He attended public schools in Livermore and Oakland, and received technical training at the California School of Mechanical Art in San Francisco. Later he entered the University of California at Berkeley,was graduated in 1909.
Following graduation in 1909, began work as draftsman in the San Francisco office of Bliss & Faville, and on leaving there worked in association with William C. Hays until 1912. During the latter year Mr. Symmes moved to Bakersfield to start practice for himself, and with the exception of one period (1927-30) when he was associated with Clarence Cullimore in partnership, carried on work alone until his death.
Between 1916 and 1923 he served as Architect and Engineer for the Yosemite National Park Company, in charge of work on the Glacier Point Hotel, Yosemite Lodge and adjoining buildings. During the next four years Mr. Symmes was employed as supervising architect on the exclusive Ferndal Tract in Alameda, where he designed a number of homes, the Municipal Electric Light Plant, and several commercial buildings. He was also architect of the Masonic Temple in Alameda.
In his later years of practice he devoted his time mainly to school work. During the three years (1927-30) when in partnership with Clarence Cullimore he designed twenty-one grammar and high school buildings, mainly in Kern County,, and in that period they were the most successful school architects in central California.
After 1930 Mr. Symmes carried on work alone and did a great deal of work for the Bakersfield Board of Education, also planned Primary, Elementary and High School buildings throughout Kern County. In addition he was architect of the City Hall, Grammar and High Schools in Tehachapi, Christian Science Church and many private homes in Bakersfield; Science Building at Wasco High School; First Congregational Church at Suisan; the Kern County Sanitarium, and various County Libraries. Mr. Symmes also designed Kern County’s first adobe buildings, Welfare Building, Agriculture Building and Old Folks Home.
A member of the Northern California Chapter, A.I.A. after 1920, Mr. Symmes was also a member of the State Association of Architects, and President (1934-45) of the Bakersfield Coordinating Society. A prominent citizen of Bakersfield, he was active in municipal and county matters, and served on various civic committees.