Member News

Obituary: Robert W. Winter, Ph.D. (1924–2019)

by Ann Scheid and Pauline Saliga | Apr 09, 2019

Robert Winter passed away on February 9, 2019, at his home in Pasadena, California. Born in Indianapolis on July 17, 1924, he grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, and entered Dartmouth College in 1942. From 1943 to 1945, he served in the U. S. Army Air Corps, returning to Dartmouth to graduate in 1947 with an A.B in history. He then earned a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, writing a dissertation on the organic principle in architecture.

Bob came to Southern California in 1956 to teach American history at UCLA. His favorite Dartmouth professor, Hugh Morrison, had already introduced him to Southern California architecture, including Neutra and Schindler, and the Greenes. Seeking a better architectural environment, Bob soon moved to Pasadena, where he lived in the Earnest A. Batchelder house, purchased from the eminent landscape architect, Francis Dean. By this time, Bob was teaching at Occidental College, not far from Pasadena. Recognizing the special character of Pasadena, Bob and some colleagues organized an exhibition, California Design 1920, which broke new ground in historical research on the California Arts and Crafts movement. Bob’s essay for the exhibition catalogue on Pasadena’s “Arroyo Culture,” a term he coined, described the work of the architects, writers, artists, and craftsmen who had created Pasadena’s distinctive culture and built environment that had a national impact in the early twentieth century. His scholarship on the bungalow revived interest in a building type that had originated in California and spread across the nation, even as far as Australia. The exhibition catalogue became the first of many publications by Bob and others on the important figures of the movement.

Bob’s classes at Occidental were a hit with the students. He inspired enthusiasm in his students by taking them on bus tours to show them the great buildings and neighborhoods of Southern California. Active in the early preservation movement, he wrote Pasadena’s preservation ordinance and served on the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board. He also found time to found the Southern California Chapter of the SAH in the Gamble House living room in the 1960s.

Bob’s most significant work, however, was A Guide to Architecture in Southern California, first published in 1965, and written with his good friend, David Gebhard, noted architectural historian at UC Santa Barbara. The book went through five editions, with the sixth just published in January 2019, shortly before Bob’s death. At the book signing at Occidental, he was thrilled to see many of his former students and other fans who came to honor him.

Ann Scheid, Curator
Greene & Greene Archives, University of Southern California

In addition to teaching and writing, Bob was an active member of SAH for more than 50 years where he planned memorable educational programs. With Ken Breisch, Bob served as the Local Co-Chair for the 1998 SAH international conference in Los Angeles. Bob’s engaging teaching style extended to the sold-out study tours he organized for SAH. They included three he co-organized with Pamela D. Kingsbury—the 2003 "America’s Heartland" tour, a week-long bus tour to tall grass prairies and iconic architecture in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, including Bertram G. Goodhue’s Nebraska State Capitol (1920–1932) in Lincoln. The positive response to Goodhue’s work led to a 2004 SAH study tour, "Goodhue’s New York," focusing on the architect’s ecclesiastical and residential work, as well as West Point. The following year Bob and Pamela organized a study tour focusing on the "Arts and Crafts Architecture in Pasadena: Before, During and After," where Bob called on his many friends and admirers to open their Arts and Crafts homes to the delight of all. It was this introduction to Pasadena that led SAH to hold two annual international conference there in 2009 and 2016. Bob’s generous nature and wicked sense of humor will be remembered fondly by all who studied, work and traveled with him. His scholarly legacy on the architecture of California, Los Angeles, the Arts and Crafts movement (including the bungalow), and the Heartland lives on.

Pauline Saliga, Executive Director
Society of Architectural Historians


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