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Bill is the founder of William Stout Architectural Books, an iconic Jackson Square bookstore specializing in architecture and design. Raised in South Dakota and Idaho, Bill began his architectural career on the East Coast, before moving to the Bay Area in 1967. He worked as an architect into the early 1990s, and started selling architectural books in the mid-1970s, with several store locations over the years. His business was purchased in 2022 by the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity.

Transcript: William Stout (1941- )


The following oral history transcript is the result of interviews with William Stout on May 9 and 16, 2022. The interviews were recorded at his bookstore at 804 Montgomery Street in San Francisco, California. The interview was conducted and transcribed by John Doxey, manager of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.

Format: Interview originally recorded on a Canon XA11 camcorder. Duration is 2 hours, 11 minutes.

Attribution: This interview transcript is property of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. Quotes, reproductions and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with William Stout, May 9 and 16, 2022, Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project.

Summary: William Stout was born in 1941 and grew up in small towns in South Dakota and Idaho. He studied art and architecture at the University of Idaho, then moved to the East Coast after graduating in 1964 to begin an architectural career. He continued working at architectural firms after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1967, and studied architecture at U.C. Berkeley in the late 1960s. He began selling art and architecture books from his home on Telegraph Hill around 1975, and in 1977 opened William Stout Architectural Books at 17 Osgood Place in Jackson Square, San Francisco’s center for architecture and design at that time. The bookstore moved to a larger space at 804 Montgomery Street in 1984, where it remains a beacon for people interested in architecture and design. Bill continued his architecture practice until 1991. Bill lives with his wife, architect Paulett Taggart, on Telegraph Hill. He continues to paint, and enjoys playing golf.

In this interview, BIll speaks of his upbringing in small towns in the South Dakota and Idaho, where he began developing a strong interest in abstract expressionist painting during high school; studying art and architecture at the University of Idaho; moving to the East Coast after graduating from college in 1964; his first job at an architectural firm in Harrisburg, PA; working for three years at Stecker and Collivecchio in Hartford, CT; Yale University as a center of architectural innovation; moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1967 to escape the East Coast “caste system” and his attraction to San Francisco’s size and freedom; working with Ernest Kump’s Palo Alto-based firm, where he designed junior college campus buildings around the country; studying architecture at U.C. Berkeley in 1969, an experience disturbed by People’s Park protests; an active painting period while living near Buena Vista Park and sharing an art studio at Pier 33; beginning to fill sketchbooks with his abstract painting in the early 1970s; working with Warren Callister’s architectural firm in the early ‘70s, where he spent a year designing a housing development in Connecticut; moving back to San Francisco, where he worked with Ian Mackinlay’s architectural firm and designed a housing development in Orinda and met his future business partner Jim Jennings; working with the San Francisco-based Sandy & Babcock architectural firm; beginning his bookselling business in 1974, while living at a house on Telegraph Hill owned by celebrity attorney Melvin Belli; how he started collecting the art and architecture books that developed his early inventory; dividing his time between selling books and working at the Whisler-Patri architectural firm; his roommate and first bookstore employee Steven Holl, the renowned architect and watercolorist; developing the bookstore’s printed catalog; the bookstore’s successful venture with Yukio Futagawa’s GA publications; the numerous architecture and design firms that were based around Jackson Square in the 1970s and ‘80s, including Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which formed a customer base for his bookstore; the bookstore’s move in 1977 to a larger space on Osgood Place, where he lived in rooms above the bookstore; art exhibits and other events at the Osgood location; the architectural office he shared with Jim Jennings and Peter Van Dine in Jasper Alley; the bookstore’s move in 1984 to a larger space at 804 Montgomery Street, where he lived in a basement space; the evolution of his catalog business from print to email format; changes in the bookstore business with the advent of Amazon and other internet-based competitors and business adaptations that have allowed his bookstore to remain successful; changes to the Jackson Square neighborhood and customer base, as design firms relocated due to rising costs and law firms replaced them; the bookstore’s publishing ventures, featuring West Coast architects; the bookstore location on Solano Avenue in Berkeley that ultimately failed; the unsuccessful bookstore location within the California Historical Society’s building on Mission Street; his decision in 1991 to give up his architectural practice and focus solely on the bookstore business; his marriage to architect Paulett Taggart in 1986; his desire to retire from the bookstore business if he can find the right buyer; the sale of his collection of over architectural monographs, books and graphics, as well as his personal sketchbooks, to the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity.

Note: In October 2022, it was announced that the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity acquired William Stout Architectural Books. Bill is now focusing on organizing his sketchbooks and collection of architectural books, graphics and monographs. He now has more time for golf, and he and his wife Paulett are planning to move part-time to a Zen-inspired senior living community in Healdsburg. For more details, see and

William Stout has had opportunities to review the transcript and has made corrections and emendations. The reader should keep in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.


JOHN: [00:00:30] This is John Doxey with William Stout. It’s Monday, May 9th, 2022, and we’re at William Stout Architectural Bookstore, and this is our first session for the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Oral History Project. Bill, I’d like to start off just asking you to tell me a little bit about where … what year you were born and where you were raised.

WILLIAM: I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, 1941 and we stayed there for awhile. And then I moved to South Dakota to stay with my grandparents during the Second World War with my mother, and stayed there ‘til the end of the war. And in the middle of the war, maybe 1942 or so, my grandparents and the whole family picked up and moved from South Dakota to outside of Portland and they worked there … in the war industries and did that for awhile. And it was in, I think, Cornelius, Oregon, which is right outside of Portland. We lived there for awhile, and then we ended up … my grandfather got a job to be the postmaster of this small town in the Badlands of South Dakota. So we picked up the while family and moved back to South Dakota. And I lived there with my grandparents and my mother. And, uh, my father was killed in the Second World War, 1944. And then in 1946 my mother remarried, uh, Richard Stout. And so it kind of goes from there. He was also from the area that my mother lived in, a small town called Kadoka, South Dakota, which is the entry to the Badlands. And my grandfather was the postmaster there. And also had … this was kind of a tourist town. So all the people going to the Badlands would go through this town to get to the Badlands, and so it was full of motels. So my grandfather had built, uh, had a large house on the edge of the town and built a small motel. And he had six children, and so the children kind of took care of the motel, and we all lived in this large family or a family house. And then my mother remarried, and then we started moving around a lot. And, uh, moved to …

JOHN: Excuse me for a second. You said your mother remarried was this…?

WILLIAM: To Richard Stout.

JOHN: Richard Stout.

WILLIAM: Richard Stout, yeah. And so he was, my father, my stepfather was basically a pilot. He really, the main thing he knew how to do was fly airplanes. So when he married my mother and myself he moved to eastern South Dakota to teach farmers how to fly airplanes. ‘Cause that was the big thing there. Every little town was having an airport sponsored by the U.S. government. So we moved to a town called Redfield, South Dakota, and we lived on this small … small little airport [chuckles] you might call it. And we lived there for several years, and that’s … and I then started grade school in that town. We had a couple of disastrous things happen. We lived at the airport in a trailer house for a year or so and one day my mother and I and my brother were away from the trailer house and we came back and it had been … the furnace had exploded, and it was on fire. And, uh, so it burned to the ground. And we then moved into this small town, and my father worked in various jobs there, from being … working as a salesperson and then also as a … got a job for a vegetable company, large vegetable company, wholesale vegetable, and was a salesman for them in central South Dakota. None of those jobs really worked too well for him because he was really just a flyer, and he really, that’s what he wanted to do. Uh, we ended up going back to Kadoka to stay with our … my parents were offered a job in Kadoka to run a grocery store and, uh, meat packing plant. And so we moved back there and had a small house. And it went pretty well. My mother worked there for while, and there were good friends of my parents. And … but it really wasn’t what my father wanted to do. So in 1953, I was probably in the third or fourth grade, my father decided to apply to become a pilot with American Airlines, and he was accepted. And so we got in our car and we were on our way to, let’s see, I think it was Fort Worth, is where American Airlines had their training facility. And as we got in the middle of the trip we were in Kansas and my father got a telegram from the U.S. government because he was in the reserves that he had been recalled into the Air Force. And so we rescheduled our trip to go from Fort Worth to San Antonio, where he was … would be trained to fly the B-29s. So we got to San Antonio in 1953 or so and spent six to eight months there and went to Topeka, Kansas, where he got … I think he got a crew there, and the crew was nine people. So he took … we got the crew and his first … his first station was Mountain Home, Idaho. So we went from … my family went to Mountain Home, Idaho, and I went back to finish a school in South Dakota. So I finished the years there and then ended up going to Idaho. My grandmother [chuckles] my grandmother put me on a bus in South Dakota and I took the bus to Idaho through Utah. And so we got to Mountain Home, Idaho, thinking it was in the mountains, not realizing it was actually desert. [chuckles] And so there was this airbase in Mountain Home, Idaho, but there was no housing available in the town. So we moved to Boise, Idaho. And Boise was a town at that time, probably 60 to 80,000. And they had very good schools. And we found a very nice place to live in an apartment village up in the Boise Hills. And to us, Boise was really a very urban situation for us. And the schools were traditional urban schools, concrete Victorian schools. And the teaching was very good. They had a very good educational system at that time. And so we were in Boise for, uh, two, two and a half years. And then they and the parents bought a house in Mountain Home. So we moved to Mountain Home when I was seventh grade. So we got to Mountain Home. And Mountain Home is not much of a of a town or city at all. It's basically a main street with the railroad going through it and a park that was always given by the railroad to the city. And then one … two or three blocks of bars. And that was about it [chuckles] because of the Air Force base. And we lived on the outside of town. And I ended up going to school there for … from the seventh grade to high school. Finished high school there.

JOHN: In Mountain Home?

WILLIAM: In Mountain Home. And it was … it was a very good, I would say, technical education, but not a very good artistic education. They didn't have … they only had, um, they only had French and Spanish and no art. And the closest thing to drawing or architecture was really mechanical drawing. So I took those courses, and I did pretty well. And the sports were good there. We had good sports teams and, uh … it was a nice place to grow up, but not a not a very good place to live. [chuckles] You know, I mean, it was just … it was it was interesting culturally. I guess … I would say it was a not a nice place to live, but culturally it was interesting. Because the Air Force was there, it had a lot of different cultures involved in the Air Force. So you would go to school and there would be ballet dancers and there would be artists that didn't have school training or anything like that. And then there was also … that was the end of the Basque communities that started in California and had ended up there. So there was a whole Basque community there, a large Basque community.

JOHN: For sheep...?

WILLIAM: Sheepherders.

JOHN: Mm-hmm.

WILLIAM: So we were there from the seventh grade to the 12th grade, and there was a Basque community, Air Force community and a large Mormon community. So in a town of 20,000, that had quite a bit of diversity. And so when I graduated from high school, my father had been in Guam for two or three years. He was flying. He had flown B-29s in Korea. And then when we got to Mountain … or he went to Korea and then came back and then he started flying B-47s. And when he started to fly B-47s, when I was a senior in high school, they moved to Moses Lake, Washington. So we went from one desert to the … another desert [chuckles] in central Washington.

JOHN: Had you finished high school?

WILLIAM: I had just finished high school. My father came back when I graduated and then went back to Guam. And then that summer we moved to Moses Lake. And then I went to the University of Idaho in the architecture department, uh, 1960. Seemed like a logical place to go. I really was maybe thinking of going to the University of Washington. But with my father gone and my mother kind of helping out it was … I think they felt Seattle was a little too large. So I ended up going to University of Washington or University of Idaho, and it actually worked out very well. I really wasn't … I probably should have taken a year off. I really wasn't into school that much. The architecture program was an interesting program because it was a program integrated with art and architecture. So the first year you took mostly art program, the arts … drawing, sculpture, painting and a little architecture, maybe architectural history. And so I did that for a couple of years … was really … I was doing OK. I could always get by. I was good at it because I moved so much I could figure out how to manipulate situations.

JOHN: Did you have teachers, professors who were inspiring?

WILLIAM: I wouldn't say in Idaho I had too many professors that were inspiring. [chuckles] So I went … the junior year I was there I had a really nice teacher. And he was quite good. And I had decided that I kind of wanted to figure out how to get out of school as fast as possible. So in my junior year, I took … I’d figured out that if you took summer courses, you could get basically the same amount of credits as if you took a regular semester. So my junior year I ended up taking a summer course and it ended up being a very, very interesting and very good and almost a one-to-one relationship with a professor. There was only maybe six to eight, six to 10 of us in the program. And it was … junior, senior and thesis programs in architecture. And the dean of the department was kind of was there. And then you had an architectural teacher that taught studio. And the dean of the department taught art. [chuckles] So we were able to take art and architecture studios.

