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History of H. J. Brunnier Associates

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    Henry J. Brunnier was a 26 year old engineer when he came to San Francisco to help rebuild the devastated street railway system after the earthquake and fire of 1906. He remained in San Francisco for more than 50 years, establishing an engineering firm that has helped design many of the City's best known landmarks.
    An Iowa State University graduate, Brunnier nearly succumbed to the lure of baseball while working at his first engineering job in Pittsburgh. He spent his weekends pitching semipro ball, but he rejected a contract offer from the Pirates to pursue a career in engineering that eventually led him to San Francisco.
He opened his own structural engineering office in the City in 1908.
    Among its first commissions, the firm designed the sea wall along the Embarcadero and designed the Santa Cruz Wharf. It also provided the structural design for the nine story Sharon Building across the street
from the Palace Hotel. Brunnier's firm relocated its offices to the Sharon Building after it was completed in 1912 and has remained there ever since.

Shell Building - San Francisco (1929)

    In his firm's early years, Brunnier entered into a long and rewarding partnership with George Kelham, one of the City's foremost architects. In the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, the office performed structural engineering for many of Kelham's buildings, including the San Francisco Public Library, Standard Oil Building, Federal Reserve Bank Building,

Seals Stadium - San Francisco (1930)

Shell Building and Russ Building (which, until 1964, was San Francisco's tallest skyscraper). Kelham and Brunnier also designed the Mount Davidson Cross, built in 1912.
    Brunnier, the former baseball player, also worked with Kelham to design Seals Stadium, home of the minor league San Francisco Seals (Joe DiMaggio's first team). Located at 16th and Bryant, Seals Stadium was acclaimed the finest minor league facility in the U.S. and was the first ball park to be designed for night games. The playing field was underlain with an extensive system of underground pipes to drain rain water off the field so the team could resume play when the rain subsided.
    Brunnier served on the five member board of renowned consulting engineers who supervised the design of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge, constructed between 1933 and 1936. He was selected for the board not only for his engineering expertise but also for his ability to address audiences and gain public support for the project.
    In 1940, the U.S. Navy awarded Brunnier a contract to design a submarine base in Panama. Many experienced engineers were reluctant to travel to Panama, so Brunnier recruited several recent engineering graduates to work there. Four of them (Herbert Lyell, Stanley Teixeira, Charles DeMaria and Andrew Stevens) later formed the nucleus of the San Francisco firm in the postwar era, along with Melvin Klyce and longtime Chief Engineer Henry Powers, who was succeeded by Lyell.


Reprint from City By the Bay: A History of Modern San Francisco 1945 - Present
Published by Heritage Media Corporation Copyright ©1997