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Architect's Candlestick vision defined his career

  • Architect John Bolles inspects a partially finished model of Candlestick Park in September 1958 in San Francisco. (CLARENCE HAMM / Associated Press file)

When PacBell Park (now redubbed AT&T Park) opened in 2000, people were blown away by its classic lines, by its intimacy and its proximity to San Francisco Bay. It’s still considered one of the jewels of Major League Baseball. Jane Grimm, for one, wasn’t entirely impressed.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, what a novel idea. It’s got views to the bay, it’s got ferry access, it seats 40,000 people. OK ... ,’ ” Grimm said last week.

Forgive her lack of exuberance, but Grimm knows of another Bay Area ballpark with those same qualities. It’s called Candlestick Park, and it was designed by her father, John Savage Bolles, who died in Santa Rosa in 1983.

Candlestick Park Through the Years

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Candlestick wasn’t Bolles’ only major project. The Berkeley native and Harvard-educated civil engineer had a vast CV that included Paul Masson Champagne Cellars in Saratoga, the IBM campus in San Jose, the McGraw-Hill Distribution Center (perhaps better known as the Birkenstock headquarters) in Novato and pretty much every Macy’s between Monterey and Oregon.

But Candlestick Park was Bolles’ biggest and most complicated work, and helps to define his reputation — for better or worse. According to Grimm, he loved the contours of the stadium and was stung by those who criticized its lack of coziness.

“The thing people don’t realize, the heating did work,” Grimm said. “(Giants owner) Horace Stoneham refused to turn it on because they wouldn’t give him an elevator.”

According to Grimm, Bolles frequently attended Giants games, and later 49ers games, hobnobbing with members of San Francisco society. He oversaw the remodel of Candlestick Park in 1970, when the seating was expanded and the open end of the stadium enclosed.

Not long after that project, in the early 1970s, Bolles bought a piece of property off of Hunter Lane, in the unincorporated area between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. It was adjacent to a parcel owned by his professional colleague, Kurt Helmstaedter, and the two men planned to raise Arabian horses there.

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