JOHN: Lots of overlap then between the art and architecture?

WILLIAM: Yeah, it was in the same building. So you actually … the architectural studio was right next to the painting studio. And it worked out quite well. The, uh … director of the program basically was really good at teaching art. So he actually gave you all the traditional methods of clean brushes, painting and the whole work. So it was a very nice program. The architecture program was very good ‘cause there were a lot of there are a lot of young men that had come back to school from the G.I. Bill. And so a lot of them wanted to get out, too, and start making money. And our architecture teacher also played golf. So those summers … I did this for two summers, so I got out of school in four years with a five-year program. For the two summers we played golf with the architecture teacher in the afternoon and then did studios in the morning [chuckles] and painted in the evening.

JOHN: It sounds like a nice life.

WILLIAM: So we got … and it was very good. I never really thought much … I really never thought much of the program, but the basics were taught very well. The…

JOHN: This was all University of Idaho?

WILLIAM: The University of Idaho. So as I was graduating that … 1964 or five, the … I went to the dean to kind of find out what he thought, where I should probably go to practice and what I should do. And he suggested that probably I should get out of Idaho and maybe get a more rounded education and try to work for … two or three different offices in different sizes. So you could work with a small office, a medium-sized office and a large office to see what you might be oriented in and what you … how you could develop your career. So, um, I got in my car and went to the East Coast. And went and stopped in the Midwest to see my grandparents. And then went … drove through Minneapolis and then drove all the way through to … and got a job in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. First ‘cause I had a friend whose father was a surveyor there. And I got a job. And … it was just … it wasn't much of a job. But a guy who was an architect that did Black churches, which was real interesting ‘cause we did … so I did that for a summer and it was real nice. He was very nice. He gave me a lot of a lot of responsibility.

JOHN: Were you working as an architect, a designer?

WILLIAM: [00:xx:xx] As a designer, an architect. I did that for a summer, and then I decided that Harrisburg was not the place I wanted to stay. I had a very nice place to stay, but it just it was … I was just getting into the East Coast phenomenon in an easy way. So I then picked up and went … and everything was happening at Yale at the time. So I ended up going to Connecticut to work there. And I got a job in Farmington and in Hartford, Connecticut, and lived there and worked for a company called Stecker and Collivecchio. And they … that was a young firm and they basically were really busy. And there was only three people there, two partners and three other people, and you got to do the whole thing. And they didn't have many designers. So I was able to kind of fit in. And we had schools, churches and a few houses, but most of the work was commercial. And it was along the Connecticut coast or central Connecticut and some work in the outskirts of Hartford. And so I lived in Hartford for a while, and then after about three years I decided that the East Coast really wasn't where I wanted to stay because it's so … so inbred and so … it's kind of like a caste system. If you're not in the system and you haven't lived … it's like it's like going to Maine. If you haven't lived there for 200 years, you're a neophyte, you know? So I…

JOHN: That sounds like a good opportunity, though. In that firm, being so small...

WILLIAM: It was very good. I could have become a partner there in a year or two and set up for life. But…

JOHN: But for a young architect to be able to do everything...

WILLIAM: [00:20:37] It was a good experience. Because you had … I did three or four schools and did a couple churches and housing for … the Catholic Church and so on. And it was also close to Yale. ‘Cause Yale was having … it was very active at that time. And really I wanted to go back to graduate school, but there was no … there weren't any schools private … other than private schools in Connecticut. They don't have an architectural program in their university system. So I … Charles Moore had just come to … had just come to Yale. And so I called Charles Moore and asked him if I could get an interview to see if it would be possible to get into Yale and showed him my portfolio. And he said, “Well, you know it…” And he was very upfront. He said, “Well, you know, we have 27 … available spots in the program and there's 450 people applying. And you're from Idaho.” [laughter] He said, “I don't think … under the circumstances you're gonna have much of a chance.” And he was very clear about that. Now it was nice he said that. So I hung around, uh, Connecticut for another six months and got in my car and then came back here. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Charles Moore (1925-1993) was an American architect, educator, writer and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He is often labeled as the father of postmodernism, and his work as an educator was important to a generation of American architects who read his books or studied with him at one of the several universities where he taught – including Yale University, where he presided over the Yale School of Architecture in the turbulent period between 1965 and 1970.]

JOHN: Before we go on to moving to California, I wanted to just circle back and cover a little ground that we passed over...


JOHN: So forgive my ignorance, but when finishing … an architecture program like you did, an undergraduate program, what is the licensing process?

WILLIAM: The licensing process is … basically you graduate from a five-year program and you have to apprentice for three years. I was very lucky after graduating from the University of Idaho. It was Vietnam War and … everybody was getting drafted. I was very lucky where I grew up in this town of Mountain Home. I had a very good reputation. And so I went to the … I went to the draft board and told them that I was going to apprentice in architecture. And so that gave me a deferment [chuckles] which is kind of a strange way. It seems kind of strange because my father was in the Air Force, but I didn't really want anything to do with the Air Force. So I … and the kind of the military lifestyle really didn't fit in. My … a lot of my friends at that time were really into military careers. And it was nothing I was really interested in. So … so I got a deferment. And then that gave me the … and then I went back to Connecticut and worked for three years. And then at that point in time you can take the license.

JOHN: So you'd had enough experience working at the Hartford firm…?

WILLIAM: [00:23:31] Three years … I had enough experience there, but I didn't take the license ‘til I got back to California. So I got back to California. I drove back through the country again, which was a nice thing. I went through the southern part, came up through Texas and came up that way. Tennessee, Texas, Alabama and all those … and then got into California. And I had a friend in Sacramento. And he had mentioned that he had a friend working for Ernest Kump in Palo Alto. And Ernest Kump had been doing junior colleges and colleges and a lot of schools. And he was … had had a big firm in San Francisco, as much as 100 people at one time, and up and just quit San Francisco and moved to Palo Alto. So I gave … the Kump office a call and interviewed there and got a job. And they were extremely busy. And I lived in Palo Alto and Mountain View. And. It was a good time to be in Palo Alto because that's before it kind of got what I call yuppified, you know. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Ernest J. Kump Jr. FAIA (1911 – 1999), was an American architect, author and inventor based in Palo Alto, CA. He was widely recognized for his innovations in school planning having designed over 100 public schools in California and 22 community and junior colleges around the world.]

JOHN: What is the year then that we're talking about?

WILLIAM: We're talking probably … I believe it was ‘67 and eight.

JOHN: And what … the year that you finished Idaho was ’64...


JOHN: And so … OK.

WILLIAM: So I spent three years in Connecticut … kind of seeing the East Coast and then came back here, got this job with Ernest Kump and they were extremely busy and...

JOHN: Mostly educational buildings?

WILLIAM: Mostly colleges, universities. He had at that time … he had almost 10 schools he was working on at one time in an office that was only … only had maybe ten or 15 people. It was really overworked. All over the country.

JOHN: I believe Kump had an office in New York as well, right?

WILLIAM: Not at that time. Not at that time. Kump didn't do working drawings. So what you did is you did the design, and then you did a design development drawing set and then you gave that to another architect who took it and did the working drawings. But the drawings that Kump did were amazingly well done, so there was no interpretation. You didn't interpret what he did. At that time, there was … we were doing junior colleges. We were working on … I did a planetarium at Foothill and we worked on De Anza. And De Anza was just finishing up. Foothill had been completed, but they had … they'd put in another building there. And Foothill at that time was considered probably the most … advanced junior college in all of America. So he became very famous. So he got projects in Massachusetts. We had four projects in Illinois. We had, uh, several in like Bermuda and so on... [Transcriber’s note: William is referring here to Foothill College, a public community college in Los Altos Hills, CA, and De Anza College, a public community college in Cupertino, CA.]

JOHN: Can you name some of the specific projects that … you mentioned the planetarium project…

WILLIAM: Yeah. The ones … I worked on … or I was trying to think. I think it was the University of the Virgin Islands. It had a campus that we worked on … one outside of … outside of Amherst, which I don't know … the name of it is not the same now I think it was called … can't actually remember. We just went to it two or three years ago because we were in eastern Massachusetts. There were several in Rockford, Illinois. I don't know the name of them. And then there was one outside of Peoria. And then we also were...

JOHN: All junior colleges?

WILLIAM: All junior colleges at that time, yeah. And…

JOHN: Would you describe him as maybe the foremost designer of junior colleges at that … in that period?

WILLIAM: He was … there was … there were several companies, several firms doing … institutional work was really big then. The big … Midwest company was Perkins & Will, and Perkins & Will were doing most of the work in the Midwest. And Ernest Kump was doing a lot of the work out here in the West Coast. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Perkins & Will is a global architecture and design practice founded in Chicago in 1935 by Lawrence Perkins and Philip Will Jr. In 1986, Perkins & Will became part of a network of engineering, design and project management companies based in Dubai and known as Dar Group.]

JOHN: I guess the junior college as an institution was just coming into being, right?

WILLIAM: That was just … that was brand new...

JOHN: A post-World War Two...

WILLIAM: [00:28:19] So the junior colleges in Massachusetts, that was a new … a new type of building for them. They had … they didn't have anything that was strictly a junior college. After that, then, there were other, you know, like Paul Rudolph did some outside of Boston. And we worked with Architects Collaborative on two projects. And then … I forgot the guy who did … oh, there was one of the other … one of the partners of The Architects Collaborative we did two buildings with, two campuses. But these were large … each one of the campuses might have as many as 20 to 30 buildings involved. So you would do a master plan, and the master plan was completed, and then you would start on the buildings that you wanted to work on. Usually the student union and the library and the other … oh, and the other … we did the master plan for U.C. Santa Cruz. And we did a building at U.C. Santa Cruz, and it wasn't really done very well. So the footings, the footings didn't have [chuckles] didn't have air circulation. So they actually rotted out. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, Paul Rudolph (1918 – 1997) was an American architect and the chair of Yale University’s department of architecture for six years. Known for his use of reinforced concrete and highly complex floor plans, his most famous work is the Yale Art and Architecture Building, a spatially-complex Brutalist concrete structure.; Also per Wikipedia, The Architects Collaborative (TAC) was an architectural firm formed by eight architects that operated between 1945 and 1995 in Cambridge, MA. The founding members were Norman C. Fletcher, Jean B. Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah P. Harkness, Robert S. McMillan, Louis A. McMillan, Benjamin C. Thompson and Walter Gropius. TAC created many successful projects and was well-respected for its broad range of designs, being considered one of the most notable firms in post-war modernism.]

JOHN: How would things be divided within the firm? Would you be responsible for an entire building … on the campus?

WILLIAM: Usually there was … one designer for each campus. And then he had a team of people, and a team of people floated around, depending upon … basically depending upon the time constraints and the deadlines. So once a deadline came in, usually everybody went to work on that project, got it done, and then you would go to the next one, just kind of putting out fires. And, uh…

JOHN: Can I ask you a question? When you finished your undergraduate program at Idaho, was there an idea that you had in mind of what you wanted to do as an architect, the kind of work that you wanted to do? And how did that evolve over the course of time?

WILLIAM: [00:30:24] No, I didn't really have a real direction. I was … the dean of the school that I met with before I left, he said basically what you should do it's more about the type of office you want to be in and the type of office you want, as opposed to … I think where he was wrong there is the fact that you probably should direct to yourself in terms of the type of work you want to do, because there's so many variations within the profession. What happened with the schools, the schools were really … if I'd have stayed in this … like if I'd have stayed with Ernie Kump for long, I'd have probably stayed in doing schools. But I stayed with Ernie Kump for I guess it was close to a year and a half or two years. And then I went to a lecture of one of the people at Cal that gave a lecture on Maybeck at Stanford. And so I went to Ernie and asked that, “I think I would like to go back to graduate school. And I was thinking of going back to Cal.” And he said, “Well, let me call Dean Wheaton.” [chuckles] So Dean Wheaton was the head of the whole department at that time. And so he called Dean Wheaton and Dean Wheaton just said, “Well, send your resume and we'll see what we can do.” And I got into Cal. [chuckles] So I don't know if I would have been able to do that without his help. [Transcriber’s notes: William refers here to Bernard Maybeck (1862-1957), a leading architect in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century. He was an instructor at U.C. Berkeley, and most of his major buildings were in theBay Area.; William refers also to William Wheaton (1913-1978), who served as dean of the College of Environmental Design at U.C. Berkeley from 1968 until 1976.]

JOHN: Was that unusual that somebody would be entering grad school with your level of experience or…?

WILLIAM: [chuckles] I think that was the thing … that was kind of the way education was at that time. If you … it's a little different now. But it was kind of like a very East Coast phenomenon where it's all political.

