Charles E. Butner Papers, MS 033
Charles Edgar Butner was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 31, 1888. Butner enrolled in the Architecture program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under the renowned Beaux-Arts architect and educator Paul Philippe Cret. While at Penn, Butner befriended fellow architecture student Edward Glass (1886-1954), the son of the influential California newspaper publishing family that owned the Fresno Morning Republican.
In 1911, Butner completed his studies at Penn, receiving the Certificate of Proficiency in Architecture. He then ventured to New York to work for Grosvenor Atterbury, FAIA, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., on Forest Hills Gardens, one of the country's oldest planned communities and the most prominent American example of Ebenezer Howard's Garden City movement.
Glass, who graduated in 1912, entered the Philadelphia offices of Heacock & Hokinson as a drafter, followed by a stint with the firm of Mills & Bonkirk. He then relocated to New York to take a position with leading classical architects Tracy, Swarthout & Litchfield. In 1913, Glass returned to California, passed the state architectural licensing exam, and settled in San Francisco as a partner in the firm of Smith, Stewart & Glass.
In 1914, Edward Glass returned to Fresno and eventually he and his college friend established the partnership of Glass & Butner. Through the social and political connections of Edward Glass, the young firm secured a number of residential and commercial commissions, as well as large school contracts.
In 1917, Butner was drafted and served during World War I as an aviator in the Army Air Services. He trained at Taylor Field, outside Montgomery, Alabama, served in France, and rose to the rank of captain before he was discharged at the end of the war and returned to Fresno.
In the boom period following the war's end, the firm of Glass & Butner prospered. In October 1919, Governor Stevens appointed Edward Glass to the California State Board of Architecture. That same year, the firm opened an office in San Francisco, where they entered the War Memorial Veterans Building competition with a design proposal costing $2.5 million, but the project became mired in regional politics and was never built.
In this same period, Glass and Butner reportedly produced a set of documentary drawings of the missions of California at the request of publisher William Randolph Hearst, but the drawings are now lost. Glass & Butner closed the San Francisco office and in the early 1920s, after nearly a decade together, they dissolved the partnership when Glass' wife became seriously ill. The two architects remained close friends, occasionally working together to design a variety of projects over the coming years.
During the early Depression years, Butner attempted to maintain both his original office in Fresno and a branch office in Salinas with his new partner, William Stranahan. Stranahan's sudden death in 1932 prompted Butner to close the Fresno office and move permanently to Salinas. Charles Butner became a prominent civic leader in that town and built a thriving practice with commissions throughout the Monterey area. He joined the American Institute of Architects on November 10, 1936, and was also a member of the Northern California and eventually the Monterey Bay Area chapters of the AIA.
In both Fresno and Salinas, Butner enjoyed membership in the American Legion, Scottish Rite, Rotary, Elks, and Masons. He managed the firm until his death in Salinas on June 10, 1957, from a heart attack. His wife, Sally, two stepsons, two brothers, and a sister survived him. Two of his buildings, the Physicians building (1926) and the Fresno Republican Printery (1919) are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930, Ancestry.com
- California Death Index, Ancestry.com
- Salinas Californian, June 11, 1957, n.p.
- Butner Exhibition, John Edwards Powell, curator, Fresno, 1985