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Erwin Baumann, Architect/Sculptor 1889-1979, and uncle of Hanns Baumann

Paul Baumann, Sr., CE

1892-1983

.....he had heard of a project of an entirely different nature, namely the transformation of a wilderness of virgin forest around the mile-high Little Bear Lake (now Lake Arrowhead) in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California into a year round resort....During the winter the snow reached several feet in depth, which enabled Baumann, together with another Swiss Engineer, Karl Erni from Lucerne, to introduce the ski sport.  Ski jumping made a special hit and moving picture cameramen as well as “stars” from Hollywood soon appeared on the scene in spite of grave transportation difficulties.  In the summer of 1922... 

The following biography was found typewritten in the personal effects of Paul Baumann.  The author is unknown.  It was written in 1948.  Mr. Baumann lived until 1983.  Paul Baumann, Sr. is the father of Hanns U. Baumann, SE, of Baumann Research and Development.

Recently, we received correspondence from Prof. David Rogers, who serves as the Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Geological Engineering in the Department of Geological Sciences & Engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla.  In addition to his role as an educator, he is a historian focusing on dams and geological engineering, and was kind enough to modify the bio with information from his personal file on Paul Baumann.  We have highlighted Prof. Rogers' additions to the biography.

A Biography of Paul Baumann, C.E.  

Paul Baumann was born in Bern, Switzerland, on January 30, 1892; the son of Friedrich Baumann, Architect, and Marie Louise (Baumann), nee Bigler.  His early youth was spent on the family estate on the Breitenrain, which formerly was owned by the old Bernese patricians, von Greyerz.  The death of his father in 1910 was the hardest of the early blows of fate.

Having completed the public schools in Bern with the Maturitas of the Realgymnasium (High School) in 1911, he entered the Federal Institute of Technology (E.T.H.) in Zurich in the fall of that year as a student in Civil Engineering.  He soon joined the Utonia, a dueling, gymnastic fraternity, members of which remained his life-long friends.

In 1912, he reported for his basic military training, the school of recruits, as a Sapper (Corps of Engineers) and in 1913, he decided to skip a year at the Federal Institute to complete the corporal and officer’s training schools and to gain practical experience in engineering.  The outbreak of World War I, however, completely altered the curriculum so far as the return to the Institute was concerned in that the services of the army engineers were in great demand, particularly those of the sappers, in connection with fortifications, strategic roads, flood control, etc.  As a result, the return to the studies did not take place until the winter semester of 1915/1916 and interruptions thereof occurred also after that but not of sufficient duration to prevent his graduation (Diploma) in Civil Engineering in July of 1918.  Among the most interesting military experiences as an officer during World War I were his assignment to the Chief of Engineers (Armeestab) in Bern on the planning and design of permanent fortifications; the engineering and construction by the sappers of the strategic Schelttenstrasse between Mervellier in the Jura with Balsthal in the valley of the Aare which included bridges, stream corrections and flood control; and the survey of and intelligence on, the Italian fortifications along the border in the Canton Ticino by the Information Office of the South Front in Lugano

The thesis attendant on the Diploma was in connection with a hydro-electric power plant in the Bernese Oberland which was to form the initial development for the now well-known Oberhasliwerke in the headwaters of the River Aare and along the world famous Grimselpass highway.  It led, immediately after graduation to a job in the planning office of the Bernese Power Company (Bernische Kraftwerke) and subsequently to preliminary topographic surveys in the Alps.  After completion of preliminary plans he left the power company and worked as a designer, especially on reinforced concrete with a construction firm in Bern and subsequently entered Army service again in connection with the liquidation of materials and the obliteration of temporary fortifications.  This lasted until the Spring of 1920 at which time he decided to join the Second Swiss Mission to America for economic and technical studies, which arrived in May of that year.  However, upon reaching Washington, D.C., a telegram from a student friend advised him that a job was waiting with the Fargo Engineering Co. in Jackson, Michigan.  This was too good to turn down.  Hence, after brief farewells he was on his way to Jackson and was soon hard at work.  This consisted first of tracing as usual in America, then detailing and drafting and finally hydrologic studies and design, structural and hydraulic, in connection with steam and hydro-electric power plants.

