Photographer: Maynard L. Parker, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Photographer Maynard Parker chronicled the lives of California's social elite and movie industry mogules with dramatic, light-filled pictures of their homes and gardens. Published in glossy home furnishing magazines such as House Beautiful, Architectural Digest and Sunset Magazine, the photographs became a primer for middle-class American housewives aspiring to emulate the life and elegant elan of the wealthy.
Parker took these photographs of Walter D. K. Gibson, Jr.'s colonial-revival-style Flintridge home in 1940. Designed by Paul Revere Williams in 1937, the residence is representative of the architect's ability to translate elegant style into a liveable home environment. Though not well-known today, W.D.K. Gibson, Jr. and his wife Margaret were established social and philanthropic leaders in mid-20th century Los Angeles.
Walter Gibson, Jr. was a member of an influential California family important in establishing the state as a modern economic power. His maternal grandfather, John D. Spreckels, usually described as a "local capitalist" (Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1930), was an active investor in ocean-going steamships, electric railroads and sugar production in Hawaii. Gibson's father, W.D.K Gibson is best known in local lore for his creation of the Gibson martini first served at San Francisco's elite Bohemian Club in the 1890s. (Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2009)
In 1942 Gibson, Jr. married Margaret Roark, the widow of Captain Charles Thomas Irvine Roark—"the greatest of the world's great polo players." (Time, March 6, 1939) The Gibsons lived in their Williams' designed home after their marriage. (Los Angeles Times, March 27, 1942)
Wade and Margaret were often described in contemporary newspaper accounts as members of the Los Angeles elite or old California families. (Pasadena Star-News,March 26, 1942) The couple was involved in various sports, including golf, horse racing, the competitive equestrian circuit and the Junior League's annual dog show. The couple's lives were chronicled in local newspapers. As an owner of Paulsen-Gibson Buick dealership, Wade was a recognized industry leader. In 1949 he was a founding member of the Los Angeles Buick Dealers Association established to "further the advancement of high standards in Buick dealer relations with the motoring public." (Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1949)
Many of Maynard Parker's photographs of the ranch-style homes in California captured the relaxed, low-maintenance life the majority of middle class American consumers desired. Parker's photographs of the Gibson residence illustrate another portrayal of American life desired by the American housewife. Dramatically lighted, sophisticated and arranged to perfection, the house provided a decorating blueprint for women who might never visit Pasadena or attend a polo match. Elizabeth Gordon, then editor of House Beautiful, advised her female readers to study the photographs closely to visualize better living and "above all...the social values that such a house represents."(Maynard L. Parker Archives, Huntington Library)