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Black crowned night heron, Lindo Lake © Robert Sommers 2020

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Virginia Goodrich


As many of you know, I am a proud San Diego native. This county is both my birthplace and also the locale I have chosen to live the great majority of my life. I treasure its beauty and bounty. I am also a bit of a history buff and like to honor the many great people and artists that have once called this bottom left corner of the United States home.

Recently a friend of mine found a collection of drawings and artwork from an early San Diego artist who seems to have flown under the radar and escaped notoriety. Her name is Virginia Goodrich. I only got the collection two days ago and there is not much information available regarding her out there. So it falls to me. I will be the person who starts to put it together. Another puzzle to solve.

Because I am just starting my search and due to the lack of prior research, this blogpost will be long and fairly extensive.  Even tedious. If art and San Diego history is not your bag I would suggest you hold off on reading the post. Because I am going to be as thorough as I possibly can. You know I am a research freak. I like a good challenge.

So who was Virginia Goodrich? Let's find out.

Virginia Goodrich Black (1891-1965) was the daughter of Alice Keeling Goodrich (1862-1943) and John Newton Bunch (1854-1916). She was born in Eugene, Oregon. Alice was born in 1862 in Paris, Missouri. She married Virginia's father John Bunch in 1884, in Missouri.

I do not know what specifically happened to the marriage but there is a record of Bunch marrying another woman, Mattie Boyd, in Los Angeles in 1906. There is also a record of Alice living in San Diego in 1907, at 3116 H. St.. Virginia also had a full sister, Elizabeth, who was four years younger.

Alice married James David Marsden (1860-1943) on June 1, 1907. This was his second marriage as well. A lot of this is conjecture at this point and open to correction but they opened a press together in 1907 called Denrich, which conjoined parts of their last names.

Denrich Press was a commercial press known for extremely high quality work. It was located at 1701 Vesta St. and operated until fairly recently.

A search of the WorldCat shows at least ten books published but as usual, raises more questions than answers.

If the photo on the Facebook page says the company was started in 1907, why is there a work shown on the WorldCat shown as being published in 1902, San Diego Southern Railway Company : excursions to Tia Juana, Mexico & Sweetwater Dam?

And why does the printed information from the press always refer to them being in Chula Vista? No matter, perhaps my geography is off. Maybe they moved from Chula Vista earlier?

Their building still stands, between Birch and Acacia. Moving forward to what I do know, James Marsden was a printer and an artist of some sort and his stepdaughter Virginia was an incredible artist.

I have to assume that he taught her both how to draw and how to work around a press. She signed this piece in the Tia Juana pamphlet with an early signature; V. Goodrich Marsden and her hand was unmistakable.

She was said to be an unbelievable and precocious young talent but she would have been eleven when this ink drawing was produced if it in fact was created in 1902 and I believe that precocious or not, the skill level is just too high.

So I am going to say that the piece is actually from 1907. She would have been roughly sixteen at the time.

In any case, Virginia Goodrich started making a name for herself as an artist at a very young age. Here is an article from January of 1911 from the Pacific Printer describing the talent of this wonderful young artist and showing us a photograph of what the nineteen year old looked like.


The watercolor wash bottom left is exceptional, dated 1910. So let us get back to our story, shall we? Virginia Goodrich was a fabulous young talent who illustrated many of the books from Denrich Press. Many of the books have been digitized, unfortunately the first book, by Flora Legler Hawkins An Unfinished Melody, published in 1908, has not. I am going to have to track it down when the libraries open back up and search for illustrations.

I did find where she received plaudits in a trade publication, Inland Printer, Volume 50, for her illustrations for Clough's Ramona's Wedding Place.

In 1910 Denrich produced a beautiful brochure for the U.S. Grant Hotel. It includes sixteen clean and tight illustrations in Virginia's unmistakable hand.


In 1911, she produced this beautiful arts and crafts style illustration for Inspiration Heights, one of the earliest subdivisions in San Diego, located in Mission Hills. It is one of the few color works I have found so far in the collection, although more may be coming.

In 1912 Virginia illustrated an excellent brochure for the new Marston's, the swank department store in San Diego now located on Fifth Avenue.

George Marston (1850-1946) was a pivotal character in San Diego commerce and philanthropy, one of the great leaders who helped build Balboa Park, Presidio Park and the San Diego Public Library system.

I have several early prints of her superb interiors for Marston's but alas, no originals. I will put a link to my website where you can see all the work in the collection when I am finished with this blog post.


In 1913 Denrich published the three volume work In memory of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who gave the world California. 1542 by Charles Fletcher Lummis and illustrated by Virginia. I found the illustration above from the collection in this book. In the book, it is titled Plaza, San Diego. This book is full of beautiful examples of her work. She had certainly mastered multiple vanishing point perspective as you can see in the example above.

In 1917 Denrich published a book titled The Field Glass; Gypsying, a supposedly slightly fictitious chronicle of a family jaunt from San Diego to Riverside and back to the Hotel Del Coronado.