JOHN: Can I go back and ask … you had mentioned earlier that you felt the East Coast wasn't going to work out for you because of the … maybe the hierarchy and the traditions there … And that you had been drawn to California for maybe a new horizons. Were there some other things that were drawing you to California as well? I mean...

WILLIAM: [00:32:41] No. Other than San Francisco’s size … San Francisco … The size of San Francisco seemed like it was a nice size of a city to work in. Probably if I’d have known everything about San Francisco I wouldn't have come here to practice architecture ‘cause it's a terrible place to practice. A terrible place to practice … modern architecture because they don't care for … you know, modern architecture wasn't very well-conceived here. It's interesting … I just got back from Portland, and you can kind of see what a modern city potentially was when it was … when redevelopment came in and they had strong architecture here. There really weren't … there really wasn't a strong architectural tradition in San Francisco to speak of. And…

JOHN: What is the reason for that? Is that a kind of a public resistance to change or...?

WILLIAM: Well, that's one of the things. I think it's also because … it got built so fast, uh, got built so fast after the fire. And they basically used Victorian models as a model for the city. Mitchell Schwarzer picks up on that in the book that I did on The Guide to San Francisco. He has a pretty good … he has a pretty good take on that. But it's also … it's very … San Francisco is very financially very creative. But from a design and aesthetic standpoint, it's very conservative. So you just … you just drive around here and you just don't see very many good buildings. And luckily … luckily the city had Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. And Anshen and Allen and a few really very good architects that had done a lot of work. But it wasn't like … and I just got back from Portland, and in Portland, you know, it's like Belluschi. You see … you can drive around Portland, see 20 buildings still there that Belluschi did that are amazingly beautifully detailed. And you just … all you have to do is drive around and there are Beluski buildings. You know, they’re Belluschi buildings. And … I wish I'd have had a little more time to spend this time and do it. But in San Francisco, other than Skidmore and Skidmore doing mid-rise and high rises in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there aren't … you can't actually do that very much. Most of the creative work that I kind of thought was creative was either done by schools, by Mario Ciampi or Esherick or Marquis and Stoller and so on. But it wasn't really … there really wasn't, uh, there really weren't the juices here to make things work like Los Angeles. Los Angeles has a different kind of economic adventurous. You know, in the movie industry and everything … you have people who are really not afraid to lose their money. Where you here you have very conservative … conservative ethics. A lot of money, but… [chuckles] [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, Mitchell Schwarzer is a historian who writes on architecture and the built environment. He is Professor of Architectural and Urban History in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture at California College of the Arts. William refers here to Schwarzer’s guide book Architecture and Design: SF, which was published by William Stout Architectural Books in 1998; Anshen and Allen was an international architecture, planning and design firm founded by founded by Samuel Robert Anshen and William Stephen Allen Jr. in 1940 and headquartered in San Francisco.; Pietro Belluschi (1899 – 1994) was a leading figure in modern architecture and was responsible for the design of over 1,000 buildings. Born in Italy, Belluschi began his architectural career as a draftsman in a Portland, OR firm. In 1951 he was named the dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, where he served until 1965, also working as collaborator and design consultant for many high-profile commissions, most famously the 1963 Pan Am Building in New York.; William also refers to American architects Mario Ciampi (1907-2006) and Joseph Esherick (1914-1998), and the influential, San Francisco-based architectural firm Marquis and Stoller.]

JOHN: So I mean, a lot of people in the in the 1960s, in the period in which you moved to the Bay Area, came for lifestyle reasons or because they felt there was some kind of free … freedom happening.


JOHN: But you came it sounds more for professional reasons.

WILLIAM: [00:36:15] I did, but that's what was happening. It was … I got here, I got to San Francisco Bay Area in ‘67 and eight and lived in Palo Alto for a while. And living in Palo Alto was like living … I thought I'd be … I thought it'd be close enough to San Francisco, but it was … it's a big trip up here, you know, so you don't really use San Francisco. So then I went to school in Berkeley…

[Second recording segment of May 9, 2022 interview with William Stout begins here]

WILLIAM: …when the riots were on. So that that was ‘68.

JOHN: The Vietnam riots?

WILLIAM: War riots. It was … it wasn't Vietnam. It was...

JOHN: Or People's Park perhaps?

WILLIAM: [00:00:13] People's Park riots, yeah. The whole … so the whole campus was blown away. So that was … that was really an interesting experience ‘cause I went back to Berkeley not to really study architecture, but … to get a degree, but actually to take a break. And took most of my courses in painting, in the art department and took just … you only had to take, I think, nine units of architecture, which was great. So … and then at the end there was riots. So we didn't even have finals. I mean, finals were just going in and checking in and saying hello and getting out of town, you know, that was it. And so then I … went out looking for a job. The school … the school at that time, too, was not really into a design program. It's the first year Christopher Alexander was teaching there, and he was setting up his little school within a school. And they were actually teaching systems analysis and trying to figure out if systems analysis and prefabrication of buildings and everything that could work, which was just … and they were also working with Stanford. Stanford was doing a lot of that. And Stanford had a very good program where they did some of these prefabricated building systems and so on. And so there were a lot of people in the school that weren’t really architects or looking at how architecture should maybe be studied. But design was not … design in the architecture department at that at that time was not one of the priorities. So that was fine for me because I spent a lot of time in the art school. [chuckles] [Transcriber’s note: The People’s Park actions mentioned here occurred in May 1969, after Governor Ronald Reagan sent California Highway Patrol and Berkeley police officers into People's Park on May 15. Violent protests ensued and Reagan declared a state of emergency in Berkeley and sent in National Guard troops. On May 30, 30,000 Berkeley citizens marched peacefully past the barricaded People's Park to protest Reagan's occupation of their city and the casualties. For several more weeks, the streets of Berkeley were patrolled by National Guardsmen, who broke up any assemblies of more than four people who congregated on the streets.; Per Wikipedia, Christopher Alexander (1936-2022) was an Austrian-born British-American architect and design theorist. He taught at U.C. Berkeley’s architecture department and is considered the father of the Pattern Language movement. His theories about the nature of human-centered design have affected fields beyond architecture, including urban design, software and sociology.]

JOHN: So I think from early on you said, you know, in Idaho, there was a lot of back and forth between art and architecture. And has painting or sketching been something you've been doing all along through this, through these years and...?

WILLIAM: I never really … I never really kept a sketchbook. In Idaho they said that that was a major thing you had to do, that you always kept your sketchbook with you. I didn't do that. I never really started thinking about … I have … now I do the sketch books. I do sketch books. I have a complete series of sketch books, I do the whole year. I've done that. But I didn't really start doing sketchbooks until maybe the ‘70s, ‘til I started the bookstore. When I was traveling a lot and buying books and going to Europe and so on, then I started keeping sketch books and doing my art in my sketchbooks rather than painting, because I really … when I got … when I got out of graduate school, I actually had lived up in Buena Vista Park for awhile, and had a studio on Pier 33 with a couple older architects and...

JOHN: A painting studio?

WILLIAM: [00:03:37] A painting studio. I had a painting studio in there … in Pier 33 up above, which is … the piers are run by … I guess the piers … I don't know what it is … but it's a completely different system for the city. And at that time they didn't even know what they owned, let alone picking up rent. So the rents were cheap, and they were really nice spaces and we were above the Pier Inn, which was at Pier 33. There's still a restaurant there. And so we had the upstairs area. So I painted there for, I guess six to eight months and then…

JOHN: Were you painting … what sort of things, subjects?

WILLIAM: [00:04:20] Abstract. Abstract paintings, yeah. I was … when I grew up in Idaho at … in high school, the library there always got the New York Timesthe week afterwards. So it would come in, and that was always there. So I read the New York Times all through high school, and so I was very aware of the art scene in New York, even though we didn't have an art program. So I was into what was happening in New York. So really what happened when I got out of school, I went back East Coast, but I went back for the world's fair is really what … the reason I went back. And then so I went to the world's fair and then spent time in New York studying, looking at art and going to art museums and probably thinking that New York would be the nice … would be the best place to be. But … thinking if I had trouble in New England trying to get work, it would probably be harder in New York. So I focused on San Francisco because I felt like it was probably … the most logical place for me to be in a city that I … that I haven't been in and was interested in. When I was in high school and college, I used to drive to Portland to buy clothes and things and shop because they really … Portland was just a really a mecca for, for me anyway...

JOHN: And the nearest big city.

WILLIAM: Yeah, it was nearest big city. Seattle I never really got into as much. But Portland I did because it was focused and had a little more sense of urban … urbanism and … so going back this last week was good ‘cause I was able to kind of spend a little time thinking about that. But, anyway, I … after the art studios then I went … I got a job with Warren Callister… [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Charles Warren Callister (1917-2008) was an architect based in Tiburon, CA. He is known for the hand-crafted aesthetic and high-level design of his single-family homes and large community developments.]

JOHN: Can I can I interrupt you just for a second?


JOHN: It's interesting when you mention that in high school you were going to the library and reading the New York Times and following the art world in other cities, in New York in particular. What was it … was there something in you innately, do you think? Or perhaps it was something you were exposed to when you were young or through your parents that began to build an interest in art and architecture? Where does that come from?

WILLIAM: I don't know. There's no art in the family history.

JOHN: Brothers or sisters who were…?

WILLIAM: [00:07:09] No, no. And it was a little difficult because my parents had no idea when I went to architecture school … what I was doing. And in some ways, that's probably what a young person wants, because then you have your own freedom. But in other … ways, there was really little interest in what I was doing. And as long as I stayed out of trouble … that was OK with them. [chuckles] My parents were really young. So when I was growing up with them, my mother was more like my sister. And my father I wasn't too close to because he was gone most of the time. And he also had crews that he had … B-29 crews with nine young people going from people that had masters degrees to kids that just got out of high school, and gunners in the back, you know. So when my father was home, we might in the middle of the night get a call from the police station saying one of his crew was thrown in jail or something [chuckles] and he had to bail them out. He never really had ... he never … I kind of played into the game of not being too much of a problem. [chuckles] And so I got out of town. And then when I went to college and I had … I did have an interest in art. There was … art was interesting in New York, you know. It was at the time when New York was taking over from Paris. And the abstract expressionist movement was one of the most important movements in American art history. So I followed that. And then when I went to New York, it really gave me a lot of energy. And being in Connecticut when I moved back there after school gave me the allowance to go … I was in between Boston and New York, so I could go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The Corbusier building was just finishing. And, uh, Harvard at that time actually had some decent shows, but now they just keep ‘em in the basement, you know. [chuckles] It's like … and in the Boston Architectural Center at that time was kind of interesting because they had some good shows, and it was kind of not in the grain of the Ivy League schools. And New Haven … New Haven was kind of the lifeblood, New Haven, with all the buildings that were going on there. I could go there every weekend. And there were buildings by Philip Johnson. There were four or five buildings being done by [Paul] Rudolph. All the local architects were doing buildings … New Haven was really an interesting kind of … outlet for me to go on weekends. And I could go to there and then drop by New York and then I … would end up going down to Washington and Philadelphia. So it was a good … way for me for three years to get a little idea of what living on the East Coast would be like. And I like the idea of the way it's set up because it's … the houses and everything were really quite beautiful and serene and everything. But then when I realized that … well, I lived in Hartford for a while, and I realized that … the Italians were thought of as being poor paupers. And the Irish were … it was really a caste system, you know. And the Jewish couldn't … get into the country club. So the Jewish start their own country club and it becomes more elitist than … the WASPy country clubs. [chuckles] So it was it was interesting ‘cause when I grew up in Idaho we had only one Black guy on the team, our basketball team. And he was an amazing young man from … from Vallejo [California]. And I didn't realize it at the time, but he … he must have had a very difficult time growing up there because their family could … always kind of lived on the other side of the tracks, you know. And they were in the Air Force. And … so when I got out of Idaho, then I got back to the East Coast and I … it was kind of an eye-opening experience to see how the cities were integrated in different ways and how … how often some of the cultures were looked down on that we had never grown up with. When you were growing up in Mountain Home, it was nice because the Basque people were really interesting people. Some of my best friends were Basque young men. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Phillip Johnson (1906-2005) was an American architect best known for his works of modern and postmodern architecture. In 1978, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize. Today his skyscrapers are prominent features in the skylines of New York, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Madrid and other cities.]

JOHN: So was part of the reason to move to California, to move away from that into a...?

WILLIAM: You mean from the East Coast?

JOHN: Yeah. Where that caste system was so entrenched.

