Born in New York City, architect Bernard Maybeck (1862–1957) studied for a time at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1892, he moved to Berkeley, California, where he taught at the University of California and began leaving his imprint, one building at a time, throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Maybeck is best known for his work on the West Coast, but Principia College was his largest commission, and the 11 extant buildings he designed for our campus comprise a significant portion of his architectural legacy. (In all, twelve Maybeck buildings were constructed at the College, along with one in Elsah, Illinois. He designed several additional campus buildings, but they were never executed.)
Maybeck worked on the Principia commission in one capacity or another from 1923 until 1940. In 1931, during the Great Depression, ground was broken for the Chapel, the first Maybeck construction begun on campus. The first graduation held on the current campus took place in 1934 in the newly completed Chapel, but the College didn’t relocate to Elsah until the following February, when sufficient buildings were complete for campus life to proceed normally.
Construction of Maybeck’s designs continued beyond the architect’s retirement, with the final one, Sylvester House, going up in 1946. In 1951, Maybeck received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, which has since named him one of the ten greatest architects in America. In 1993, the College was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of Maybeck’s work.