caused investors to lose confidence in the effort that was liquidated in 02/1889.

In 03/1888, Huerne himself filed suit against his one-time partner, a Canadian druggist named Henry Bartholomew Slaven to recover 4,000 shares in the American Contracting and Dredging Company that had been fraudulently taken from him. Huerne initially formed this company with three other investors, H.B. Slaven, his brother, mechanical engineer, Moses A. Slaven, and Henry H. Lynch. According to a report in the Engineering News-Record, the Slavens Brothers defrauded Huerne in the following manner: "The charge is made that the Slavens went to New York to raise capital, and under a report that they could only do this by making large concessions, induced Huerne to give up 4,000 shares of his 5,000 stock interest. He says he read an agressment to this effect, but that another agreement was substituted for him to sign, absolutely transferring all his interest to the Slavens, excepting the dividents on 1,000 shares of stock. He now sues to recover the other 4,000 shares. The contract, it was claimed was worth a staggering $70,000,000, which, according to the report in the Engineering News-Record, "...should be divided by 10 to be anywhere near the truth." (See "Engineering News," Engineering News-Record, 03/10/1888, p. 173.)

Principal, Prosper Huerne, Architect, San Francisco, CA, c. 1854. See LeCount & Strong's San Francisco City Directory for the Year 1854, p. 73.)

Partner, Huerne and Harant, Architects, San Francisco, CA, 1861-1863. From 1861 until 1863, Huerne and Harant had their architectural office at 811 Montgomery Street. (See San Francisco California City Directory, 1861, p. 371 and San Francisco California City Directory, 1863, p. 399.) The 1861 city directory (p. 185) indicated that Huerne was also a Superintendent of the San Francisco and Mission Raliroad.

In 1862, Prosper Huerne operated the Mission Brickyard, near Mission Delores in San Francisco. He also served as the Chief Engineer of the Market Street Railroad. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1862, p. 208.)

Principal, Prosper L.E. Huerne, Architect and Engineer, San Francisco, CA, fl. 1869-1881. Huerne leased office space in the building at 432 Montgomery Street in 1869. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1869, p. 676.) He was listed in the San Francisco Business Directory of 1875, (p. 804) as a civil engineer, with an office at 702 Washington Street. Two years later, Huerne maintained his office at 126 Kearny Street. The architectural firm of Hoffman and Clinch also occupied this building in 1877. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1877, p. 465.) He continued to lease office space at 126 Kearny Street in 1879. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1879, p. 935.) In 1880-1881, he occupied Rooms #41-42 of the building at 126 Kearny. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1880, p. 461 and San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1881, p. 487.)

Partner, Huerne and [Oliver] Everett, Architects, San Francisco, CA, c. 1883-1891. (See the San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1863, p. 399.) Huerne took on a San Francisco partner while he worked in Panama on the canal and other building projects. In 1883, Huerne and Everett had their firm's office located at 126 Kearny Street in San Francisco. (See the San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1883, p. 1106 and San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1891, p. 725.) They occupied Room #41 in 1891.

His brief obituary in the San Francisco Callstated: "The well-known architect and civil engineer, Prosper L.E. Huerne, died in this city last Saturday at his residence, 15 Ford street. The deceased leaves a widow, but no children. He arrived here from France in 1850, and was prominently connected with the Academy of Science and Territorial Pioneers. His ability was unquestioned, and he was identified with contracts of great magnitude. particularly with the Panama canal." (See "Death of Architect Huerne," San Francisco Call, vol. 72, no. 127, 10/05/1892, p. 5.)



The book, The Bay of San Francisco, Vol. 2, [Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1892], p. 452-453, indicated that Huerne was trained in France at the "Government School of Art and Trade."

Harold Kirker, in his 1959 article, "El Dorado Gothic Gold Rush Architects and Architecture," indicated that Huerne graduated from the State School of Arts and Crafts at Châlons (L'Ecole d'Arts et Métiers of Châlons-sur-Marne). (See Harold Kirker, "El Dorado Gothic Gold Rush Architects and Architecture," California Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1, 03/1959, p. 35. On this school, founded in 1806, see John R. Pannabecker, "School for Industry: L'Ecole d'Arts et Métiers of Châlons-sur-Marne under Napoléon and the Restoration," Technology and Culture, vol. 43, no. 2, 04/2002, pp. 254-290 and and C.R. Day, "The Making of Mechanical Engineers in France: The Ecoles d'Arts et Métiers, 1803-1914," French Historical Studies, vol. 10. no. 3, Spring 1976, pp. 439-460.) The technical school of arts and crafts at Châlons was the first of three founded during the 19th century in France, the others being in Angers (founded in 1811) and Aix-en-Provence (1843).