WILLIAM: [00:12:21] Yeah. Well, that's what's interesting about the West Coast when you think about it. You don't really realize how open and free it is here. There's a lot of different … you can … culturally look at it and kind of put things in places and not be too excited about it. But the freedom is unbelievably more open here than it is there. You can't even go to the beaches on the East Coast. I mean, you own the beach. And so going to the beaches in the East Coast, you have to park in a town, you have to have a parking permit and you get two hours. Other than New Hamp, er, Rhode Island. Rhode Island you can go to like Misquamicut or beaches there. And they have public beaches. Public beaches in New England really aren't public. They're … owned by the towns, you know. [chuckles] And so I was … I moved back here more for lifestyle more than … living there would have been fine if I'd been married to someone who lived there and had a … was inbred. [chuckles] But where I was coming from, it wasn't a good place to be. So coming here was … coming to San Francisco was a good place for me. And I like going … I like being around Berkeley. Stanford I always … I could never really understand Stanford. So [chuckles] I kind I got out of Palo Alto quickly. And so I've been here ever since. I did...

JOHN: After finishing Berkeley's program, you've been a resident of San Francisco ever since. Is that right?

WILLIAM: [00:13:59] Well, I got a job with Warren Callister. And Warren Callister hired me. He was doing a large project in Southbury, Connecticut called Heritage Village. And Howard Backen and a lot of Backen, Arrigoni and Ross had all work for Callister, and they were … they’d kind of done the master plan. And so Warren was … needed somebody to go back there to kind of dial for dollars in reality is what it was. [chuckles] So … and this used to be the … I was trying to think … the great pianist’s house. A great pianist. It was … a large estate outside of New Haven. Victor Borge. It was a Victor Borge estate. So I went back there probably for a little … maybe a year. And we lived in the Victor Borge house because that was the community building for this town … this was 2,500 units in the middle of Connecticut … right next to Waterbury, Connecticut, which is pretty Italian. And our developers were named Paparazzo. [chuckles] So when we were in Paparazzo’s office … so Warren didn't really have an office there, but we worked in Paparazzo’s office, and we were just kind of extensions of the developer in a way. And it was an interesting experience because they were doing it … a large town and everything out there. They'd taken over this little town and just built a shopping center and gas station and housing units for … I guess it was … kind of a retirement village. But not the level where you had a hospitalization and everything taken care of. And they had a beautiful golf course there, and it was a good experience. So I worked there for a while and then … and in fact, what was … when I … one of the times I went back there with Warren, we had gotten on a plane in San Francisco and we got off at Kennedy and turned on the radio in the car. And … the art and architecture building was burning at the … in New Haven. And so I didn't think Warren would … I didn't think Warren would really be into it at all, but we got in the car he drove directly to New Haven. And they were just … bailing out all of the the large rope curtains that … [Paul] Rudolph had put in there. And they were all … out in the street kind of smoldering and everything. And the building was just … looked really nasty. And so then we went over to our project. And then they redid the … the architecture building after that. And the reason basically is the fires. The art students started it, of course, because they were put in a basement, and there was kind of a rebellion. [Transcriber’s notes: William refers here to the firm headed by Otto Paparazzo. Per The New York Times, Paparazzo “was a New England developer who drew national attention in the 1960s and ’70s for popularizing a novel concept in American housing at the time — large condominium and clustered-housing projects in often sleepy small towns. Paparazzo died in 2014 in Southbury, CT, the site of his best-known development, the “planned adult community” Heritage Village.; Per Wikipedia, Charles Warren Callister (1917-2008) was a Tiburon-based architect known for the hand-crafted aesthetic and high-level design of his single-family homes and large community developments. One of Callister's most notable projects is Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, one of the first "active adult" communities for residents 55 years or older in the Bay Area.; Founded in 1966, Backen, Arrigoni and Ross (now known as BAR Architects & Interiors) is an architectural, interior design and planning firm located in San Francisco.; Per Wikipedia, Børge Rosenbaum (1909-2000), known professionally as Victor Borge, was a Danish-American comedian, conductor, and pianist who achieved great popularity in radio and television in both North America and Europe.]

JOHN: They were putting what? Oh, they were put in the basement...

WILLIAM: [00:17:16] They were put in the basement. Where the architecture department had the top floor with their guest lectures … having an apartment up there when they could come in. So it was really a rebellion. But being in New Haven was really interesting. Kahn had just finished his life … he was just finishing and died with the … British Museum. And you had then the museum, the art museum that he did. And it was … art was really good right then. So there were a lot of little museums you could go to in Connecticut. And then you could go to New York and Boston both. And then … a lot of the University of Massachusetts had a big building program … in Amherst, and their campus there was really growing. And there were a lot of buildings by Kevin Roche and Dinkeloo. And Kevin Roche and Dinkeloo their … office was in Hartford. Well, not Hartford, but the city next door. [Transcriber’s note: Louis Kahn (1901-1974) was an Estonian-born American architect who developed a style that was monumental and monolithic. After working for several firms in Philadelphia, he founded his own firm in 1935. He served as a design critic and professor of architecture at Yale School of Architecture from 1947 to 1957, and from 1957 until his death he was a professor of architecture at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.; Per Wikipedia, Kevin Roche (1922-2019) was an Irish-born Pritzker Prize-winning architect. He was responsible for the design/master planning for more than 200 built projects in the U.S. and internationally, including eight museums, 38 corporate headquarters, performing arts centers and campus buildings for six universities. His architectural firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, was founded in 1966 and is based in Hamden, CT.]

JOHN: So if I'm understanding you correctly, following completion of the program and grad school in Berkeley, you went and you … lived again in the East Coast to work?

WILLIAM: I went back … he hired me ‘cause I’d lived there. So I went back to Connecticut for another year or so to work on that building. And I got … and left and then decided … came back here and then decided to start my own office.

JOHN: OK. And that's when you moved back to San Francisco, the city.

WILLIAM: Back to San Francisco at that time.

JOHN: And you began your own firm? What happened at that point?

WILLIAM: [00:19:05] Not at that time … I worked with … I came back here … I was a little premature there. I came back here, and I got … actually, that's when I was doing my painting studio. [chuckles] So I was a little out of sequence there. I had a … I was doing paintings at Pier 33, and I was there for a while. And my friend Peter Van Dine, who I went to Berkeley with, had gotten a job with Halprin, and he was kind of working at Halprin's office. And one of our friends was working out at Ian Mackinlay's office. So I got a job with Ian Mackinlay in Orinda, and we worked there for a while. And Ian Mackinlay's office was a very interesting experience because you kind of ran your own job there and Ian didn't really care. Ian just let you go. And there were some … there were really interesting people. So I met my eventual partner Jim Jennings there, and there were really wonderful people working there. The work we were doing wasn't that great. There was a lot of work up in Lake Tahoe, kind of mountain houses and stuff like that. And then we got a job to do, a project in Orinda called Orinda Woods. And it was really interesting because the developer was the guy who did the Coliseum, Bob Nahas, and then another money person from Contra Costa County… [Transcriber’s notes: Per the firm’s website, Peter Van Dine has worked with Studios Architecture for more than two decades, and has over 40 years of experience in architecture, urban design and interiors throughout North America and Europe on commercial, retail and education projects. Per Wikipedia, Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was an influential landscape architect, designer and teacher who began his career in the Bay Area and often collaborated with a local circle of modernist architects, including  William Wurster, Joseph Esherick, Vernon DeMars, Mario Ciampi and others associated with U.C. Berkeley.; Per his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ian Mackinlay (1926-2017) founded Ian Mackinlay and Associates in Orinda in 1959, which later became Mackinlay Winnacker McNeil (MWM) with offices in Oakland, Hawaii, Guam and Saudi Arabia. In 1990, he left MWM to found Ian Mackinlay Architecture (IMA) in San Francisco.; Per the U.C. Berkeley College of Environmental Design,Jim Jennings was born in 1940 and founded Jim Jennings Architecture in 1975. In 1980, he partnered with William Stout to form Jennings + Stout, but parted ways in 1986. Jennings has taught, lectured and had his work exhibited at venues across the United States. He became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2016 and continues to practice in San Francisco.; Per the Los Angeles Times, Bob Nahas was a real estate developer who gained success as a developer of shopping centers and housing in the Bay Area cities of Castro Valley and Orinda and in the Lake Tahoe area. Known for his passion in promoting the East Bay, Nahas was the driving force behind the building of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex in the 1960s.]

JOHN: Which Coliseum?

WILLIAM: The Oakland Coliseum.

JOHN: Oh, the sporting complex?

WILLIAM: [00:20:42] Yeah, the sporting complex. And he was … Bob Nahas was responsible for BART going out there. He was … really an interesting man. So he and his partners bought this piece of property called Kite Hill in Orinda. It was basically a hill that had been overrun by locals because it was their public park. But it wasn't public. So the project was to take this hill and to put housing up there. And we did that. [chuckles] And there were housing and recreational facilities. It was an interesting project ‘cause it was really … moved a lot of earth and stuff to make it work. And it ended up…

JOHN: Is it called Kite Hill, the project?

WILLIAM: It's called Orindawoods now. [Per the development’s website, Orindawoods is a planned unit development consisting of 258 residences in three basic configurations: townhomes, patio homes and estate homes. The homes are clustered in neighborhoods with approximately half of the development’s 187 acres devoted to open space. Built on a natural ridge line in Orinda, many of the residences offer views of the East Bay hills, Mt. Diablo and wooded surroundings.]

JOHN: Orindawoods.

WILLIAM: Orindawoods, so … the interesting part about it, it was individual housing units that you didn't have … individual architects could do. And then there was … there were condominiums that were done, and then there were recreational buildings. And so I was in charge of doing a lot of the recreational buildings and the landscaping. You know, it was really a big landscaping job. [chuckles] We moved over a million and a half yards of earth to make this thing work. But it was interesting. It's now considered … at that time, it was really avant garde in terms of what we were doing, and nobody really liked it. But it's now considered kind of a very nice place to live.

JOHN: Was Halprin involved at all with that?

WILLIAM: No. Halprin. No, No … Halprin was doing. In fact, this weekend I saw three of Halprin's fountains up in Portland, but Halprin was doing work all over the world at that time. Not … we had a landscape architect that's just down the street here. Very interesting man. And I think his idea of landscaping was just throwing seeds out [chuckles] letting things grow naturally. And that's basically what happened. We had an interesting experience there because we did … along with other young men in the office, they did a couple complexes that were courtyards that were developed really beautifully with the units looking out over the various parts of the hill and a lot of them looking out to the freeway. And as opposed to what most people think, the freeway units were the first to go. People like the action of the freeway, you know … the motion and so on.

JOHN: This was over Highway 24 I suppose?

WILLIAM: [00:23:24] Yeah, yeah. The big freeway out there. So it was like if you … it was a little hard to figure out why they would do that, but those were the first units to sell. So it's really interesting. But that was good. So then … I then worked … they had a slow period, so I got a job with Sandy Babcock on Union Street. And they did housing similar. They were involved with a lot of stuff in the valley. So I did several projects with them for a couple of years with a big developer in Stockton. And working out there was interesting because of the water … you have, you really have … the units were usually put on podiums up above the water so that if it ever flooded, they wouldn't get flooded. Those were fun projects, too … Both of these developers, Ian Mackinlay Architects, Ian Mackinlay and Sandy Babcock, kind of just let you do your own projects. And as long as you didn't create issues, it was it was fine. [Transcriber’s notes: The San Francisco-based firm Sandy & Babcock, Architects and Planners operated in the 1970s and focused primarily on custom residential projects. Founded by architects Don Sandy and Jim Babcock, the firm has morphed to become SB Architects, with offices in San Francisco, Miami and Shenzhen.]

JOHN: You mean that the firm found the contract, but then you were able to do your own design or…?

WILLIAM: You worked within the firm and you did the whole design. And as the client was happy, everything worked pretty well. [chuckles] So I worked there for a while. And then eventually got together with Jim Jennings and a couple other people and we started our own office.

JOHN: In San Francisco?

WILLIAM: Oh, we started basically in Berkeley and ended up in San Francisco. And, yeah, we had an office on Union Street. It was …it’s where the little bookstore … you know, the bookstore that just moved? Boy, it's amazing. [Transcriber’s note: William is referring here to Libreria Pino, an Italian bookstore which opened in 2022 at 1501 Grant Avenue, the site of the former Italian French Baking Company.]

JOHN: Union and…?

WILLIAM: They just took over the bakery. Pino.

JOHN: I do know about that.

WILLIAM: Yeah, well, we were in that space.

JOHN: Really?

WILLIAM: Well, we were … in his … on Jasper Alley. So we were in Jasper Alley for, oh, four or five years.

JOHN: And approximately what year are we talking about then?

WILLIAM: Hmm. I'm trying to think … ‘74 to ’81, approximately. And then I started the bookstore in a … in ‘74. So, uh…

JOHN: So when I … we're going to talk about the bookstore in a few minutes. But I recall that in the earliest days of the … of your bookstore, you were doing it from home really, right?

