John W. Bones (1818-1901)
John W. Bones was born in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in 1818. At the age of sixteen he apprenticed as a carpenter. After mastering that trade, he worked as a builder and contractor in Philadelphia from 1840 until 1850, when he went to California. Highly successful as a contractor in San Francisco, Bones prospered and built a large residence for himself in Alameda in 1855. For the next fifteen years he was a prominent builder in the Bay Area. In 1870 Bones took up architecture and was equally successful in that endeavor, even though self-taught.
In addition to his professional interests, Bones was politically active, having joined the San Francisco Vigilance Committee in 1856. He was nominated and elected to the California State Senate in 1878 on a law and order platform to represent a working-class constituency in the Eighteenth District. A poet and orator, Bones continued to be an active public speaker after leaving politics.
Bones moved to Fresno in August 1882 and opened an office as an architect. He designed many important nineteenth-century building in the community, including the Ogle Home, the Grand Central Hotel, the Masonic Temple, the Fiske Block, various local schoolhouses, and the Fresno County Hospital (1887). In 1887 he also had a dozen projects under construction in Selma, including Whitson's Hotel. One of his last projects was the West Park Schoolhouse (1891). Bones became less active in the profession during the 1890s but continued to make architectural news locally when he exhibited his plans and renderings at the county fair. J. W. Bones, generally known as "Senator Bones," died in 1901.
Written by John Edward Powell
© 1998 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.