Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
A leading San Francisco architect during the first half of the 20th century, James Rupert Miller, together with his protégé Timothy L. Pflueger (1892-1946), designed several iconic San Francisco buildings, including the Pacific Telephone Building, the Castro Theater and 450 Sutter Street. Previously, the partnership of Miller and George de Colmesnil (1878-1943), designed many buildings after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, including the City of Paris department store building at Geary and Stockton Streets and a combined retail and office building at Montgomery and Sutter Streets. Born in 1869 in Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province New Brunswick, his family came to the United States when Miller was an infant and had moved to San Francisco by 1880. After his high school graduation, Miller worked as a draftsman for various architects, including Arthur Page Brown (1859-1896), the architect of San Francisco’s Ferry Building. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1890. Miller set up his own architectural practice in 1902, and formed a partnership with de Colmesnil in 1906, after the earthquake, to rebuild the City of Paris building. The firm also designed a number of homes and apartment buildings. The firm hired Pfueger as a 15-year-old apprentice in 1907; he would become a partner 16 years later. The firm designed a building for the San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board on Bush Street, completed in 1908. Miller continued the practice while de Colmesnil left the firm to work as San Francisco’s City Architect in 1909, rejoining the firm in 1911. The new partnership lasted only until 1913. The firm did not design any of the buildings for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, but did design two apartment-hotels built in anticipation of the many visitors that attended the PPIE. Miller gave Pflueger his first design project in 1912, the design of a small church in Portola Valley, Our Lady of the Wayside, done in a Spanish Mission style. Miller & Colmesnil designed the Colonial Revival clubhouse for Tiburon’s Corinthian Yacht Club, also in 1912. Miller received a major commission to design an expansion of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company building at Stockton and Pine Streets around 1913; the expansion was completed in 1914. When Miller was hired to design a second expansion in 1919, Pflueger was the primary supervisor for the project. In 1920 Miller assigned the design of the Castro Theater to Pflueger. Another notable commission Miller received was for the San Francisco Stock Exchange building on Bush Street in 1922, a neo-classical structure. Pflueger became a partner in Miller’s firm in 1923. In association with the architect Alexander A, Cantin (1874-1964), who had designed four buildings for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, Miller & Pflueger received the commission to design Pacific Telephone’s new corporate headquarters at 140 New Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1923; Pflueger was the lead designer. Other notable structures designed by the firm include the 450 Sutter Medical-Dental building, completed in 1929, and the San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange trading floor and office building at 155 Sansome Street (at Pine Street), completed in 1930. Miller was less active in the firm during the 1930s. He retired in 1937 at age 68 and died in 1946. (TNB 12/2013) Selected bibliography: Michelson, Alan. “James Miller.” Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD), University of Washington. College of Built Environments, Urban Planning Library. https://digital.lib.washington.edu/architect/architects/90/ Poletti, Therese. Art deco San Francisco: the Architecture of Timothy Pflueger. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.