WILLIAM: It was … I had an apartment at 1218 Montgomery, which is the Belli house. And so the bookstore started there. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Melvin Belli (1907-1996) was a San Francisco-based attorney known as “The King of Torts.” Belli had many celebrity clients and high-profile cases, and his tumultuous personal life, which included six marriages and five divorces, was well-documented in local media.]

JOHN: And … initially you were open only during the lunch period and on Saturdays, right?

WILLIAM: Eleven to three, yeah.

JOHN: And that's because you were doing your own work at the time, is that right?

WILLIAM: [00:26:39] I was actually doing my own work and also working. I got a nice job with Whisler-Patri. They were doing some work and [chuckles] it was nice working there because you could just work at your own hours. And so you just set up your own meetings and everything worked well. So I would go to work in the morning at eight o’clock and work ‘til 10:30, come back and open the bookstore at 11 and work ‘til two, and then go back and work at Whisler-Patri. And so that was … I was very lucky to get that job. So I was able to … I had three or four houses down in San Jose I was working on. And so that worked out pretty well. [Transcriber’s note: Per the San Francisco Chronicle, Whisler-Patri Associates was formed by San Francisco architects Bud Whisler and Piero Patri in 1963. In 1996, after Whisler's retirement, the firm changed its name to Patri Merker Architects.]

JOHN: Throughout these years that you're living and working in Berkeley and San Francisco and other … maybe even when you're on the East Coast, are you beginning to build a collection of books?

WILLIAM: [00:27:45] Well, I started collecting books when I was at Idaho. There was a great bookseller in New York called George Wittenborn. And George advertised occasionally in the New York Times, but also did a catalog. And so I would buy … I didn't have much money at the time, so I bought a few books from him through the catalog. And then when I went to New York in ‘64, I made a special point to go to his bookstore on Madison Avenue above … in the second floor. And it was … that was pretty inspiring and he was really an interesting man and had a great collection. So one of my first books I bought there when I was in Idaho was a Becher and Becher book on anonymous architecture, signed by Mrs. Becher. Yeah. But … so I still have that book. I still have... [Transcriber’s notes: Per the New York Times, George Wittenborn operated a well-known art‐book shop, Wittenborn & Co., for many years at Madison Avenue and 78th Street. He also headed a small publishing company, George Wittenborn, Inc., which began publishing art books in paperback in the late 1940s.; Per Wikipedia, Bernard “Bernd” Becher (1931-2007) and Hilla Becher (1934-2015) were German conceptual artists and photographers who worked as a collaborative duo. They are best known for their extensive series of photographic images of industrial buildings and structures, often organized in grids. Per the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, “using a large-format view camera, the Bechers methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers and gas tanks with precision, elegance and passion.” As the founders of what has come to be known as the “Becher school” or the Dusseldorf School of Photography, they influenced generations of documentary photographers and artists.]

JOHN: By the time we're getting to, you know.

WILLIAM: We … I probably have to stop about 12. Is that OK?

JOHN: That's fine.

WILLIAM: [chuckles]

JOHN: But around this time, let's say by the late ‘60s, early ‘70s was you … you'd been out of well, let's say by 19, early ‘70s was your collection rather large?


JOHN: And when you moved from place to place, was it a … where did you bring your books? Did you carry them from place to place or keep them stored?

WILLIAM: Well, I had … I got married in the mid early ‘70s, and I got divorced in two or three years. But I had collected a lot of books. They actually had a little office over on Green Street where I lived. I forgot about that. And I … I didn't have a lot of books, but I had interesting books. And then in the early-mid ‘70s then I'd go to Europe quite often. I went to Europe two or three times and brought home a lot of books. And so that … bringing home those books and my own library was what set up the bookstore.

JOHN: I think maybe this is a good place for us to break away because it's getting to be close to 12.


JOHN: And I think we'll have to pick it up again another time, if that's OK with you.

WILLIAM: Yeah, that's fine.

JOHN: [00:30:16] OK. Alright. Thank you very much.

[First recording segment of May 16, 2022 interview with William Stout begins here]

JOHN: [00:00:01] Alright. We’re good. That's about the right height. OK. Hi, Bill. We're resuming our interview. Today is May 16th...

WILLIAM: Sixteenth.

JOHN: … 2022. This is John Doxey from the Telegraph Hill Dwellers oral history project with William Stout in his bookstore on Montgomery Street. May 16th, 2022. And this is our second session together. Last time as we were finishing up, we brought it right up to about the time that you were beginning the kind of nascent bookstore. I think you were collecting books, right?…


JOHN: …and living in the Belli building. I believe you had a roommate.

WILLIAM: Yeah. So that was in 1974…


WILLIAM: …when the bookstore started. My roommate was … I needed a roommate at that time ‘cause I didn't … couldn't afford the space. So Steven Holl the architect was my roommate for awhile, and he helped work at the bookstore when I first started. One of my first employees. And then after six or seven months, he took off and went to AA in London. And then I was living there and working the bookshop alone. So I was at 1218 Montgomery for probably approximately three or four years. [Transcriber’s notes: Born in 1947, Steven Holl is a New York-based American architect and watercolorist, per Wikipedia.; Also per Wikipedia, the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, commonly referred to as the AA, is the oldest private school of architecture in the United Kingdom.]

JOHN: Excuse me for a second. Had you been there before? Did you mention in our last session that you had been married?

WILLIAM: No. Yeah, I had been married and I went to Europe and bought a lot of books at that time. And when I came back, I went to a lecture of Steven Holl. And he had given a lecture on Louis Kahn, and he had just been to the office. He was interviewing there for a job. And when I got back, we both needed an apartment. So we found this apartment on Telegraph Hill, and it happened to be in the Melvin Belli house. And it was a nice apartment, two-bedroom apartment. And basically I started the bookstore in the living room of the apartment with the books that I brought back and then a few books that I published or that I bought along the way. And at that time we were open from 11 to two during the week, and then on … I think it was 12 to five on Saturdays.

JOHN: And this is because you were juggling two things, right? You were also working at this time?

WILLIAM: [00:03:01] Well, no it's more like … there were a lot of architects in the area, maybe 100 to 200 architectural offices in the area, and they would come up at lunch. So it seemed like just to keep the bookstore … or to start the bookstore and a lunch scenario. And that worked pretty well. So offices would come up either in singles or in groups, and then they would buy books occasionally. And I realized at that time that the bookstore wouldn't survive if I didn't do a catalog. And I kind of used the George Wittenborncatalogs from New York that he would send out from his art bookstore on Madison Avenue. And so I also … as I started the bookstore in 1974, I also did a printed catalog. It was very small in the beginning. One page. And then I sent that out to architects at that time, probably two or 300 architects that I thought might buy books. And then when people bought books, I would take their address and then send them catalogs every so often. So the next catalog was a little larger and it was, uh, probably 15 or 20, probably 16 pages, ‘cause it could be folded from an eight and a half by 15. And then we'd fold it up, and then mail it out in an envelope. And then probably a year or two after the bookstore started, I was introduced to a couple of printers. And one of them was James Monday. He was a young architectural student that also printed books in … for different people all in the Bay Area. And he usually did letterset printing. But what we decided to do was do a regular offset printing for catalog three and four, and do that in offset and then do a letterset cover. So we’d do a really fine cover. And then on a series of … I think it was probably 32 pages was the catalog three, four and five. And they were all done in letterset printing. So they were really quite well done. James worked for Goines, the printer in Berkeley, and used his press. And then we had the offset done by another company. So that seemed to work pretty well. And we started then to do a mail-order business as well as people in the bookstore. [Transcriber’s note: David Goines was a Berkeley-based printmaker who came of age during the Free Speech Movement and whose fine arts posters became emblematic of numerous Berkeley institutions, including Chez Panisse. He founded his print shop, Saint Hieronymus Press, in 1968 in North Berkeley.]

JOHN: Excuse me for a second. I'm a little confused because I thought from our previous discussion that when you initiated the bookstore during these limited hours, lunchtime and Saturdays, that you had concurrently been working in an architectural firm.

WILLIAM: [00:06:00] I had been doing that. So I … I was working for an architect early in the morning and late in the afternoon. And that was one of the reasons … but I had already established the 11 to two format. So I … got a job with Whisler-Patri at the time to work on a couple projects they did, and I could work my hours around that. So it was I think I worked eight to 10:30, and their office was just down the street. And I'd come back to the bookstore at 11 and work ‘til two, and then go to work there 2:30 or three.

JOHN: Were you pretty excited about the prospect of … a book…

WILLIAM: Of the bookstore?

JOHN: … a bookselling operation? I mean, was that something that you envisioned at that point as the direction that you wanted to move in?

WILLIAM: [00:06:48] I didn't … I didn't really know if it would work or not. I had friends who thought it was really strange, and they didn't quite understand the format or what I was doing. And I'm pretty stubborn, and so I had probably decided it was gonna work. And when I decide it's gonna work, it's gonna work. And I was basically supporting it. So it was just a matter of time before it may develop. After a year or two of doing … one of my … first big publishers that I got ahold of was Futagawa in Tokyo. And he had just started GA International, which was a large publishing company doing large-format books on buildings he had covered all over the world. And then he was doing a book called GA Documents, which was documenting certain projects. And then he had GA Houses and GA International, which was … he had done about 24 of the small, large-format books. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Architecture News, Yukio Futagawa (1932-2013) spent his 60-year career as a photographer, editor, and publisher, depicting and interpreting the architecture and culture of Japan, as well as the architecture of leading designers from other countries. In 1970 he established the Edita Tokyo Company and began to publish a broad variety of architectural books, including a multi-volume monograph of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and the GA (Global Architecture) series, which include GA, GA Houses, GA Document, and GA Architect. The GA publishing house is now under the leadership of Futagawa’s son, Yoshio.]

JOHN: What did GA stand for?

WILLIAM: Global Architecture. So global ar … so he had just started this, and he also had a gallery in Tokyo and he had children at the time. And they ended up being … going to architecture school and ended up actually working in the business later on. The nice thing about working with Mr. Futagawa was he was not concerned about payment. So as long as … he would give me credit up to four or five months. So I would get the books and I could pay for them any time I wanted. And that was really a nice venture because cash flow was an issue at that time. So a couple of years into the bookstore, then Chuck Bassett and a couple of his friends from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill came up and they were then frequent visitors to the bookstore. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, Edward Charles "Chuck" Bassett (1921-1999) was an American architect based in San Francisco. He served as design partner in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for 26 years, from 1955 through his retirement in 1981; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is an architectural, urban planning and engineering firm that was founded in 1936 in Chicago. With a portfolio spanning thousands of projects across 50 countries, SOM is one of the most significant architectural firms in the world.]

JOHN: Was he the director of the office?

WILLIAM: [00:09:02] He was the principal in charge of the San Francisco office. And he came out here … he came out here to work on the Crown Zellerbach Building that I think had been designed by Goldsmith or whatever in Chicago, and he kind of made that work. He was a very interesting man, a very … he was interested in books. So he was basically developing a fairly good library of history and theory at Skidmore. And they had a special room for it, and it was starting to be a pretty good collection. So at that time, he came up with a proposal that he would have … he would establish a library committee at Skidmore and then … of maybe four or five people. And they would meet once a month and I would bring over books. And I could bring over as many as 20 or 30 books, and then they would pick the books they wanted. And then the other ones I would bring back, and then they would pay for the books they bought. [Transcriber’s notes: Built in 1959, the 20-story Crown Zellerbach Building was designed by SOM in 1959 and was the first International Style curtain-wall tower built in San Francisco. William indicates here that the building, located at 1 Bush Street, was designed by SOM architect Myron Goldsmith. Other internet sources state that the building was designed by SOM architect Chuck Basset.]

JOHN: So they became one of your leading customers I take it?

WILLIAM: [00:10:07] They became a very good customer. There were a lot of other … there were a lot of other customers. Kaplan Mclaughlin was just down the street. They had a library, a librarian. Marquis and Stoller was right down the street. And there were I would say probably … I would say a good 100 to 200 offices in that area before they kind of got priced out and moved to kind of the, uh, the interior design section over South of Market. And so when they moved out then the lawyers moved into Jackson Street, and that kind of changed the format at that time. There were still a lot of interior people there selling antique furniture and so on and books. So that worked very well. And about a year into it, I was delivering books to Skidmore … well, actually, I had decided that I was going to have to move because the apartment was on the third floor. So, yeah, third floor of a building. And it was a wood frame building, and it was getting it was getting a little overweight in some places and the building wasn't in the best of shape. Belli didn't take care of his buildings too well... [Transcriber’s notes: Per The Journal of the American Institute of Architects, Kaplan Mclaughlin Diaz Architects was founded in San Francisco by Herbert McLaughlin in 1963. The firm is now known as KMD Architects.]

