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Arts & Crafts Architecture in California

California’s love affair with the bungalow has blessed the state with a plethora of Arts & Crafts-centric towns and neighborhoods. Here’s where to find them. By Clare Martin


    Among the houses Greene & Greene built in Pasadena is Charles Greene's modest 1902 home and studio.

    Among the Greene & Greene houses in Pasadena is Charles Greene's modest 1902 home and studio.

    When a city has a neighborhood named “Bungalow Heaven,” you know it’s bound to be a mecca for lovers of Arts & Crafts architecture—and Pasadena doesn’t disappoint. The town’s A&C legacy is due in large part to brothers Charles and Henry Greene, who set up their eponymous architecture firm here and designed several houses for Pasadena’s well-to-do residents, many of which have been lovingly preserved by a new generation. Local Greene & Greene standouts include the Gamble House, the Blacker House, the Freeman Ford House, and the Irwin House. The Greenes are unarguably Pasadena’s most famous native sons, but the city’s streets are also lined with bungalows by many lesser-known and mail-order architects. (Tilemaker Ernest Batchelder also built a house for himself here on the edge of the Arroyo Seco.) Each October, Pasadena Heritage’s annual Craftsman Weekend features tours of the town’s standout bungalow restorations.


    Berkeley owes its spot on the Arts & Crafts radar largely to architect Bernard Maybeck, who settled there in the 1890s and soon accepted a teaching position in the engineering department at UC-Berkeley. Maybeck’s Berkeley masterpiece, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, blends a wide variety of influences (from Nordic to Gothic to Japanese) into a fanciful structure in line with Arts & Crafts principles. Maybeck also designed a number of private residences throughout the college town, including his own residence just north of campus. (He’s also responsible for the Rose Walk, a set of winding steps linking Euclid Avenue to Rose Street.) Other famous architects also dabbled in Berkeley: Greene & Greene’s rambling Thorsen House, currently owned by the Sigma Phi Society, is just south of campus, and the work of Maybeck disciple Julia Morgan also can be seen throughout the town. (The spare church she designed on College Avenue is now home to the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts.)

    The Libbey Estate (a private residence designed by architect Myron Hunt) is one of Ojai's Arts & Crafts stunners.

    The Libbey Estate (a private residence designed by architect Myron Hunt) is one of Ojai's Arts & Crafts stunners. (Photo: William Wright)


    The influence of Greene & Greene comes into play again in the small, artsy hideaway of Ojai, nestled against the Los Padres National Forest. In 1908, the brothers designed the sprawling Charles Pratt house, which overlooks a majestic panorama of the Ojai Valley. Today, the Pratt house is known as Casa Barranca, and is a vacation rental and organic winery. Ojai’s other Arts & Crafts standout is the estate built in 1908 by architect Myron Hunt for industrialist Edward Drummond Libbey, who is credited with helping propel much of the development of Ojai in the early 20th century.

    La Jolla

    This ritzy seaside enclave along San Diego’s coast boasts a few notable Arts & Crafts buildings. Perhaps the most famous is the La Jolla Women’s Club, a Spanish Mission-style building designed in 1912 by Irving Gill at the behest of newspaper magnate and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Other buildings by Gill in the same vein include the 1910 La Jolla Recreation Center and Scripps’ own residence (which has since been remodeled as the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego). La Jolla also is home to The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a new structure that faithfully hews to the styles made famous by such Arts & Crafts luminaries as Gustav Stickley, William Morris, and Greene & Greene. (The Gamble House’s founding director, Randell Makinson, supervised the design.)


    Although it’s known more today for its celebrity residents (Clint Eastwood served a term as mayor in the 1980s), Carmel got its footing in the early 20th century as an artists’ colony. Its bohemian roots are still evident in a number of Arts & Crafts and Storybook-style cottages, many of them built by artist homeowners. One gem is poet Robertson Jeffers’ Tor House and Hawk Tower, constructed in 1914 of stones culled from Carmel Bay. The rocky cottage played host to many turn-of-the-century celebrities, including George Gershwin, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Charlie Chaplin. You’ll also find one of the Charles Greene’s last commissions here (he moved to Carmel after parting professional ways with his brother)—the dramatic, cliff-hugging D.L. James House. A walking tour map of the town’s historic buildings is available at the Carmel Heritage Society’s Welcome Center, housed in a 1902 cottage built by Michael J. Murphy, the man responsible for many of Carmel’s early Craftsman-style houses.


    Aladdin sold this California-style bungalow kit under the name "The Pomona." (Image: James C. Massey archives)

    Located just south of Claremont, Pomona boasts a similar eclectic mix of early 20th-century house styles in its four historic districts (Lincoln Park, Wilton Heights, Hacienda, and Edison), including plenty of Craftsman bungalows. In fact, so popular is the style in Pomona that Aladdin Homes offered a kit version of the town’s typical bungalow in their 1920 catalog, at the request of a Pomona native who had been transplanted to the East Coast. As in Claremont, many of Pomona’s bungalows feature porch piers and foundations constructed of local river rock. Pomona Heritage hosts an annual home tour every October, typically around the same dates as Pasadena’s Craftsman Weekend.


    Riverside has a total of nine historic districts, nearly all of which count Arts & Crafts homes among their varied architectural styles. The city’s real Arts & Crafts star, however, is the Mission Revival-style Mission Inn, which started out as a small adobe boarding house and was added onto over the years by local architectural giants like Arthur Benton, Myron Hunt, and Elmer Grey. Several other Mission Revival designs are within blocks of the Inn, including Benton’s First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Riverside Municipal Auditorium. The Old Riverside Foundation hosts a tour of the city’s restored homes every May.


    Before Disneyland made it famous, Anaheim was home to a wine-making colony set up by German immigrants in the mid-19th century. Although this original business venture was short-lived, Anaheim proved fertile for producing other crops (including lemons and oranges), and began to pick up development steam just as the Arts & Crafts and Spanish Eclectic styles were flooding California. Plenty of well-preserved bungalows can still be found in the Anaheim Colony Historic District, a compact square roughly bound by North, East, South, and West Streets. Featuring everything from transitional homes with Colonial Revival detailing to textbook Craftsman bungalows, the Anaheim Colony serves as a great test tube for studying the bungalow’s evolution.

    Published in: Old-House Journal October/November 2010


    Margie Thomas February 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

    My grandfather, H.A.B. Day built a number of houses in Claremont, CA, from 1914 until WWII. Some were Craftsman style and some were of other designs. The one I like most is at 1111 Harvard Avenue – he designed and built it. 911 Indian Hill Blvd. (circa 1930) is one my grandparents lived in and where my grandfather used the garage for his workshop. Those homes, of course, were built with no electric tools, certainly hand crafted, and were finished with tender loving care. That house had floor furnaces for heat. My grandfather was a fine carpenter and we have several pieces of furniture that he made. My father and uncle helped him put a roof on the Webb School chapel, probably in the 1920′s. I have photos of a number of his homes in Claremont.

    Frances Meza Hartley March 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Just a quick message… is this the Margie (Birdsall) Thomas that went to Western Hi School in Anaheim CA.?

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