Hemmings’ Hidden Files— NEWS


As we approach our 100-year anniversary it is a great time to reflect on some of the historic drawings our firm has accumulated over the years. These Sacramento projects hold a great historical significance to our firm. However, they are not listed directly under our founder, Leonard Starks’ portfolio.  

Mr. Hemmings began his early career in Chicago during the World Fair of 1893. In 1907, he moved to Sacramento where he partnered with George Sellon. After a few years, Mr. Hemmings founded his own firm in 1910. The notable projects below were designed during Hemmings early years of starting his firm. By 1922, E.C. Hemmings and Leonard Starks united under a single firm. One of the most significant projects Hemmings and Starks designed was the iconic Elks Tower. Unfortunately, Hemmings passed away in 1924 before the Elks Tower was complete. Many of Hemmings’ older drawings were believed to be inherited by Starks, as they predated prior to Starks’ relocation to Sacramento. Although the details behind how Starks’ acquired the drawings is still a mystery, they are the oldest drawings that remains in our archives.  

  1. The Original Sutter Club by E.C. Hemmings (1910)

Being established in Sacramento, Hemmings was approached to design the Sutter Club. Although he did not receive much compensation, he believed it would advance his career even more. In a letter written in August 1910 to his former designer, Bernard Willeke, Mr. Hemmings mentions, “I am only getting 1.5% for the job, but it brings plenty of advertising.” The Sutter Club is arguably the most prestigious and well know social clubs in Sacramento. The club was founded by the original Forty Niners, who traveled to California in search of gold during the gold rush. Not to mention, many of the most prominent business owners, local and state politicians were members. 


  1. The Merrium Apartments by the Architectural Firm Cuffs & Diggs (1913).

The Merrium Apartment drawings were believed to be in Hemmings’ office before he passed. George Sellon was the first California State Architect, and Hemmings was his partner, forming Sellon and Hemmings. It was believed that Hemmings also had a working relationship with Clarence Cuffs and Maury Diggs, both worked for the state architect’s office before starting their own firm. They all shared an office space and draftsmen, which was quite common at the time. 

In various references, Mr. Diggs is not given credit for working on the Merrium due to his involvement with a social scandal that soiled his reputation. However, the drawing’s title blocks show that he was with the firm when the Merrium was designed.


  1. Store & Office Building For The Merchants Investment Bank, also known as The California Fruit Building by Architect Charles Kaiser Sumner (1913).

The California Fruit Building was considered Sacramento’s first true high-rise building, standing 10 stories high. Based in San Francisco, it was believed that Kaiser had consulted with Hemmings’ draftsmen in Sacramento. Kaiser worked with Hemmings’ draftsmen to complete the building. Following World War I, Kaiser changed his surname to avoid the stigmatism of being German. He was referenced as both Kaiser and Sumner.  


Written by: Anthony Arroyo

September 30, 2021

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