Virginia is one of the characters in the book, with the pseudonym of V.G. I am so happy that I found this book digitized because it solved a puzzle for me.

It gave me context for this lovely large ink drawing of the Hotel Del Coronado dated 1917 in the collection. It was the first illustration in the book.

In fact, I have found almost every piece of artwork in my possession illustrated in one book or another.

It will only take you a few minutes to peruse the book, lovers of San Diego history should do so, trips to Descanso, Mesa Grande, Pala and San Luis Rey among others.

I wish I knew where the rest of the illustrations in the book ended up?

My records show another thing happening to Virginia in 1917, she married a man named Hollis Black, who came from a large ranching family.

Here is her life story from the Sonoma Library Project:

Starting life in Oregon and growing up in San Diego, Virginia Marsden was the daughter of James Marsden and Alice Goodrich. Her parents owned the Denrich Press.

Virginia liked music and art, and she joined a women's rowing club, which may have been a feminist statement during the suffragette era. When she attended the University of California at Berkeley, she emphasized art study. While there she was the art editor of the Blue and Gold yearbook, a member of the women's art honor society, and a pledge of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. In 1917 she changed her life dramatically by marrying fellow student Hollis M. Black, whose family had built a large mountain ranch outside Cloverdale with access from River Road. The ranch received electric power for lights only in 1935. Virginia learned to cook, clean, tend the garden, and also help her husband as "a darn good cow hand."

The couple had two sons, Hollis Jr. and David Marsden, who Virginia took camping in the redwoods along the Navarro River up Highway 128. Mrs. Black didn't give up her art or her writing, though. She painted portraits and landscapes, and later she painted murals at Fred Young Mortuary in Cloverdale and Healdsburg. In 1957 she had a solo art show at First National Bank at the corner of the boulevard and Second Street. 

What many remember her for, however, is her "farm life"short stories which appeared in national magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Harper's Magazine, Scribner's, and the Atlantic Monthly. In the December 1935 Scribner's, she recalled her experience learning how to grow turkeys in "Turkeys for Christmas." And in December 1937, not only was "Coming Out Party" published, but also Virginia won a $400 fifth prize for this calf story in Scribner's writing contest.

Her interests went beyond their own ranch to wine making history. For example, she wrote a feature article for the Reveille on Russian influence in the development of the Sonoma County wine industry. Local newspapers provide evidence of activities such as the Citizens' Advisory Committee and a speech at the Woman's Improvement Club in 1957. An article in the Geyserville Press recounted a minor auto accident she had in 1939 when driving alone on a mountain road. Smoke from a nearby brush fire blocked her visibility, and her car went off the road.

During the war years their son David worked at Consolidated Aircraft Company in San Diego. And Hollis Jr., who had initially trained as a civil engineer and worked in Berkeley, moved to Dallas to attend the Dallas Theological Seminary, preparing to be a minister. 

This led to a tragic automobile accident when his parents were driving through Las Cruces, New Mexico on their way to visit him for Christmas in 1965. Both were killed on impact when their car ran into a culvert. 

Her obituary also described her as a musician and writer, not sure of her acumen in the former pursuit but it sounds like she was an excellent scribe from the quality of the periodicals in which she was published. But back to our story.

In 1923 Denrich published the pamphlet Rancho Santa Fe, California: Yesterday- Today by L.G. Sinnard.

This brochure lays out the vision of the new community of Rancho Santa Fe, a place where my family had fairly long residence.

There are some great early photos in the book as well as a few Goodrich illustrations of the Morada, the ancestral home of Juan Maria Osuna.

Don Osuna had been given the original Spanish Land Grant of the 8824 acre Rancho Dieguito by Pio Pico in 1845.

This land encompassed Rancho Santa Fe and the surrounding areas.

This pamphlet also introduces us to Richard Requa, the famous architect for the project. Requa was a one time associate of the pioneering Southland architect Irving Gill.


As stated, Requa traveled extensively in Spain researching moorish architecture and ornamentation. His books on the subject are brilliant and can run into the many hundreds of dollars. Requa had succesfully redesigned the town of Ojai in a Spanish revival style in 1916.

In 1925, Denrich published a more lavish book on the subject of Rancho Santa Fe, The endless miracle of California by John Steven McGroarty. It is in this book that Goodrich's artistry truly shines.

Richard Requa and his partner Herbert Jackson assigned the architecture duties for the Rancho Santa Fe project to a woman named Lilian Rice (1889-1938). It was a very smart move.While not as widely known in today's world as a Mary Colter or Julia Morgan, her work was no less brilliant. Rice had studied in Berkeley and been greatly influenced by Bernard Maybeck. She worked in the Spanish revival style and her work, much of which still stands today, is timeless and elegant. The style isn't for everyone but properly done, it is very hard to get out of your system.

Perhaps it is an exercise in nostalgia for me, we lived for a time in an old Spanish revival home on Mt. Helix when I was young. It was an old and large ranch on Fuerte Dr. and complete with a large barn and reservoir. Today its large footprint contains approximately seven residences.

