Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

Charles K. Kirby, Jr. (1871-1936)

Charles K. Kirby, Jr. was born in Boston in 1871. In 1878 his family moved to California and settled in San Francisco. Kirby trained in architecture under his father, C. K. Kirby, Sr. (1826-1910), the prominent East Coast architect who designed the first Boston Public Library (1858). The senior Kirby practiced in San Francisco for a time, then operated a large vineyard south of Fresno.

Prior to opening his Fresno office in 1889, C. K. Kirby, Jr. appears to have worked with his father in 1888 designing the O. J. Woodward and Jacob Vogel homes and the Einstein and Edgerly Blocks. Kirby, Jr. is credited alone with designing the Fresno First National Bank Building (1888) and the Barton Opera House (1890).

During the early 1890s C. K. Kirby, Jr. practiced in San Francisco and Fresno. In 1897 he advertised a partnership with his brother Fred W. Kirby (1850-1912), with their principal office located in San Francisco. Fred, who had studied architecture in Paris, preferred ranching, however, and by 1901 had given up architecture to run the family's Sierra Park Vineyard near Fowler.

During the early 1900s Kirby settled into a modest practice in Fresno. His work at that time included an opera house and the Carnegie Library in Selma in 1905. For a short time after 1907 he teamed up with Harry A. Thomas. Together they prepared plans for contagious disease bungalows (pest houses) for Fresno County Hospital. On his own again in 1910, Kirby designed a fine Craftsman style Unitarian Church. Among his last major projects were the old Fresno Auditorium and the Iwata Theater, both designed in 1912. As his career waned, he designed mostly small homes.

Charles K. Kirby, Jr. retired in 1924 and moved to his ranch near Earlimart, where he died on January 26, 1936.

©1997 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.