JOHN: And was there an elevator?

WILLIAM: No elevator.

JOHN: So you had to...

WILLIAM: Just stairs.

JOHN: …carry these boxes of books up and down stairs?

WILLIAM: Everything. And we've always had in North Beach … we've always had good mail service, U.S. Mail. So the mailman would deliver the books up and so on. And it had a large courtyard. The building itself had a big courtyard with a couple of trees in it that were just amazing. And so that would … that would then shelter the courtyard. And people could come there and park and so on. It was a very nice location. It was at the top of the stairs at Montgomery just before you got to Union.

JOHN: Belli was no longer...?

WILLIAM: Belli never lived there while I was there. He was still in his office down on Montgomery … 600 block of Montgomery. And we'd see him often, but he didn't have any idea what was going on in that building because his wife basically didn't like the building and they bought a house in Pacific Heights. So he had a manager and that was fine. We just paid the rent and everything. And then probably in … I'd say three or four years when that … we'd been working pretty successfully at … the bookstore was then open probably from one to five, and the Skidmore operation was working. And I decided that I probably was going to have to find another space. So…

JOHN: Was this becoming a more and more of a full-time proposition for you, I think?

WILLIAM: Yes. I was then starting … my own practice. So I had a few houses, and so I had one of the rooms was a little office that I had. So I had three or four houses I was working on. So I was actually practicing myself at that time. So I started my own office and then Steve left after a year or so and he went to the AA in London. And then I had an office where he was in one of the rooms. … And then I was delivering books to Skidmore two or three years later, about the time I was going to move, and it became … I was walking to...

JOHN: They were located in the Alcoa Building? [Transcriber’s note: Built as the Alcoa Building in 1964 and designed by SOM, One Maritime Plaza is a 25-story office tower located near the Embarcadero Center towers on Clay and Front Streets.]

WILLIAM: Yeah, they were in the Alcoa Building. And so I was going back and forth between the Alcoa building and the bookstore. And I went up Osgood, and I happened to find a door there. And they were just moving out of a location on the first floor at 17 Osgood.

JOHN: Was there a for-rent sign on…?

WILLIAM: [00:13:55] No, there wasn't a for rent sign. The owner was there and he was kind of trying to figure out what to do. And so I talked to him and said I'd be … I was wondering if he was going to rent it. And he said, “possibly.” He said … I forgot what he said. But anyway I ended up renting it. It was just one floor, a very small space, maybe. 12, 13 feet wide and about 50 feet long with a bedroom in the back. And that just so happened to be where they had photo … they had done the movie Behind the Green Door. So we... [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia, Behind the Green Door is a 1972 pornographic film, widely considered one of the genre's "classic" pictures. It was one of the first hardcore films widely released in the United States and the first feature-length film directed by the Mitchell brothers. Scenes from Behind the Green Door were filmed at 17 Osgood Place.]

JOHN: In the bedroom?

WILLIAM: In the bedroom in the back, yeah. And it was kind of a risqué alley at that time. It was a lot going on. And so I started the bookstore there, and it was a very nice location. And the building wasn't in great shape. My landlord was Jerry Barrish. He was a bail bondsman and a movie maker, avant garde moviemaker, and he had an office down on … next to the police station down on Bryant Street. He was fairly good landlord, but he never did anything. So I just... [Transcriber’s note: Per the San Francisco Senior Beat website, Jerry Barrish is an artist who was born and raised in San Francisco. He operated a bail bond business from the 1960s until 2013, and “Barrish played an important supporting role in the political ferment that swept the city in the 1960s. His bail bond office became the go-to refuge for student protestors arrested in civil rights and anti-war demonstrations.” His art has included sculpture and film-making.]

JOHN: Did you say that that building had been originally constructed as a bordello?

WILLIAM: Above on the … the building next to it had.

JOHN: I see.

WILLIAM: Yeah. So it was … basically kind of a stable with a bordello on top of four rooms that you would walk up to. And that's actually where in the bottom of that space we rented … it was kind of part of my office. I had moved from … Montgomery down there, and I rented the space next door, which used to be a stable, and that became an office. And then I hooked up with Peter Van Dine and Jim Jennings, and we had a small office there for awhile. And then there was a little space next door to that, and that's where Susie Coliver and Dan started ARCH. So ARCH started there. And then the bookstore kept rolling. And I eventually then found there was an apartment above the bookstore at 17 Osgood, and I rented that. And then I started … at that time I was at Osgood, I didn't really have out-of-print books or rare books. So I worked with Ken Starosciak, who was a bookseller on Sutter Street, and I took some of his out-of-print books on consignment and started selling them and eventually started my own out-of-print section and moved into the bedroom in the back and made that the rare book room. And then I moved upstairs and the building, which was unique … one of the unique features of the building was it had this beautiful courtyard in the back, and there was a lot of activity going on. There was a restaurant on Broadway and there was an alley that hooked into the back of the courtyard, and there was a Chinese residential home on the left. And then there was a disco in the back. So there would be music going on all night, and these … young children crying and everything. [chuckles] But it was a really nice location, and the garden was very nice. So when guests would come to town, I'd oftentimes have lunches in the garden for them. [Transcriber’s notes: Susie Coliver is a practicing architect and the founder and owner of ARCH Art Supplies, which is now located in CCA’s Blattner Hall at 1490 17th Street. Coliver opened ARCH’s first location in 1978 at 43 Osgood Place as a drafting supplies store, which became a go-to place for architects, engineers, graphic designers and other creatives in the Jackson Square area, San Francisco’s design center at the time. Susie Coliver and her husband Bob Herman are principals at Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, an architectural practice that received the 2015 Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects’ San Francisco chapter for the design of about 4,000 affordable-housing units and a number of synagogues.; William also refers here to Dan Friedlander, an architect and founder of Limn, a high-design home-furnishing store and art gallery on Townsend Street.; Kenneth Starosciak operated a San Francisco bookstore, apparently on Sutter Street.]

JOHN: Did you have events, bookstore-related events…?

WILLIAM: We didn't really. The first event we actually had … Steve Holl had been … after a couple of years, Steve Holl had started to do projects, and he had moved from London back to New York. And he had a show in New York, and we had that show in the bookstore in San Francisco. So we took the whole gallery and made an architectural exhibition.

JOHN: Sorry to interrupt you. You were saying that you had your first event there was what?

WILLIAM: [00:18:33] Was a series of pencil drawings that Stephen Holl had done when he went to New York. When Steve and I were in San Francisco, one of the things that was happening is the institute in … Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York was starting to develop, and they had a lot of events there. And so we would get posters and everything of the events. And they started to publish. They published Oppositions and different books. And they had these great … great institute in New York. So when Steve left, he hooked up with the institute and he did some projects with them. And the first show we had was some of his projects that he had done, that he had won, working with the institute with Andrew MacNair in New York. And so there were … and he had also worked on the competition to redesign the Capitol building in Minneapolis. So we had a large model of it … and that was done in San Francisco. So we had a large model of the Minneapolis state building. And then we had his drawings, and they were these wonderful pencil drawings that he had done. And so we filled the whole interior of the bookstore with his drawings. [Transcriber’s notes: Per Wikipedia, the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) was founded in 1967 as a non-profit independent agency concerned with research, education and development in architecture and urbanism. It began as a core group of young architects seeking alternatives to traditional forms of education and practice. The IAUS developed its curriculum in collaboration with a group of liberal arts colleges and universities and began its undergraduate education program in 1973. Oppositions was an architectural journal produced by IAUS from 1973 to 1984, when IAUS closed. Many of its articles contributed to advancing architectural theory and many of its contributors became distinguished practitioners in the field of architecture. Architect Andrew MacNair was a fellow at IAUS from 1973-1980.]

JOHN: Nice.

WILLIAM: And it was a nice event. So we had that for a couple of months. And then we … then I started collecting posters and graphics and we would have those up. And also some magazines … we would buy magazines of old … of offices that were going out of business or whatever. So we had a lot of magazines. The bookstore was … floor-to-ceiling books. I didn't really … I was working at the time. I'd been starting my own office, so I had a manager in the bookstore. At that time, I had a manager and two people working in the bookstore. And then I took my office from next door on Osgood to a place on Jasper Alley, Jasper and Union. And with Jim Jennings and Peter Van Dine and I we started an office over there. So…

JOHN: Your architectural office?

WILLIAM: Architectural office there. And we were there for probably five years.

JOHN: To get back to what I was alluding to earlier … while doing the bookstore, you were wearing two hats. You were also … you had your firm?

WILLIAM: Yeah, we had an office that … we were just starting, and we were doing pretty well there. So we had … the office ended up being probably five or six people. And we had the bottom floor of a building at Jasper Alley.

JOHN: And did you live in the apartment that was above the bookstore?

WILLIAM: [00:21:19] I lived in the apartment above the bookstore. So I had a manager running the bookstore for the four or five years we were on Osgood. And then … I then worked in the office. So I was just there after … when they needed me basically. So … and I would look over everything to make sure everything was done properly. And then we kind of outgrew that space. So we kind of didn't have much room to go. So it was either me trying to buy the building or figure out another space. The problem is that this is when all the Chinese money was coming in to San Francisco. And there was an old warehouse across the street on Osgood, and a developer bought it and put up a big building there. So it blocked all the sun into the building. So it was … the building kind of took … it kind of went to the south for me. I didn't feel much interest in it. Plus it didn't have any parking. So in 1983 and four I started looking for spaces. And I had been in Osgood for about five or six years I guess, maybe more. And so I ended up finding 804 Montgomery Street, which had been … empty for a small amount of time. And it had 1400 … 1300 square feet in a basement, and 1300 square feet above. Which was way more … which was more space than I needed. But I decided to take the space and then live in the basement and run my small office over there. And so I had a small office in the basement, and I lived in the office. And that became … and I lived downstairs in the basement…

JOHN: On Jasper Alley?

WILLIAM: No, this was this was basically in 804 Montgomery.

JOHN: Where we are right now?

WILLIAM: [00:23:24] Where we are right now. So that was 1984. And about that time I had … the office broke up … my office with Jim Jennings broke up. We had had a lot of work, but it got to the point where it was really slow. So we just decided to part our ways. So in ‘84, then I moved my part of the office to 804 Montgomery Street, and then I lived in this basement and it was a fairly nice … there was plenty of space. And we had … the bookstore’s on the first floor. And so that went for … and then we were doing catalogs about every … every three or four months we would come out with a catalog. And the catalogs got very big. They were sometimes as many as five or 600 titles, and we would send those out mass mail. And they started out in being a catalog that would fit maybe three … two and a half by five or so that would fit into an envelope. And then we would send those out. Then we got to the point where the catalog got a little bigger and we could do ‘em with a larger press. And we would then have a mailing service sending them out. And we got to the point where we were doing as many as 20,000 catalogs. And probably around ‘84 to ’90, then at that point in time we had as many as 100 to 200 library accounts, and they would buy from those catalogs.

JOHN: What is your current catalog? Is it still around 20,000?

WILLIAM: [00:24:54] We basically just do an email. And the email is between 15 and 20,000, yeah. But so the catalog then became a real vital part of the bookstore. And … but there were a lot of tourists, too. And then in ‘86 then we get Amazon. So Amazon starts coming in, and then everybody tries to figure out what's going on with retail. And of course Bezos didn't even know anything about books. But when he started to discount books, not knowing anything about ‘em, and he was selling books at wholesale prices, and it became a real challenge. So most of the libraries then ended up buying, of course, from them because they could buy cheaper. So it was a real tricky phenomenon … It was a change, and we had to figure out how to make it work. And we never really got back to the point where we were as busy as we were before Amazon. But it got to a point where we were actually managed a little better, and we were able to control our inventory a little better.

JOHN: I do want to discuss that with you. ‘Cause the bookstore business has changed so much. I mean, and at the same time, you said the architectural firms in the area were moving to other parts of the city and a different kind of...

WILLIAM: Yeah, at that time a lot of the offices … what happened is ARCH then moved over to Jackson Street. So Susie [Coliver] had an office for her supply store on Jackson Street, and then Jackson Street got so expensive everybody left. And then lawyers moved in, and then the rents went up. And so everything kind of dispersed. And at that point in time, there were a lot of tourists that were coming in … there were a lot of Japanese and Oriental tourists in the summer. So our July and August were usually busy with tourists. So we had a lot of tourists.

JOHN: So there was a changing nature of the customer. Less these people from nearby architectural firms coming in to … browse for their own professional purposes and more tourists coming in?