In a story on Rice published after her passing, the New York Times article stated,"She insisted on three things in her designs: restraint in decoration, high-quality craftsmanship and harmony between a home and its site."

I think that Goodrich's studies of these Rice designs are sublime. I have several of the original drawings for the book, all with the original engraver's mark affixed verso and publisher's notes. Ultimately I would like to match them up with any buildings that are still in existence, might have to wait until the RSF Historical Society re-opens. For a thorough history of the ranch, read this pdf.

And here they are:

Plate I

Plate II

Plate III

...what they dreamed would come to be their ancestral home." - Plate IV
Plate V

"grown old upon the trails of the happy years, he builded him a new house."
"With its own intimate yet ample life." - Plate VI

Plate VII

"already it has taken shape and form." - Plate VIII

Plate IX

"What might be called practical dreams." Plate X

"eminently practical as it is intensely idealistic." Plate XI

Plate XII

"to rear sunny rooftrees and fling glowing orchard slopes." 

The invisible heritage of the good days of old - a tireless hospitality. - Plate XIII

These drawings are quite large, they average about 16 x 12". I believe I have every one with the exception of one photograph. I am not sure what I will do with them, sell them as a set or break them up and sell them individually. They will crop down beautifully so that the publisher's notes are not seen. If you know somebody on the ranch that might want to acquire a drawing or two for their home, please let me know. Or anyone that loves the mission, early California look. I will put them on my gallery site soon with price and dimensions.

There is something about the Rice buildings pictured here that will never go out of style, much like her contemporary Irving Gill.  This is the style of uniquely San Diego architecture that I will always love the best. I hope that you have enjoyed looking at this artwork.

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In addition I have some other nice Goodrich drawings. Like this view of the Cabrillo Bridge from 1914. It measures 12" x 19".



A similar size ink drawing of polo players.


A book cover for Margaret Faulconer. She founded Casa de Bandini in 1935. Her husband was the second director of the zoo. Very Beardsleyesque with maybe a dash of Virgil Finlay.




A nice illustration of chapter headings.


A bookplate mock up drawing for her mother, Alice Keeling Marsden.


A drawing of old Riverside. I bet I find this in a book one day. Soon.1916. Engraver label verso. This might be my favorite work in the collection.



Another bookplate.


If I get any more artwork or do any more research on Goodrich, I will certainly amend. I am so glad to have finally heard of her and will be on the lookout! And I hope that others can help bring her beautiful legacy back to the light of day.

From the Coast Banker - 1913

I have some bank interior work that she did that I will share with you when I get a chance. I will continue to look for the work they produced for Francis Parker in 1918. In addition Denrich produced a book of poems for the artist Alice Klauber in 1928 that I would like to examine as well as this brochure for the Hotel del Coronado. There is a lot of uncatalogued material out there, it is quite obvious. Happy fourth!



Virginia, James, Alice and Hillis are all now buried together at Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita.

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Postscript note: Denrich Press had another founding partner, James's son Hillis. I found this clipping on My Heritage, from 1947. This confirms that the original location was indeed in Chula Vista:
Hillis E. Marsden, 59, owner of a Chula Vista printing business, died Wednesday in a local hospital after an illness of almost 2 months. With his father, James David Marsden, he founded the Denrich Press, 151 Fourth Avenue, Chula Vista, about 1910. After the death of his father in 1939, he operated the business alone. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Mr. Marsden came to San Diego County soon after the turn of the century. He was a member of the Rotary Club, San Diego Country Club, and American and Canadian Legion Posts here. He was a World War 1 vet. Surviving are a step sister, Virginia Black, here from her home in Sonoma County, and several cousins in Canada. Arrangements are being made at the Hubbard Mortuary, Chula Vista. Cremation will follow. It has been requested that no flowers be sent.
Irene Phillips's 1968 book The Chula Vista Story mentions that A.G. and H.E. Marsden's Denrich Press opened a location there on January 24, 1912 at 151 Second Ave, now Fourth Ave. She notes that they also sold stationery and were exceptionally fine printers. The A.G. obviously stands for Alice Goodrich Marsden.
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This is really a work in progress. I located the source for the Cabrillo Bridge illustration, as well as some other prints in my possession, this 1914 book on the upcoming 1915 San Diego Panama California Exposition by the General Services Fund of San Diego Savings Bank. Denrich Press, A description of San Diego, her exposition. Copiously and exquisitely illustrated by Virginia Goodrich.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What can I say...your excitement, ability to share what you have found and love for Rancho Santa Fe are a joy. I can almost smell the eucalyptus scented air and hear the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet. Thank you for helping bring the history of a talented and accomplished woman to light and for keeping history alive.
Wicki

Martin said...

These are exquisite - I especially like the implied edges and surfaces in many of the drawings. Thank you

Martin

Erik Hanson said...

I have a copy of the Alice Klauber book I can show you. I would love to see these drawings, and of course to own one. I have been collecting Denrich books and other of their printed material (postcards, graduation programs, and such) for many years.

Blue Heron said...

That is nice, Erik. Please send me your contact information. I have more treasures from the estate to share on the blog soon.