Biographies of Architects, Designers, and Builders

Harry A. Thomas (1871-1940)

Harry A. Thomas was born in July, 1871, in Sedalia, Missouri. When he was five years old, his family moved to Fresno. His father, W. R. Thomas, was a prominent real estate agent in Fresno during the late 1880s, associated with the firm of Harvey, Thomas and Edgerly. Little is known about Harry Thomas' architectural education, but at age twenty he established a practice in Fresno. His first major client was railroad promoter Marcus Pollasky.

From 1891 to 1892 Thomas completed a number of projects for Pollasky, including a large home, a private stable, and a hotel. In December 1892 Thomas wrote an article for the Fresno Weekly Republican, blasting local architecture. He noted prophetically that elaborate designs seen "in all large cities are not to be seen in Fresno as our business blocks seem to be put up 'for revenue only' and sometimes that object is kept in view to such an extent that the result is very plain building, but then, as the owner says, 'it's a paying investment' in this dollar chasing world of ours that is the main object."

Thomas HomeThomas quickly developed a large private clientele and completed homes for J. P. Burnett, H. C. Warner, H. Z. Austin, Dr. J. L. Maupin, George Helm, W. P. Lyon, and S. N. Griffith. Thomas' attempts to capture large public commissions, however, were thwarted by a series of setbacks. Although his 1894 proposal for a Romanesque style high school building and his equally handsome 1896 design for a county orphanage were competition winners, neither materialized as contracts. The former was rejected for procedural errors, and the latter for going over budget when bid. Following these setbacks, Thomas joined the office of McDougall Bros. While with that firm he designed a fine home for his brother Montgomery (shown at right) in 1900. After McDougall Bros. closed its Fresno office in 1906, Thomas continued on his own. From 1907 to 1910 he practiced with C. K. Kirby, Jr., after that he appears to have been inactive as an architect.

During the early 1920s Thomas moved to San Francisco, where he worked for Federal Ornamental Iron & Bronze Co. as a draftsman. Harry A. Thomas died in San Francisco on November 4, 1940.

©1997 John Edward Powell. All rights reserved.