Shortly before the end of the year he left Jackson for Phoenix, Arizona, in response to a call from his old friend, the late Dr. Fred Noetzli from the Federal Institute in Zurich and arrived from the Nordic blizzards of Michigan in the warm and dazzling sunshine of Arizona on New Year’s Day, 1921.  The irrigation and power project of which Dr. Noetzli was Chief Engineer consisted of a number of major dams and power plants along the Verde River; of a main canal with tunnels, flumes, siphons and bridges across the McDowell Apache Indian Reservation and some 300,000 acres of irrigable land in the so-called Paradise Valley.  While the first three months were spent on field surveys the next six months were spent on the design of dams, power plants, canals and distribution systems during which time Baumann served as Principal Assistant to Dr. Noetzli.  It is here that the Hollow Buttress Multiple Arch dam and the Forked Abutment for arched dams were originated, designed and statically analyzed.  When in early fall Dr. Noetzli left for Switzerland, Baumann took over as Chief Engineer and carried the work to completion shortly before the end of the year.  It was this job that prompted him to specialize in dams.

In the meantime he had heard of a project of an entirely different nature, namely the transformation of a wilderness of virgin forest around the mile-high Little Bear Lake (now Lake Arrowhead) in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California into a year round resort.  The project was financed by a group of Los Angeles capitalists.  It comprised some 6000 acres of land.  The lake had been created around the turn of the century by means of an earth-fill dam of novel design and construction known as “semi-hydraulic”.  The reservoir was to serve for storage and regulation in connection with a gigantic power and water supply project, which, however, had to be abandoned for financial reasons.  The dam had not been completed but had attracted attention in engineering circles beyond the United States and in fact was put to Baumann as a ‘quiz’ in his final examination in Zurich long before he had reached this continent.  He, therefore, could not help but feel like (he was) seeing an old friend when in December (of) 1921, he arrived there as Design Engineer for the Arrowhead Lake Co.  The project included the completion of the dam and the spillway; installation of hydro-electric stand-by plant; construction of a village, which was named Lake Arrowhead, in the Old Norman style together with all modern, sanitary installations as well as wharfs, docks and shore protection; road, sewer, water, telephone and power systems extending over the entire area and the surveying, mapping and subdividing thereof.

During the winter the snow reached several feet in depth, which enabled Baumann, together with another Swiss Engineer, Karl Erni from Lucerne, to introduce the ski sport.  Ski jumping made a special hit and moving picture cameramen as well as “stars” from Hollywood soon appeared on the scene in spite of grave transportation difficulties.  In the summer of 1922 Baumann was promoted to Chief Designer; in the fall of that year to Resident Engineer and in the spring of 1923 to Chief Engineer, which he remained until the completion of the project in the summer of 1925.

Prior to this date, namely on June 9, 1924, he was married to Miss Miriam M. May from Hollywood and originally from Bristol, England, in the first wedding ceremony to be held in Lake Arrowhead.  Upon completion of the project in summer of 1925 he and his wife undertook a trip via Canada to England, France and Switzerland and also traveled through Germany, Austria, and Italy in connection with a study of and report on, automatic weirs for an American firm.  Subsequently this firm placed orders for the engineering of automatic weirs in the U.S.A. with a Swiss firm, which amounted to many millions of dollars in investment.

In May, 1926, Baumann returned to California and took a position as Design Engineer with the consulting firm of Quinton, Code and Hill and soon thereafter became Principal Assistant to the late Louis C. Hill, one of the most prominent engineers anon dams and hydro-electric plants in the United States and beyond.  Few major dams in (the) U.S.A. were designed and constructed or improved during Baumann’s association with Mr. Hill with which he had no connection.  It was also in the course of this association that Baumann was able to secure for a Swiss firm the engineering of the automatic gates for the spillway of Coolidge Dam on the Gila River in Arizona (the first application of the double-curved dome structure to buttress dams).  This dam was designed and built by the U.S. Indian Services.

In the summer of 1930 the firm of Quinton, Code and Hill combined with Leeds and Barnard and simultaneously Baumann became Chief Design Engineer of the new firm.  His work now also included harbor developments and particularly the design of bulkheads.  This prompted him to develop a new design method which, in 1935, was published in Transactions for the American Society of Civil Engineers under the title “Analysis of Sheet-Pile Bulkheads”.  In 1936, this paper was awarded the James Laurie Prize for the Society.

