Walter J. Mathews

Walter J. Mathews (2 May 1850 – 20 November 1947) was an American architect based in Oakland, California. He was a native of Markesan, Wisconsin. He is best known for designing the First Unitarian Church of Oakland and the Oakland mansion of Frank M. "Borax" Smith.

His father, Julius C. Mathews, was also an architect. The family moved from Wisconsin in 1866, and Walter and his brothers trained in the office of their father. He joined his father's office in 1874-75, then spent a few years in Los Angeles, where he became a partner with architect Ezra F. Kysor in the firm Kysor & Mathews. Among the Los Angeles projects he collaborated on with Kysor were the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana and Childs' Grand Opera House, which was later to become the first Los Angeles venue of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit.

Mathews returned to Oakland in 1877, becoming a partner in his father's firm until establishing his own practice in Oakland in 1886.[1] In the 1890s he served as Oakland city architect.[2]

His projects were typical of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including office buildings, hotels, theaters, clubs, commercial buildings, churches, and houses. He remained in practice in Oakland until at least 1940.

Walter Mathews' younger brother Arthur Frank Mathews became a prominent San Francisco artist and furniture designer. The third son of Julius Mathews, Edgar, also became a well known Bay Area architect.[3]


  1. ^ Joseph E. Baker, editor, Past and Present of Alameda County, California. Chicago: S. J. Clarke (1914) p. 457
  2. ^ Press Reference Library, 1912, p. 422.
  3. ^ Harvey L. Jones, The Art of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. San Francisco: Pomegranate (2006) p. 21.

External linksEdit

  • Images of Arbor Villa, F. M. Smith estate, designed by Mathews (not extant), from The Bancroft Library
  • Past and Present of Alameda County, California, from The Internet Archive
  • "First Unitarian Church of Oakland (data pages)". Historic American Buildings Survey. National Park Service. pp. 13–15. Retrieved 2006-09-28.