While thousands of Fullerton residents have visited Riverside’s remarkable Mission Inn, very few realize that the builder responsible for supervising the majority of the Inn’s construction also designed Fullerton’s historic city hall.
Architect G. Stanley Wilson was selected by the Fullerton City Council in 1933 because of the Mission Inn’s fame and popularity. Wilson’s work was well-known throughout Southern California, and the councilmen wanted the new city hall, Fullerton’s first municipal office building, to attract as much architectural attention as possible.
Former Fullerton City Hall (now the Police Station) designed by architect G. Stanley Wilson.
By the 1930s, Wilson had established himself as one of the premier exponents of Spanish architectural styles, and he was a natural choice as the architect for the Fullerton City Hall, which now serves as the city’s police department.
Wilson’s mastery of Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival styles was remarkable since he had no formal architectural training. He was born in Bournemouth, England in 1879 and immigrated with his parents and five siblings to Riverside in 1896, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1901, Wilson began work as a carpenter, but as early as 1903 Wilson was working independently, building a number of small houses.
The most renowned of G. Stanley Wilson’s works are his various projects from 1909 to 1944 for Riverside’s famed Mission Inn. In 1909, Wilson began to work closely with the Inn’s flamboyant owner Frank A. Miller (1857-1935) on small additions and changes to the building, which eventually became the largest Mission Revival building in California.
Wilson, working under Pasadena architect Myron Hunt (1868-1952), was superintendent of construction on the Inn’s Spanish wing, when the Spanish dining room, large kitchen, Spanish Art Gallery and its upper rooms were constructed in 1913 and 1914.
In 1929, Wilson designed his recognized masterpiece—the five-story addition at the northwest corner of the block, facing Sixth Street and Main Street—completed in 1931. The wing included the International Rotunda, the Saint Francis Chapel, the Saint Francis Atrium, and the Galleria. After completion, Wilson moved his offices into the International Rotunda, which features a remarkable open-air five-story spiral staircase.
Wilson was at his artistic peak in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Fullerton City Hall reflects the grace, harmony, and balance that his buildings had during this period. He frequently used many of the same types of materials on his buildings, and the yellow, white, and blue ceramic tiles that decorate both the interior and exterior of the Fullerton City Hall were also used by Wilson to embellish the Armistad (friendship) dome of the Mission Inn’s International Rotunda.
Throughout the City Hall’s construction, the Fullerton City Council approved building contracts, but G. Stanley Wilson was responsible for coordinating all aspects of the project, including commissioning Helen Lundeberg (1908-1999), one of the leading female artists of the American West, to paint the three-paneled murals in the former city council chambers.
Part of Helen Lundeberg’s mural “The History of California” inside the former City Hall.
Wilson made two major changes to the original plans—the addition of the sunken court and the assembly hall—but the 1933 plans remained largely unchanged. The Fullerton City Council was so impressed with Wilson’s architectural and administrative skills that he was asked on June 3,1947 to prepare preliminary plans for a proposed World War II memorial to include a recreation building, armory, and swimming pool, but the project was never completed.
The Lundeberg murals were painted over when the building was converted for the Police Department. Restoration of the murals became a focal project of the City’s Centennial celebration in 1987. The building was designated as a Local Landmark and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.