WILLIAM: [00:27:10] Yeah. Yeah, and they were less... and they were … basically it was a new phenomenon for them, and they could buy books cheaper on Amazon for a lot … so we … it took awhile to adjust before we got a lot of those clients back in the office or back in our bookstore. And so it was … important for us to try to find books that Amazon may not have. So we had a lot of Italian, German and Dutch and English books that we would import. And you wouldn't find those at that point in time on Amazon. What the problem that the American culture had at that time is they should have … we should have done a situation similar to they did in France and Germany, where new books couldn't be discounted for the first two years. And then it would allow bookstores to keep in existence. But what happened with Amazon is it basically wiped out the small bookstore market because you couldn't compete with them. So we had our own niche, and it worked for awhile. It's been working for awhile, but it's not quite the business it was before Amazon. And we've just found our own niche, and we also have collected more out-of-print books. So we've found that we can also sell the out-of-print books and do quite well with them when I buy libraries.

JOHN: There's things … so in other words, it's … in a lot of bookstores I think people go in, they enjoy browsing and then they go buy … the book on Amazon. But in your case, the books aren't available on Amazon.

WILLIAM: Yeah, the new books … at that point in time then, yeah. A lot of the books would not have been available on Amazon, or the client didn't have the … didn't have the energy to find them. If we can get people into the bookstore, we can usually even sell them books that might even be on Amazon.

JOHN: Are there other … not Amazon per se, but other maybe niche online retailers that would be competitors for you, that do specialize in architectural books?

WILLIAM: [00:29:30] There used to be … there used to be a bookstore … the Urban Book Center in New York was run by the Architectural League. And they were supported by … it was a non-profit and they couldn't make it work there so it went under. There was Yaap Reitman in New York was an art and architecture bookstore. He went under. In Chicago, there was Prairie Avenue Bookstore, and they eventually went under. There was a bookstore in Houston for awhile that used to … that was going to try to take all of Futagawa’s titles and market them. And Futagawa got to the point where he needed money and so … and that the guy couldn't pay his bills and he actually went under. He did an interesting … the reason this was interesting in the books business is that … the person in Texas basically decided that he would pre-sell books that Futagawa was doing. And he would pre-sell them at a discounted price if you bought ‘em beforehand so that he would get the cash. But what happened is the price of the books went up [chuckles] and he'd already been paid for the books. So he took … he really took a loss on those. And that didn't work too well. And then in Los Angeles, it's Hennessey + Ingalls. And Hennessey + Ingalls has always been a really good art and architecture bookstore. When I started, they were on Wilshire Avenue, in mid-Wilshire, and then they went to the Santa Monica mall and then they went up to Pico for a while. And now they're … next … in the Japantown in Los Angeles next to SCI-Arc. [Transcriber’s notes: Founded in 1963, Hennessey + Ingalls is the largest art, architecture and design bookstore in the western United States, according to the company’s website. In 2016, Hennessey + Ingalls moved to the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles.; Founded in 1972, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is a private architecture school located in downtown Los Angeles.]

JOHN: And they're still going strong?

WILLIAM: They're still going. I'm not sure how strong, but they're really big. And I think that it's just hard for them to make it work. But they don't have quite the catalog business that we do. And then in Seattle there's Peter Miller. He has a nice little shop that deals with architectural equipment and interior finishing type of things. And he combines that and he's still there. He's moved several times in the last four or … five or 10 years, but he seems to be doing quite well. And then there's not too much. So the West Coast is really the only area where there still are architectural bookstores still standing. [Transcriber’s notes: Peter Miller Architectural Books & Design Books and Supplies is a specialty bookstore and design shop in Seattle.]

JOHN: Do you also … I read somewhere that your business includes a publishing arm that is focused on up and coming architects, who haven’t been...?

WILLIAM: [00:32:28] Yeah. In 1994 I started publishing books, publishing books maybe of people on the West Coast who wouldn't be covered by the East Coast market because there probably wouldn't be enough market for them in terms of distribution. So I started doing books. I did a book on … some of the first books: I did a Jim Jennings book, a small monograph. I did a book on Tanner Leddy. At that time, it was Maytum and Stacy. We did a book on Thomas Church. We got a situation … I hooked up with the archives in Berkeley, and we did five books through a grant from the Getty where we did five books that kind of worked on their archives. One of them was done on Thomas Church. We did one on Noguchi. And there were several other titles that we worked on. And then I did … titles outside of that. And in the overall, I think we did close to 40 or 50 books. The problem we were running into was the fact that there were no there was no place to sell ‘em. So the distribution got down to the point where we were just just distributing in museum bookstores and so on, and they were very picky about what they chose. And so eventually it got to the point where I had a lot of books that weren’t selling, and so I closed that probably, oh, eight or 10 years ago … And then about that time … well, let's see, I would say in the ‘90s Mark Tribe had … or Mark Horton had an office on South Park in San Francisco, and he offered me a location over that to do a bookstore in a small gallery. And so we went to South Park and put in a very nice bookstore, a [unintelligible word here] bookstore. And then there was a gallery, a kind of a garage gallery next to it, and we had exhibitions there. We had quite a few exhibitions there, probably 10 or 15, and they worked around … Mark Trieb or Mark Horton would have different people have shows, and then he would have events there and talks, and then we would open up the bookstore. And then … the bookstore was … it was pretty well-received, and it was a good location. It was just at the time that the new ballpark was energizing that area. And after a few years, Mark's owner had this … Mark didn't have actually a lease on the space. So he actually lost the lease … or didn't lose the lease, but the rent went up so high that we had to move. So we moved out of that space, and in 2000 we found a space in Berkeley on Solano. So we looked around for spaces in Berkeley to maybe have a second store. And so we found … we looked all over and probably should have … should have probably had a space over by the … on Telegraph Avenue… [Transcriber’s notes: William refers here to Tanner Leddy Maytum and Stacy, a San Francisco-based architecture firm headed by Jim Tanner, William Leddy, Marsha Maytum and Richard Stacy in the 1990s. The firm was succeeded by Maytum Leddy Stacy Architects in 2000.; Per Wikipedia, Thomas Church (1902-1978) was a landscape architect based in San Francisco. He is a nationally recognized as one of the pioneer designers in garden landscape known as the “California Style.”; Also per Wikipedia, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was an American artist and landscape architect whose career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public artworks, Noguchi also designed stage sets and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, including the iconic Noguchi table which remains in production today.]

JOHN: Closer to the university.

WILLIAM: [00:36:03] Close to Oakland. No, close to CCAC. And we couldn't find a space … or there were spaces, but they were really pricey. So we ended up going to the middle of Solano, and we found a very nice space. But the problem is, is that a lot of … there's a lot of architects that live in Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito, but they work during the day. So they come … they're not there during the day. So that shop worked quite well in terms of what it had as inventory, and it was a good location... [Transcriber’s note: William refers here to California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC), which was formerly located at 5212 Broadway in Oakland. The school changed its name to California College of the Arts (CCA) in 2003, and the campus is now located at 1111 8th Street in San Francisco.; The William Stout bookstore mentioned here was located at 1605 Solano Avenue in Berkeley.]

WILLIAM: [00:00:00] The problem were the hours. In other words, the hours … we would have probably been very successful if we were open from, let's say, 4 o’clock to 10 o’clock at night, because that's when everybody was shopping and that street kind of becomes alive there. And the problem with Solano is it's really not a walking street. It's everybody drives and they really are pretty, pretty ambitious drivers. And so that went pretty well. We had that for five or six years, and it just wasn't … it was working, but it just was too much of a hassle. So in I would say 2002 or three, I rented a warehouse for my book publishing and my own libraries in Richmond in a nice warehouse, the beautifully-designed warehouse that Jim Jennings did for Oliver construction company. And I rented 5,000 feet there. And the space was really … well done. And so we had pallet racks and we could take care of all of my publishing books. And then I had my own libraries over there. And then when. [Transcriber’s note: William refers here to a warehouse that San Francisco architect Jim Jennings designed for Oliver & Company, a construction firm headed by Steven Oliver and headquartered in Richmond.]

JOHN: And excuse me. That's not open to the public, though, right? That’s a wholesale…?

WILLIAM: [00:01:25] Well, it’s open … it originally started as being open to the public, but we … moved all of the inventory from Solano Street to there, and it became a very nice bookstore. But people at that time … there was a lot of activity in Richmond and people would not go to Richmond for any reason at all. And so it never really worked … as a retail space, even though it was really quite well done. And we occasionally open it now by appointment, but it basically is just a warehouse for the bookstore here in San Francisco, and then we have to find things.

JOHN: And for your catalog business or the...?

WILLIAM: [00:02:11] For the catalog, for the email business, yeah, for the email business. We eliminated the hard catalog businesses when we started the email because it was kind of redundant, and it was actually … it takes about the same amount of time to do the catalog as doing the email. So we just do … at this point in time, we do an email splash every week, and then we get several orders from that and that kind of … that kind of builds up the … amount of books that we sell.

JOHN: Do you have other things stored there, too? For architectural-related furniture perhaps, or other things?

WILLIAM: I have some of my own things. For a while this space at 804 when I … we decided years ago the space here was … had a lot of books in it, and we took all those books and moved them to the warehouse for storage. And about that time, Michael Boyd the furniture collector rented this space and used this as a warehouse for his beautiful, modern furniture collection. And he was here for probably, oh, I'd say eight or nine years. And he then moved out of here. And then with me stopping the publishing company, I had space at the warehouse. So he rented space at the warehouse up until last year. And so what I have over at the warehouse is my own personal architectural libraries, along with several thousand books for the bookstore and then storage area for other things. And up until two or three months ago, Michael had … Michael Boyd had all of his furniture there. [Transcriber’s note: Michael Boyd is a furniture, landscape, interior and architectural designer based in Los Angeles. He is the principal of BoydDesign, a consultancy for the restoration and preservation of modernist architecture, and for collecting modern art and design. Boyd is also the founder of and designer for PLANEfurniture, a line of architectural furnishings.]

JOHN: And speaking of other locations, you briefly had something … well, I don't know how briefly, but at the California Historical Society.

WILLIAM: [00:04:12] Oh, yes. Yes, I forgot about that. In probably the late ‘90s, I would say, we were approached by the director of the California Historical Society to see if … we could help him with his bookstore. And I basically told him that … I didn't think I could help him with the bookstore because we don't … we didn't actually work in that genre. But that if he would rent us the space, we'd have a bookstore there and make our own bookstore. So I took it on. It wasn't … very well thought out because the problem is, is that we didn't have our own entry. And with it being a museum and they didn't have an entry of their own, we had to have a guard there all the time if in fact we were open when they weren't. And they weren't open on the weekends. So our Saturdays became quite busy, but yet not too profitable because we had to have people there all the time to make sure somebody wasn't breaking into the California History Museum. Well, we had a really nice shop. I had a good staff. We had two or three people over there, and it was a good location ‘cause it was next to … the museum. It just so happened that … we decided to close that store about the time they were renovating the new museum, which was good for us because we got out of there. Then we went to Berkeley. So I had … at that time I actually had 804 Montgomery and California … Historical Society. And then I was just in the process of doing the bookstore in Berkeley. So that was … and then the Berkeley location on Solano worked quite well. It just … as I mentioned, it was just the wrong hours. And I was having trouble … staffing that store, and nobody wanted to work from four to nine at night. So we closed that store probably 2006, I think. 2007. And all of that material then went to the warehouse, and that's where it is now.

JOHN: Up until what time … and maybe you still are actively engaged with design projects … I mean, did you … do you still have an office?

WILLIAM: [00:06:49] No. I gave up. I worked … in this location architecturally for maybe four or five years and had a little work. And then I had a show … in 1991 there was a show for architects at the Museum of Modern Art. Jim Jennings, Jim Shea and Tanner Maytum Leddy and Stacy and myself. And we had a show there in 1991. And so I had five or six people down here putting together that exhibition. And at that time I had … a little work but not a lot of work. And so that went on. And then the show was over in ’91. And then … I then started to feel like I was probably better to do the bookstore ‘cause I was getting too much activity between the two businesses. So I then put my energy into the bookstore and decided to do that. It was … I worked with my wife Paulett for a couple projects, trying to see if we could work some things out. And we had a couple of really nice projects that didn't develop. But that really wasn't a great relationship either because we didn't need to work all the time with a partner that you're going to live with. So we decided not to do that anymore. [Transcriber’s notes: Paulett Taggart founded the San Francisco firm Paulett Taggart Architects in 1986. The firm’s office is located at 725 Greenwich Street.]

JOHN: Your wife is an architect?

WILLIAM: Yes, she's an architect. She practices in San Francisco, and she does affordable housing.

