Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

Hugh A. Pennebaker (1890-1959)

Hugh Allen Pennebaker was born May 22, 1890. A native of Tulare County, California, Pennebaker began his working career as a farmer tending his family's orchards. The second of four children, he was stricken with typhoid fever at age nineteen, and convalesced during the summer of 1910 at the family home west of Exeter. His father, Sherman T. Pennebaker (1864-1954), who had come by covered wagon from Iowa to California in 1868, was a pioneer fruit grower in the San Joaquin Valley. The senior Pennebaker was also a founder of the Exeter Union High School District in 1908, and served on its board for thirty-six years. Hugh Pennebaker worked as a farmer through 1910. He married Lois Sawtelle that same year. Mechanically inclined, he gave up ranching to live and work in Visalia, where his wife became Deputy County Assessor. In Visalia Pennebaker embarked on his career in engineering.

Following his brief partnership with architect H. Y. Davis when both were in their early twenties, Pennebaker continued at the occupation of surveyor and engineer. By 1916, he had enlisted in the armed forces. He was stationed for an extended period of time on the U.S. border to Mexico. After completing military service he worked as a machinist. He followed this trade until 1918. Pennebaker subsequently joined the office of consulting engineer H. H. Holley, for whom he worked as a civil engineer during the 1920s.

During the economic depression of the 1930s, Hugh Pennebaker resided in Tulare, California. There he undertook a series of engineering contracts as a consultant to the city. He later served as city manager from 1935 to 1939. Upon his resignation from this position, he accepted a post in Sacramento with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During his association with the Corps, he surveyed the Terminus, Success and Isabella dam sites. At the time of his death, Hugh A. Pennebaker worked for the Department of Water Resources, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, for which he had been actively surveying California watersheds throughout the Southern Sierra Nevada. He died in San Francisco on January 9, 1959.

©2001 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.