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Finding Aid for the Cliff May papers, circa 1931-circa 1989 0000156
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Custodial History note
  • Preferred Citation note
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Contents note
  • Related Archival Materials note

  • Title: Cliff May papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 0000156
    Contributing Institution: Architecture and Design Collection, Art, Design & Architecture Museum
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 350.0 Linear feet (184 record storage, card boxes and flat boxes, and 55 flat file drawers)
    Date (inclusive): circa 1931-circa 1989
    Location note: Boxes 1-6/ADC - regular Boxes 7-12/Mosher - regular Boxes 13-28/ADC - regular Boxes 29-45/Mosher - regular Boxes 46-55/ADC - regular Boxes 56-82/Mosher - regular Boxes 83-85/ADC - regular Box 86/ADC - oversize* Boxes 87-170/ADC - regular Box 171/ADC - oversize* Boxes 172-178/ADC - regular Box 179A/ADC - regular (+ ADD material, gift in 2012 re Power House) Box 179B/Mosher - 3-D object (bust of Cliff May) Box 180/ADC - regular Boxes 181-183AB/ADC - oversize** NOTE: box and folder numbering off, starting at box # 77
    creator: Choate, Chris, 1908-1981
    creator: Cliff May Homes.
    creator: Gordon, Elizabeth, 1906-2000
    creator: Jamison, Frederick
    creator: May, Cliff, 1908-1989 -- Archives
    creator: Parker, Maynard
    creator: Watson, Sterling


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Custodial History note

    Gift of Cliff May, 1989. Additional materials gifted by Michael May in 2001, David Balfour in 2003, and Greg Friedman 2011.

    Preferred Citation note

    Cliff May papers, Architecture and Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Biographical Note

    Born in San Diego, Cliff May (1908-1989) was a sixth-generation Californian. He studied business at San Diego State College from 1929-1931, but left without a diploma. After leaving San Diego State, May began building Monterey style furniture. Furniture building led to building his first house with help from developer Roy Lichty, his father-in-law. Before May moved to Los Angeles in 1936, he had built 35 houses over a 5 year period in San Diego.
    Cliff May relocated to Los Angeles to work with financier John A. Smith. Together they embarked on building and marketing May’s urban ranch house designs, including for the development called Riviera Ranch, a subdivision in West Los Angeles marketed to the wealthy. By 1943, he had established a national reputation as a designer of custom California Ranch Houses.
    May participated in House Beautiful's Pace Setter Program, a series of exhibition houses, by designing the first Pace Setter House, which was built in Riviera Ranch in 1948. As Cliff May Homes Incorporated, May sold low-cost ranch home plans to developers in California and across the country. May designed and built the corporate headquarters for the Lane Publishing Company ( Sunset magazine) in Menlo Park and the Robert Mondavi winery in Rutherford, California. May maintained an active architectural practice in Los Angeles until his death in 1989.

    Scope and Contents note

    The Cliff May papers span 350 linear feet and date from circa 1931 to circa 1989. The collection is comprised of architectural drawings and sketches (originals and reprographic copies), clippings and scrapbooks, correspondence, photographs, awards, financial records, legal files including for lawsuits, appointment books, one model, a bust, and ephemera. Papers document most of Cliff May's house designs and his marketing of his work, beginning in the 1930s in San Diego, and including his designs for haciendas, Monterey Revival, and California ranch houses for individual clients and for licensing by other builders and developers for medium and low cost ranch house developments in California, Texas, other places in the U.S., and even in other countries.

    Related Archival Materials note

    Jody Greenwald research materials on Cliff May, Architecture and Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    May, Cliff, 1908-1989
    May, Cliff, 1908-1989
    Architects -- California
    Architectural drawings
    Architecture -- California
    Architecture -- California -- 20th century
    Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles -- 20th Century
    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California
    Dwellings -- Design and construction -- Economic aspects -- United States
    Photographic prints
    Prefabricated houses -- United States
    Ranch houses--Design and construction