On July 31, 1919, just weeks before his son Davids ninth birthday, George A. Dodge was killed in an automobile accident. The accident occurred in the tiny San Joaquin County town of French Camp—near Stockton—as a result of a collision with a Southern Pacific train. Witnesses described the driver, Robert Oliphant, a steel salesman from San Francisco, as trying to beat the train to the crossing, ignoring its warning whistles. Dodge was pinned beneath the wreckage and died instantly. Oliphant was seriously injured and taken to the local hospital.
This horrific incident snuffed out the life and career of George A. Dodge, a successful San Francisco architect.
George Andrew Dodge was born in San Francisco on September 4, 1864, the third son of David and Catherine (Gentner) Dodge, who had moved to San Francisco from New England earlier that year. By the age of twenty-six, George was established as a professional architect in San Francisco. On June 15, 1893, he married Maude Ellingwood Bennett. The couple set up house in the city and Georges business grew. Their first child, daughter Kathryn, was born in 1899, followed by daughters Frances, born in 1905, and Marion, born in 1907. By the time of Davids birth in 1910, the Dodge family had relocated across San Francisco Bay to Berkeley.
In 1903, Dodge entered into partnership with J. Walter Dolliver (1868-1927) and they worked together up until Dodges death under the firm name Dodge and Dolliver. Together they were responsible for designing and building several public buildings around the Bay Area, including St. Johns Presbyterian Church and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall in San Francisco. Dodge was selected as the lead architect by the Odd Fellows Board to rebuild the Hall (on the corner of Seventh and Market Streets) after the previous building was destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906. Other projects include the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City, Tamalpais Union High School in Mill Valley, the Sonoma County Sheriffs Office and Jail in Santa Rosa, and Carnegie libraries in Palo Alto and Woodland (Yolo County).
In Redwood City, the old San Mateo County Courthouse now serves as San Mateo County History Museum, which is fitting given the buildings own ill-fated history. The marker designating it a historical landmark tells the story and reads, in part: In 1903, the architectural firm of Dodge and Dolliver designed a domed rotunda courthouse. It was completed and ready for occupancy when the 1906 earthquake demolished all but the domed rotunda. The courthouse was reconstructed between 1906 and 1910. Visitors to the museum can still see the Dodge and Dolliver dome.
At the time of his death, Dodge had stopped active participation in the firm in order to take a position as manager of the San Francisco Building Materials Exhibit at 77 OFarrell Street. An obituary published in The Architect and Engineer reported that he worked indefatigably to make the Exhibit a success and his efforts had just begun to show signs of achievement. Shortly after his death, his wife Maude moved to Los Angeles with their four children, Kathryn, Frances, Marion, and young David.
Dodge and Dolliver Projects
St. Johns Presbyterian Church, 25 Lake Street (at Arguello), San Francisco, CA (1905)
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Hall #2, cor. 7th and Market Streets, San Francisco, CA (1908)
Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, Courthouse #2 (aka Old San Mateo County Courthouse), 2200 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA (San Mateo County: 1903)
Tamalpais Union High School District, Tamalpais Union High School, Mill Valley, CA (Marin County: 1908)
Sonoma County Sheriffs Office and Jail, Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County: date unspecified)
Palo Alto Public Library, Palo Alto, CA (Santa Clara County: 1904-1967)
Woodland Public Library, 250 First Street, Woodland, CA (Yolo County: 1903)
Randal Brandt, February 2010. Updated April 2022.
G.A. Dodge Killed in an Auto Race With S.P. Train. Stockton Daily Evening Record. Vol. XLIX, no. 99 (Friday, August 1, 1919): 1.
Geo. A. Dodge. The Architect and Engineer. Vol. LVIII, no. 2 (August 1919): 112.
Lowell, Waverly, ed. Architectural Records in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Guide to Research. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1988 (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, vol. 799): 267.
Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD)
- Dodge and Dolliver, Architects (Partnership): https://pcad.lib.washington.edu/firm/1554/
- George Andrew Dodge (Architect): https://pcad.lib.washington.edu/person/2126/
- John Walter Dolliver, Sr. (Architect): https://pcad.lib.washington.edu/person/2127/
Passing of Architect J.W. Dolliver. The Architect and Engineer, Vol. 90, no. 1 (July 1927): 111.
San Franciscan Killed in Automobile Smash. San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, August 2, 1919): 4.
Sellars, Peter V. The History of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the City of San Francisco. [San Francisco, Calif.: P.V. Sellars], 2007.
Withey, Henry F., and Elsie Rathburn Withey. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased). Los Angeles, Calif.: New Age Publishing Co., 1956: 177 (Dodge), 178 (Dolliver).
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