Following a series of tragic embarrassments within the Los Angeles County Flood Control District over corruption and collusion involving the ill-fated San Gabriel Dam at the Forks Site in San Gabriel Canyon, Chief Engineer E. Cortland Eaton was forced to step down.  In October of 1934 Baumann was appointed Assistant Chief Designer of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in charge of design, construction, operation and maintenance of dams, debris basins, spreading grounds, pumping plants, hydraulic research and computations, engineering materials, physical and chemical testing, radio and telephone communications and electrical installations.  His primary task was the direction of the $20 million  San Gabriel project as Project Engineer comprising the revision of design and construction of the No. 1 dam, (now called San Gabriel Dam), which at 376 feet high, was the highest embankment dam in the world at the time.  He also supervised revision and completion of the 280 ft. high San Gabriel Dam No. 2 (later renamed Cogswell Dam), a rockfill dam on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River which had suffered settlement problems and destruction of the wood planking intended to seal the upstream face.    Besides this work, he worked in his spare time on a number of technical problems for his former boss, Louis C. Hill.

In 1941, he was called in by Raymond R. Hill as consultant on the design of the Camp San Luis Obispo Dam (later renamed Salinas Dam)  of the U.S. Corps of Engineers which was to secure the supply of water for Camp San Luis Obispo, for the 40th Division, which had been reactivated in March 1941 from National Guard units in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.    This was a hush-hush job and extremely urgent.  The design of the dam, which is of an unusual structural type in that it was the first arch dam constructed with thrust blocks on both abutments, and the plan was to install much larger flood gates at some later date to double the storage capacity of the reservoir (which never happened).  The design began in June; the contract was let in September and the job was completed by Christmas – all in 1941.  The attack on Pearl Harbor had definitely an accelerating effect.  The dam is 165’ high, 600 feet long at the crest and stores 50,000 acre feet of water, all in round figures.

In 1943, he published a paper in Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers entitled “Design and Construction of the San Gabriel Dam No. 1” which was awarded the Society’s Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize for that year.  Only four authors have been awarded both of these prizes (James Laurie Prize and Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize) in the past 35 years.  Of those there is one alive today besides Baumann.

Additional technical papers and publications by him appeared in Southwest Builder and Contractor; Western Construction News; Engineering News-Record; Schweizerische Bauzeitung; Proceedings of the Second International Conference of Soil Mechanics in Holland, 1948 (about San Gabriel Dam); Civil Engineering; and in the Journal of the American Concrete Institute besides many discussions of papers in Transactions, Am. Soc. Of Civ. Enginrs.

In 1946 Baumann visited Switzerland for the first time since 1926.  His wife with the two sons born in 1928 and 1930 had visited his family in 1936, a year before the death of his mother.  Unfortunately the San Gabriel project prevented his participation in that visit.  In 1947 Baumann paid Europe another visit, this time in connection with new American construction methods for concrete dams and in June of this year (1948), he attended the Second International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in Holland with subsequent visit to the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his relatives and friends in all parts of Switzerland.  In 1946, upon his return from Switzerland, Baumann was called as a consultant for the raising of Gibraltar Dam in the Santa Inez Mountains for the City of Santa Barbara. .  This dam was originally designed by the firm of Quinton, Code and Hill back in 1926 and was the first arch dam to employ an artificial thrust block (similar to the Salinas Dam)..  The reservoir had lost half of its capacity in 25 years due to siltation from the upper Santa Inez River.  The raising of the dam which is now in progress reestablished the original capacity of the reservoir.

He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Concrete Institute, the Society, American Military Engineers, the American Geophysical Union and the Alumni Association of the Federal Institute of Technology (G.E.P.).  He is a member of the National Committee on Soil Mechanics.

The above biography was dated Oct. 24, 1948, San Marino California.  Baumann continued with the LA County Flood Control District until his retirement in 1959.  He then worked as a consultant and continued with Committee work for various engineering organizations.  Some of the projects found in his files include Puddingstone Dam, Little Santa Anita Canyon Dam, and Eaton Canyon Dam. Baumann moved to a 2-acre hillside property in Sierra Madre in the 1950s, where he lived until his death in 1983.  

"The Blue Book - Leaders of the English Speaking World, 1973-1974" published by St. James Press, London, England paulbluebook.jpg (60621 bytes)included this entry for Paul Baumann.  The book is published annually and lists persons in the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and the USA who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences, business or the professions.


Revised: 04/15/04.
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