JOHN: And what is her name? Paulett?

WILLIAM: Paulett Taggart, yeah. And that's the name of her office.

JOHN: What year did you marry?

WILLIAM: We married in ‘86, 1986. And she has … we have a house on Telegraph Hill on Edith Street. So we live on Edith Street and so we can actually … her office is on Greenwich Street, down by the pool … the North Beach pool. And then my office was here. So it's very easy to get back and forth. So it’s a very good location.

JOHN: I want to get back to the neighborhood in a minute…

WILLIAM: Uh-huh.

JOHN: …but I'll just talk a little bit more about the bookstore business. And it seems to me that … I mean, one of the advantages you have over some sort of an online retailer would be the kind of … the tactile experience … the sort of beautiful experience of coming into a store like that. Is that, would you say, kind of the secret sauce or...?

WILLIAM: [00:09:29] Well, I would … I'm more … in the way I run my business, the bookshop, is it's more about the quantity of the material as opposed to the way you display it. I'm not a great … I could probably run the shop with a third of the material that I have now. But … I'm more interested … in having more material that you can offer to a larger variety of clients, as opposed to just being directed in one direction. So I was … rather than just being a total design bookstore in architecture, we have a history and theory section. And we also include graphics, and we have a small art section and an interior section.

JOHN: How would you describe your core customer?

WILLIAM: I would say a lot of the customers … we probably have … probably 50 percent of our customers are old customers that come back. We get a lot of customers when we … on the email that are … repeat customers from all over the United States. At this point in time, there just isn't anybody really doing some of … this material. So we kind of have a lock on it. So if you can … get the material to them, they're going to potentially buy from you, even though we don't discount the books and we charge for shipping. But most people are more interested in the material, and it is the cost.

JOHN: But are they … would you describe them as mostly people in the architectural profession?

WILLIAM: Most … everybody that would order from us are in the design profession. Either interior designers … or architectural offices. And we … still have a few libraries, but not a lot.

JOHN: And do a lot of these customers not actually come into the bookstore … they're ordering just from the email?

WILLIAM: We have customers [who have] never been in a bookstore. Yeah. I mean, we have probably 50 to 100 customers in New York City alone. And a lot in Texas, quite a few in the Midwest. And all of the larger cities that have architectural offices … buy from us.

JOHN: So I would imagine that a certain number of people, maybe younger people would come in … just to be inspired or looking for insight. To browse and…

WILLIAM: [00:12:23] Yeah, I think that's what the store is basically about. The younger people don't have the money to usually buy the books, so it's an opportunity for them at least to see the material. And I think that's the problem with the … the problem with the internet sales is that they … a lot of these people would buy a lot more books if we had more of the information up for them to buy. The problem we have, or the issues that you have with internet sales is … you have a timespan on how you how long you can stay on the internet. And our site isn't the best in terms of using the site. What usually works best for us is the recent books that are coming out and … you can roll those over. It's very … our site isn't developed too well to go in and really search deeply without a lot of work. About four years ago, we went with a new e-commerce site. It's called Shopify. And they give us a good presence on the internet, but they're not very easy to work with. And they don't … they're not very supportive. So we've done fairly well with them. But it's … we basically do better with our email splashes when we come out with those.

JOHN: What is your top-selling book right now?

WILLIAM: We really … we don't really have anything that really flips off the market, you know. We … we're very lucky that we have … a kind of an exclusive with these GA houses. So when the GA houses come in, we have … we'll get 50 GA houses, of which 35 are already pre-sold. So we have customers for those that we … that we resell to every time. And nobody else has them as quickly as we do. So Futagawa has been very good. So we’ll … he'll come out with those on … a Monday and we'll have them that week. And some of the other people go through distributing, and we get ‘em directly from him. So the GA houses are probably the most popular.

JOHN: So we're … you're coming up on almost 40 years in this location in a couple of years.


JOHN: Will you have some sort of celebration? Will there … I guess my question is what are your goals for the, you know … for the bookstore for the foreseeable future?

WILLIAM: [00:15:11] Yeah. I don't really know, you know. I'm trying to find, um, I'd be interested in finding somebody who could kind of take it over ‘cause I'd like to somewhat retire. But there aren't … I don't think there are too many people that would be interested. There are a couple of people at this point in time we're talking to that might work. I've been very lucky here. I have a very good, very good landlord. And they basically supported the bookstore. The rent hasn't been outlandish, and so they've been very supportive. They're as much a partner in a bookstore as I am.

JOHN: This happens to be a very historic building that you're in, too, isn't it?

WILLIAM: Yeah, it's called the Sherman Building. It basically is called the Sherman Building because General William Tecumseh Sherman was one of the developers, and it was a one of the original bank buildings, I believe, in San Francisco. And he was here in the 1840s and ‘50s, and I don't think the building ever worked. I think he may have gone bankrupt. And then he went back to become a general and he became fairly famous as a general. [Transcriber’s note: Per Wikipedia and other internet sources, William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) helped lead Union forces to victory in the Civil War. In 1853, Sherman took a break from the U.S. Army and took up banking in San Francisco for Lucas, Turner & Co. He oversaw the construction of a new bank building, which opened in 1854 at 800-804 Montgomery Street in Jackson Square, and later served as manager of the bank. The building, which was largely rebuilt after the 1906 Earthquake, is commonly known as “Sherman’s Bank.”]

JOHN: [chuckles]

WILLIAM: I don't think he was very famous as a real estate… [chuckles]

JOHN: I want to switch away from the bookstore for a minute, mindful of your time, and get back to your art. So have you been continuously painting and sketching throughout the years?

WILLIAM: [00:16:44] Not painting. I have … I keep a sketchbook. Um, I've also developed a series of sketchbooks that I sell, and they're … they're basically paper sketchbooks … clear paper sketchbooks with vellum in the back for architects. So I use those. I don't … the paper isn’t … I basically draw on a paper that's very, very soft. And I've been doing these sketchbooks since ‘74, so I have … but I don't show the work. It's just a matter … it's more of a journal design sketchbook. So when I decided to practice architecture and not do painting, this was a way for me to keep involved in art.

JOHN: Are the sketches then primarily of an architectural nature?

WILLIAM: No, no. Not at all.

JOHN: Are they abstract?

WILLIAM: They're abstract sketches of whatever … of whatever I do.

JOHN: Was there ever an overlap in your art and your architecture where…?

WILLIAM: [00:17:55] Not really. Not really. I wouldn't say I sketch that well … in terms of architectural sketches. The drawings are more abstract. I grew up in the … I grew up, as I mentioned earlier, in Idaho. And that's when the abstract expressionism in America became quite popular. So when I was painting, it was really painting in oil and black and white images on large format. And so the sketches that I do now are … more diagrammatic maybe you'd call them. But I do … I have between 80 and 150 sketchbooks I've done in that period of time.

JOHN: And weren't they just purchased or donated, I'm not sure, to a collection?

WILLIAM: I think so. We haven't actually talked about that. Supposedly…

JOHN: The Eames Institute?

WILLIAM: Yeah, the Eames Institute. So they… [Transcriber’s note: Founded in 2019, the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity is a non-profit that aims to preserve and spread the legacy of the late designers Ray and Charles Eames. The institute is based at the Eames Ranch in Petaluma and houses the Eames Collection. The institute is led and curated by the Eameses’ granddaughter Lisa Demetrios. In October 2022, the institute acquired William Stout Architectural Books.]

JOHN: In Petaluma, right?

WILLIAM: [00:19:06] …they bought my … they bought my libraries. So the libraries will be going to them, and they'll be then opening them up … for use. And that will be coordinated with … with their institute, which will also include industrial design and the creative endeavors of the Eames. And at this point in time, they've just rented space next to me and my Richmond warehouse. So we'll be making that transition with that.

JOHN: Where do you like to do your sketching? Do you do it while you’re here in the in the bookstore?

WILLIAM: No, I never do it while I'm working. I usually do it at home or traveling. So it's also … they’re sketchbooks, but it's also a diary. So I also have a complete diary of the bookstores from ‘74 on in those sketchbooks, but I've never really edited them because they're a little inconsistent on … I might go for three or four months and not do anything. But no, they're … it's pretty interesting looking at ‘em. I have tried to photograph them. And I have maybe 20 or 30 of the sketchbooks documented. And it's kind of interesting to see how you go through different developments in terms of maybe the sketches being black and white or pencil or adding color and so on. And occasionally I've done a few sketchbooks where I just deal with the idea of line.

JOHN: Let me now switch a little bit to just the neighborhood and some of your personal life, if you don't mind.


JOHN: You're married. You got married in ‘86.

WILLIAM: Mm-hmm.

JOHN: And you've been living in North Beach really your whole adult life, haven't you, on Telegraph Hill?

WILLIAM: Well, I've … lived here since, I would say … I moved to North Beach in ‘74. Or ‘73 actually. And I lived in Cow Hollow. I lived over on Green Street for six or seven years, and then lived in Buena Vista Park area for a couple of years. And I had a studio down on Pier 33, art studio. But yeah, I've lived in San Francisco since I would say probably ’69. And I moved to the area in ’66. ‘67, yeah.

JOHN: So do you feel like the neighborhood is kind of a big part of who you are? Are you involved in the neighborhood in certain ways?

WILLIAM: Not really. I'm not, uh, I'm not much of a social being. So I'm … an observer. [chuckles] And I don't get in … I don't particularly like the politics of … design politics [chuckles] let's say. But I like living in the area. I don't particularly like working in San Francisco. I don't think the city itself lends itself to supporting retail and … it's not a pleasant place to do business. And it's expensive and … you just don't get much support here.

JOHN: I think of your store as kind of a real cultural touchstone for this neighborhood...

WILLIAM: [00:23:20] If I hadn't’ve started the store, I wouldn't be in San Francisco now I don't believe. [chuckles] I would have moved years ago. But you just don't pick up 50,000 books and move it somewhere. But the location in San Francisco has been good to me. And I … like the area of San Francisco. It's just … kind of a small town in a way. And it doesn't … it's not big enough to … it's never been big enough to make my shop work. So I've always depended on outside sales to make it work. So I've … located here because that's where I was at the time when we started it. And it's been fairly good. And it was … I would say the architectural activity probably in the ‘70s and ‘80s was very exciting. But then it kind of … it kind of went from privatization to … institutionalization. And when it became institutionalized, it lost all of its interest. And those people have either gone or died or the institutions have usually killed those … the creative juices that were brought about by those, the other interesting people.

JOHN: Do you or your wife Paulett have any children?

WILLIAM: No, no. It's … we don't have children.

JOHN: Or other family members in the area?

WILLIAM: We have … we just met yesterday, actually … we have a niece and her husband and a small daughter that live in … they live in Albany now. Other than that, Paulett’s parents live in the Boston area. And her parents have passed away, but she has sisters in Cambridge and a sister in Eugene.

JOHN: Are you in touch still with any of your siblings?

WILLIAM: My family is basically just some … a few cousins. But my parents have died. My younger brothers passed away. So it's not … there's not much. And most of those … the family, the immediate family, was from South Dakota, and most everyone has moved from there. So there's only a few people left there. And I don't have too much interest in...

JOHN: Have you been back to visit?

WILLIAM: Yeah, I’ve been back. My brother died two or three years ago, and I went back there to finish up business there. But other than that, I have … my mother lived there. And so when my mother passed away, we gave her house to my aunt. And my aunt is there, and she lives in this little town in the Badlands.

JOHN: Are you still playing golf?

WILLIAM: Played golf yesterday, yeah. Try to play two or three times a week. We play up in in El Cerrito. It's called the Berkeley Country Club now, but it used to be called Mira Vista. [chuckles] But it was started in 19 … a hundred years. So it's just 100 years old. And, yeah, we … I should be walking, but I don't. So I've been riding the last year ‘cause I have a bad … set of bad knees. But up until then we tried to walk all the time. Paulett, my wife, she walks, so … I'm not into hiking, and Paulett’s into hiking and going into the forests and stuff. So golf was the closest thing that we both could work on that we liked, so.

JOHN: Well, I think we've covered a lot of ground. Is there anything that we haven't touched on that you think we should?

WILLIAM: I think this is most of it. You know, we're just … probably find a few things that we'll forget, but I think we've touched on everything. I don't know if the sequences are … all together, but at least I think we've hit everything once or twice.

JOHN: There's a lot of things, a lot of moving parts. But we'll figure it all out.

WILLIAM: [laughter] Yeah.

JOHN: Well, I want to thank you so much, Bill, for taking time to do this interview, and...

WILLIAM: Good. Well, thank you. I appreciate you … putting it all together.

JOHN: OK. Thank you.

WILLIAM: [00:27:46] That was good. Thank you.


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