Milton T. Pflueger, College of the Holy Names architect

New College of the Holy Names Campus Photo 1

You might not recognize the name, but if you live in the Bay Area, you are likely familiar with the work of College of the Holy Names architect Milton T. Pflueger.

Younger brother of colorful architect Timothy Pflueger, Milton Pflueger’s contribution to the cityscape of prominent Bay Area public buildings includes the cross-shaped, fourteen-story Joseph M. Long-Moffitt Hospital at UCSF, the University of San Francisco Library, campus buildings at University of San Francisco and City College of San Francisco, city buildings such as Old City Hall in Modesto, and Cowell Hall at the California Academy of Sciences.

Pflueger collaborated with Theodore Bernardi in designing downtown Oakland’s Paramount Theatre facade and other details (Timothy Pflueger had designed the building itself).

Milton T. Pflueger, A.I.A., Timothy Pflueger’s brother, worked with Theodore Bernardi in designing work, including human and animal figures for the facade mosaic, and interior details. He also assisted Bernardi in directing the work of other artists. He joined Miller and Pflueger in 1929 and upon his brother’s death in 1946 became head of the firm, then Timothy L. Pflueger and Associates. Milton Pflueger continues to head the firm, now Milton T. Pflueger and Associates, and was a consultant to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill during the restoration of the theatre in 1973. [The Paramount Theatre]

In the mid-fifties, Milton T. Pflueger and Associates was hired by the College of the Holy Names to design the new campus on Mountain Boulevard. Pflueger wrote fondly about the College of the Holy Names project in his book, Time and Tim Remembered (Pflueger Architects, June 1986, ISBN-10: 0961413301), noting his interaction with the sisters and the unique design challenge of envisioning an entire hillside campus, rather than the more common job of designing a singular building to fit into an existing campus.

San Francisco Bay Area architect Milton T. Pflueger, younger brother of the renowned architect Timothy L. Pflueger, designed the mid-century modern campus buildings, which were constructed from 1955-1958, and dedicated in 1957. Milton Pflueger designed many campus buildings at Cal Berkeley [sic.] and Stanford University, but Holy Names is the only complete campus he designed. The first buildings constructed included the Academic facilities, the Student Center, housing, Gymnasium and pool, and McLean Chapel. The hillside location inspired a linear plan, with low-roofed buildings nestled along the slope. The site features panoramic views across the San Francisco Bay from San Jose on the San Francisco Peninsula to Mount Tamalpais on the Marin Peninsula. [source: Wikipedia]

Mr. Pflueger left the University a wonderful album of his own 8×10 photos of the newly constructed campus, that we’ll post here as we scan them. We’ll leave you with one more for now, a view of campus taken around 1957.

New College of the Holy Names Campus Photo 2

Update, February 13: This article has been updated to reflect comments by John Pflueger, architect and Pflueger’s son. He notes:

wonderful article. couple of comments. We did not do any campus buildings at UC Berkely but did all buildings until 1990 at both the University of San Francisco and City College of SanFrancisco. I joined my father in 1963, the firm became Pflueger Architects in 1976, a partnership of my father and myself, and became John Pflueger Architect in 1990 I participated as project architect on additions to your campus and completed several builldings at Stanford as well as the Clark library at San Jose State University.
Thank you. Please feel free to contact me for more information.
John Pflueger Architect

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College of the Holy Names graduates on stairs

College of the Holy Names graduates pose on stairs of the school at the Lake Merritt campus.

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2036 Webster Street, Oakland

Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Oakland, California

The Convent of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was built at 2036 Webster Street, where the Kaiser Building is currently located, in 1868.

This lithographic reproduction of a marvelous etching by M. J. Phelan, an artist born in Ireland in 1945 who was an Oakland resident in the 1880s, illustrates the property and its surrounding environment. Lake Merritt, then called Merritt’s Lake or Lake Peralta, was a wooded tidal lagoon, having been designated the country’s first official wildlife refuge in 1870. A cow pasture borders one side of the convent.

The formal gardens leading up to the front of the boarding school provided the structure with a sense of scale and importance, while smaller gardens and grotto provided residents with spaces for quiet contemplation. Truly of a bygone era, the convent featured a rockery and aquarium, a swimming pond, and a hot house and aviary.

The full list of features noted on the lithograph is quite something:

  1. Boarding School
  2. Sisters’ House
  3. Front Park
  4. Orchard
  5. Rockery and Aquarium
  6. Engine House
  7. Hot House & Aviary
  8. Summer House
  9. Play Ground
  10. Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes
  11. Swimming Pond
  12. Bathing House
  13. Boat House
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Registration Day

College of the Holy Names registration day

Sister Madeleine Rose oversees Registration Day.

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It all began right here in Oakland on the shores of Lake Merritt

Holy Names University’s story begins in 1868 when six Sisters of the Holy Names arrived in California from Montreal, Canada. The teaching order, founded to provide education to the poor, had been invited to Oakland by Father Michael King to establish a school for girls and to train future teachers.

When the school was founded on the shores of Lake Merritt, Oakland was an outpost of 8,000 people. Lake Merritt was at that time considered to be “far in the country, wild and brush covered, a thicket for rabbits and quail.”

Since that historic beginning over 140 years ago, Holy Names University, now located in the Oakland hills, has grown with and served the Oakland community and the East Bay in many ways. Our rich history is intrinsically entwined with the City of Oakland’s.

In Cushing Library resides the Rare Books Room, full of historical documents, photo albums, slides, old yearbooks and decades-old scrapbooks, postcards, mid-century alumni magazines and much more. It’s quite a wonderful a time-machine to our past that, slowly but surely, we are scanning and archiving, so that we might share these treasures with the entire Holy Names University and Oakland communities.

Join us here as we post some of our findings as we go along — historical gems of HNU’s and Oakland’s past.

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