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Timothy Pflueger
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
San Francisco
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
San Francisco
One of San Francisco’s leading architects during the first half of the 20th century, Timothy L. Pflueger designed iconic buildings in a variety of styles but is best known for his Art Deco designs. Born in San Francisco in 1892, Pflueger’s parents were both immigrants from Germany. He grew up in the Mission District and lived in the family home on Guerrero Street until his death. After graduating from Horace Mann Grammar School in 1906, Pflueger went to work as an architectural draftsman, joining James R. Miller (1869-1946) and the firm of Miller & Colmesnil in 1907. While working, Pflueger attended high school classes at night. He also took architectural training classes at the San Francisco Architectural Club, where he learned the Beaux-Arts style of design. In 1912 Miller gave Pflueger his first design project for a small church in Portola Valley, Our Lady of the Wayside, done in a Spanish Mission style. Miller was hired to design the expansion of the Metropolitan Life Company building at Pine and Stockton Streets in 1913 and assigned Pflueger to the project. Eventually the young architect became an important contact between the firm and its client, a relationship that lasted during three expansions over sixteen years, resulting in a notable Neo-classical design. Pflueger served in the Army’s Corps of Engineers during World War I, designing training camps. After his return to San Francisco in 1919, Miller appointed him chief draftsman for the architectural firm, and in 1920 he became a licensed architect. That year he was hired to design a new movie theater on Castro Street in San Francisco. The Spanish Baroque Castro Theater opened in 1922 and remains a movie palace today. He designed another San Francisco theater, the Alhambra, in a Moorish style and also designed theaters in Chico, Oroville and Tulare. During the 1920s Pflueger designed several residences in the Spanish revival style, and he and Miller designed the Neo-classical San Francisco Stock Exchange building on Pine Street in 1922. Pflueger became a partner in Miller’s firm in 1923, the year their firm was hired by the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company to design a new office tower in association with Alexander A. Cantin (1874-1964). Pflueger was the chief designer. When completed his 26-story skyscraper at 140 New Montgomery Street was the tallest building in San Francisco. His next high-rise design project was the medical-dental building at 450 Sutter Street, done in a Mayan theme. Next Pflueger designed the Art Deco Stock Exchange office building on Sansome Street, decorated with a statue by Ralph Stackpole (1885-1973) over the entrance. The decorations for the luncheon club on the top floors include a mural by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). In 1930 Pflueger was the chief designer for the Art Deco Paramount Theater in Oakland. Theaters and schools provided much of Miller & Pflueger’s work during the 1930s, including Roosevelt Junior High School, George Washington High School and buildings at San Francisco City College. Pflueger was appointed chairman of the Board of Consulting Architects for the design of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but the 1933 appointment came two years after the project started. With the engineering designs well along, the architects’ influence on the design was limited to the entrance to the Yerba Buena Island tunnel and simplifying the design of the four suspension span towers. They did design the Transbay Terminal, however. Pflueger was president of the San Francisco Art Association in the 1930s and was one of the founders of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1935. Miller became less active in the firm and retired in 1937. Pflueger’s work in the late 1930s included the “Top of the Mark” bar in the Mark Hopkins Hotel, designs for two buildings for the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair, and the interior of an I. Magnin store in Los Angeles. In 1940 Pflueger and his firm designed the underground parking structure in San Francisco’s Union Square and contributed to the design of the plaza above. Fewer projects came to him during World War II, but they included two I. Magnin stores in Southern California and the minimalist International design for the flagship I. Magnin store (now part of Macy’s) on Union Square in San Francisco. Pflueger did not live to see his marble-clad masterpiece; he collapsed on the street from a heart attack after swimming at the Olympic Club on November 20, 1946. (TNB 1/2014) Selected bibliography: **Pflueger, Milton T. Time and Tim remembered: a tradition of Bay Area Architecture: Pflueger Architects, Timothy, Milton and John, the First Seventy-five Years, 1908-1983. San Francisco: Pflueger Architects, 1985. Poletti, Therese. Art deco San Francisco: the Architecture of Timothy Pflueger. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.