Wright, George Alexander

WRIGHT, George Alexander (1852-1918), a leading architect in San Francisco and partner in the following firms in that city:

Wright & Polk, 1904-1906
Wright, Rushforth & Cahill, 1907-1913
Wright & Rushforth, 1913-1918

In 1910 the firm in San Francisco decided to open a branch office in Vancouver, B.C., headed by William T.S. Hoyt. Their most important commission in the city was the 6 storey Holly Lodge Apartment Block, Vancouver, B.C., 1910, and the firm obtained other commissions in Victoria and Vancouver during the boom in construction activity in 1910-13. Wright was born in Plymouth, England on 1 June 1852 and trained under Alfred Hudson, an architect in Southsea, from 1876 to 1881. He then worked briefly for Thomas Hellyer of Ryde, Isle of Wight, from 1881 to 1885, and opened an office under his own name in Southsea and Wimbledon in 1885. He emigrated to the United States in 1890 and settled at Alameda, Calif. where he acted as advisory architect to the City, and to the School Board, helping them select designs for public schools, libraries, and for the City Hall. One of the first architects Wright met in California was Augustus Laver, who he learned had also trained under the same British architect, Thomas Hellyer, but with 20 years intervening. When Laver died in 1898, several of Laver's most valued watercolour perspective drawings then became the property of Wright.

Wright opened an office in San Francisco in 1895 and worked as an architect, building surveyor, and briefly served as Editor of the journal called The Pacific Builder. In 1904 he invited Willis Polk, a leading San Francisco architect, to form a partnership. The events surrounding the San Francisco earthquake likely led to the dissolution of their firm; by 1907 Wright had formed a new office with George Rushforth of Stockton, Calif., and with Bernard J.S. Cahill of San Francisco. His contribution to the practise seems to have been as a specialist in construction rather than in design. In a tribute to his late partner Wright, published in 1918, Rushforth noted that “..his speciality was construction rather than designing”, and it is likely that projects by the firm in Vancouver and Victoria are from the hand of Bernard Cahill, not Wright, as Cahill is acknowledged as the lead designer in their office.

Wright joined the Royal Institute of British Architects in London in July 1911 (biog. R.I.B.A., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, Vol. ii, 2001, 1071), and after Cahill left the practise, Wright continued to work in partnership with Rushforth until 1918. Wright died in San Francisco on 2 March 1918 (obit. and port. The Architect [San Francisco], xv, March 1918, 190; Architect & Engineer [San Francisco], lii, March 1918, 89-90; A.I.A. Journal [Washington], vi, April 1918, 200; Building News [London, England], cxiv, 22 May 1918, 377). Biographies of each of the three partners in the firm appear in H. Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects, 1956, 104-05, 532 and 673. An essay on the Canadian work of Wright, Rushforth & Cahill can be found in D. Luxton, Building The West: The Early Architects of British Columbia, 2003, 488, 525.


(works in Vancouver, B.C.)

HOLLY LODGE APARTMENTS, Jervis Street at Burnaby Street, 1910 (Vancouver Daily World, 23 April 1910, Section Three, p. 1, illus. & descrip.; C.R., xxiv, 1 June 1910, 40, illus. & descrip.; 8 June 1910, 27; Vancouver City Directory, 1911, advert. for Wright, Rushforth & Cahill, 174; Const. [Toronto], vi, March 1913, 37, illus. in advert.; Pacific Coast Architect [San Francisco], vii, May 1914, 109, illus.; Vancouver Heritage Inventory - Summary Report, 1986, 28, illus.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
VANCOUVER CITY HALL, perspective drawing of proposed City Hall, but not built, 1911 (Architect & Engineer [San Francisco], xxvi, Aug. 1911, 50, illus.)
ANGLO-CANADIAN WAREHOUSE CO., Beatty Street, a 6 storey warehouse, 1911 (C.R., xxv, 19 July 1911, 64, t.c.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
BEATTY STREET, an 8 storey warehouse for H.T. Devine, 1912 (Province [Vancouver], 29 June 1912, 25, descrip.)

(works in San Francisco)

THE GRAND HOTEL, 1909 (Architect & Engineer [San Francisco], xvii, June 1909, 72, illus.)
SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL, Market Street, 1911, a temporary City Hall to replace the original building destroyed in the earthquake of 1906, and later converted to the Whitcomb Hotel in 1917 (Architect & Engineer [San Francisco], February 1911, 93; xlix, June 1917, 51-56, illus. & descrip.)