Born in the Eure-et-Loirdepartment of north central France around 1820 and educated in Chalons, France, Huerne came to San Francisco, CA, on 06/17/1850 aboard the ship, the S.S. Jacques Lafitte. (See Claudine Chalmers, French San Francisco, [Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007], p. 53.) Another source indicated that he arrived on 06/15/1850. (See, "Association of Territorial Pioneers of California," transcribed by Kathy Sedler, accessed 01/17/2019.) His gender and arrival date (before 09/09/1850) made him eligible on 11/10/1874 for charter membership in the Association of Territorial Pioneers of California.

In 1854, he resided on Montgomery Street between Pacific Street and Broadway. (See LeCount & Strong's San Francisco City Directory for the Year 1854, p. 73.)

The 1860 US Census indicated that he lived with his wife, Zoe Zelie, in San Francisco. His profession was recorded as an "architect." (See, Source Citation Year: 1860; Census Place: San Francisco District 10, San Francisco, California; Roll: M653_67; Page: 251; Family History Library Film: 803067, accessed 11/30/2017.) He resided at 241 Stevenson Street in San Francisco in 1861.

In 1870, Huerne and his wife, had a boarder, Louis de la Perrière, (born c. 1807 in France), and two servants, La Noy Ah (born c. 1843 in China) and Ah Yoo Ah (born c. 1837 in China) and their child, Ca Sion Ah (born c. 1864 in China). The spellings of the boarder and servants' names are all probably incorrect on the census form. (See, Source Citation Year: 1870; Census Place: San Francisco Ward 11, San Francisco, California; Roll: M593_84; Page: 575A; Family History Library Film: 545583, accessed 11/30/2017.)

The San Francisco City Directory, 1873, indicated that he lived on the west side of Sanchez Street between 17th and 18th. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1873, p. 318.) He and Zoe lived in San Francisco in 1880, according to the US Census of that year. (See, Source Citation Year: 1880; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 78; Page: 382A; Enumeration District: 175, accessed 01/16/2019.) While Huerne worked in Panama in 1883, he continued to make his address on Sanchez Street. (See San Francisco, California, City Directory, 1881, p. 573.)

By 1889-1890, he lived at 15 Ford Street in San Francisco.

Huerne died on 10/01/1892, and was buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Colma, CA.


His father was Louis Théodore Huerne.


He married Zoe Zelie Huerne (born 12/11/1828 in Nemours,France-died 04/06/1907 in San Francisco, CA). (See, Source Citation Year: 1860; Census Place: San Francisco District 10, San Francisco, California; Roll: M653_67; Page: 251; Image: 251; Family History Library Film: 803067, accessed 09/01/2016.)

After Prosper's death, Zelie continued to live at 15 Ford Street in San Francisco. (See San Francisco City Directory, 1897, p. 889.)

She may have been reinterred at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, Colma, CA.

Biographical Notes

The architect was also an inventor, having filed a patent in 01/1873 for " improved water-filter to be attached to water-faucets in buildings for the purpose of filtering the water which is used for drinking purposes." (See "135,222, Filters, Prosper Huerne, San Francisco, Cal.," Specifications and Drawings of Patents Issued from the U.S. Patent Office, United States Patent Office, 01/28/1873, p. 684.)

Huerne and his wife were devout Catholics. In her will, Zoe Zelie Huerne left eight contributions to the Catholic Church in San Francisco and France in order for them to fund the poor and pray for both of their souls. A partial list of her charitable bequests included: Saint Joseph's Hospital [$100], Youth's Directory [$100], Alliance Francaise [$100], French Mutual Benevolent Society of San Francisco [$100 for its relief fund], French Ladies Benevolent Society of San Francisco ($300), French Library Association of San Francisco [$100], French Church, Notre Dame des Victoires [$300], Saint Francis Church of the Mission Dolores [$200], Sister of the Holy Family [$100], Little Sisters of the Poor ($200), Roman Catholic Church of Pontgoin [Eure et Loire, $200 for the poor of the parish], Priest of Pontgoin for mass for the Huerne Family ($150), Roman Catholic Church at Nemours for annual masses for the repose of the souls of the Gillet, Maufrais, Blanchard and Tillion Families ($100), Priest of Newours [$100].) (See, Source Citation Author: California. Superior Court (San Francisco County); Probate Place: San Francisco, California, accessed 01/17/2019.) Huerne designed the residence of the Archbishop of Oregon City in Portland in 1879, A note in the San Francisco Call stated on 09/30/1900: An anniversary requiem high mass will be celebrated for the repose of the soul of the late L.E. Prosper Huerne at the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, Bush street, below Stockton, to-morrow (Monday) commencing at 9:20 o'clock. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend." (See "Births-Marriages-Deaths," San Francisco Call, vol. 87, no. 122, 09/30/1900, p. 38.)

Huerne was credited with working on the docks and street railways of San Francisco between 1890-1892.

Associated Locations

PCAD id: 3710