Esteemed architectural historian Dr. Robert Winter passed away this past Saturday, February 9, 2019, at the age of 94.
By Melanie Hooks
Dr. Winter’s love of Craftsman architecture in particular earned him the nickname “Bungalow Bob,” and his 1965 co-authored book for Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on area buildings great and small, An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles, is in its sixth edition, now considered the gold standard amongst students of Southern California architecture. His longtime tenure at Occidental College, just west of Pasadena in Eagle Rock, eventually led to his appointment there as Arthur G. Coons Professor of the History of Ideas, Emeritus.
His Pasadena area connections were forged early due to his fascination with Batchelder tile, which cover many a mantelpiece and outdoor space alike here due to Ernest Batchelder’s production of the iconic, early 20th century tiles in his backyard Arroyo Seco kiln. Pasadena Museum of History (PMH) hosted an extensive exhibit on the tiles in 2016, which ColoradoBoulvard.net covered and Dr. Winter enriched our coverage with his knowledge and wit.
Winter donated his lifelong collection of those tiles to the Museum, and PMH Executive Director Jeannette O’Malley released a statement of condolence and remembrance early this week:
Pasadena Museum of History is fortunate to have enjoyed a long and close association with Robert Winter in varying roles as renowned author and architectural historian, intellectual resource, Museum trustee, and extraordinary friend. While we will sadly miss his wit and warmth, Dr. Winter’s spirit and scholarship will remain an enduring presence here at PMH, most concretely through the legacy gift of his personal collection of Batchelder tile and accompanying archives, which he presented to the Museum in 2015.
A lively wit and irreverent sense of humor remained Winter’s calling cards to the last, joking in 2016 that he’d managed to secure his first teaching job at University of Southern California even though “[t]hey didn’t like me very much.” At first appalled by Los Angeles city sprawl and modernity, he became fascinated by the landscape’s amazing variety of building and people’s design imaginations, which seemed to go wilder here than in his native Indiana, the starting point of many Pasadena city founders.
Upfront about trends he disliked (e.g. Walnut & Lake Ave. multi-use apartment complex: “so absurd”) and up-to-date on all local city developments, Dr. Winter gave a delightful interview to Curbed Los Angeles in 2017. In his own words, “I don’t want to be an old fogey.” No chance of that.
Rest in peace, Dr. Winter.
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