The YMCA building in the distance remains. MTS buses look different. And the Art Deco bowling alley across the street is long gone.
In 1909, Amy Strong, a famous San Diego dress designer, hired master builders Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter to build her dream ranch house. They lived and worked on site from tents where they drew renderings and blueprints.
The home was completed by 1921. The Strong home is just off the road to Ramona at the base of Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock). It embodies the vision of this artistic woman, the talents of her architects, and the philosophy of the Craftsman Movement.
Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. The tiles are purportedly from the San Gabriel Mission. Inside and out the home has a truly organic and hand made feel to it.
It’s a split level home with exposed eaves – troughs hewn from unfinished eucalyptus trunks supported by gargoyle figures.
Eclectic motifs throughout were taken from Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs chosen for the home. Interior use of wood included lightly polished redwood planks recycled from vats for many of the doors and mantels, beams, and balustrades of twisted eucalyptus.
Other building materials of the main house included oak, rocks, flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco.
No chalk lines were used in the construction. There are no perfect corners and neither the roof nor floors are level.
Eucalyptus was cut from stands that dotted the property. Rocks were individually hand-picked by Mrs. Strong for their shapes and colors from the slopes of Mt. Woodson.
Mrs. Strong, her niece and their cook, did much of the painting and design-work themselves, inspired by Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs.
Light fixture and stencil detail
The Zodiac Room. The ideals of this masterpiece emphasized harmony between the individual and the environment, intense involvement of the artists with their materials, and the blending of the primitive with the sophisticated.
The 27-room Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter adobe and stone structure was completed after five years and $50,000 of 1921 currency.
Light Fixture Detail
Upper Level Passage Way
Light and Stencil Detail
“The Castle” is a multi-level, twenty-seven room 12,000 square foot home with eight foot thick walls, a Great Hall with a sixteen foot ceiling, a swing porch, pantry, four fireplaces, a dutch oven, dumb waiter, complete intercom system.
Mrs. Strong left natural, oak, and pine exposed; other woods were painted or polished. Some of the original floors and stairs were flagstone and a few of the floors were oak planks.
Main Entrance Detail
The goal was integrate and unify the rock and tree studded surroundings with both the exterior and interior of the home.
The finished exterior, the stone work, windmill, bricks and tiles, and arches reflect French, Dutch, Spanish, and Medieval styles. Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. Aztec, Greek, Roman, North American, and Oriental crafts, decorate the house inside and out.
The windmill is gasoline-engine-assisted. It pumped water from the springs to redwood storage tanks and the room under the windmill was used to cool meats and vegetables.
The site today in Romona is used for conferences, weddings and other functions spurred by the nearby golf course.
For sure, there is a ton of questions I should have asked. But at age 16, I hadn’t honed my interviewing skills whatsoever. Nor did I take notes as I’m sure Mrs. Freeman shared with me a lot more information than I remember now. Harriet Freeman lived into her 90’s, passing away in 1986.
This is a scan from the Sunday November 17, 1985 San Diego Union article written by Kay Kaiser.
A site I remember exploring with my mom and dad in 1966 or 1967. La Jolla was a favorite place for us to explore back then. Still is.
To view larger version of any image or scanned text, just click on it.
Built in 1953 as the Big Donut Drive In this Los Angeles landmark is an example of programatic/thematicÂ architecture that was once a rage in Southern California. An architecture related to roadside convenience for freeway laden modern society. There’s a great bookÂ by Jim Heimann and Rip Geoges about this type of architecture titled California Crazy – Roadside Vernacular Architecture. Chronicling the times when architecture was allowed to be distinctive and fun.
It was a building inspired by a vision of the 21st century depicted in an 1888 novel. Then 94 years later was depicted in a film vision of the 21st century.
Image: Creative Commons
The street view doesn’t quite reveal the characteristics of a future vision. The building’s facade is clearly an Italian Rennaissance Revial, Romanesque Revival design of its time (1894).
Image: Creative Commons
You might walk by without ever knowing what lies beyond the arched entry.
Image: Creative Commons
But the inside – that’s another story. It was the shared dream of two men. Lewis Bradbury who had a specific philosophy and ideas of what he wanted built. And the young man whom Bradbury met – they shared that philosophy and those ideas. He was George Herbert Wyman – who wasn’t even an architect, but draftsman by trade. Their common vision stemmed from a futuristic novel called Looking Backward 1887 – 2000 by George Herbert Wyman.
Image: Creative Commons
Bellamy’s futuristic structures in Looking Backward were described as “vast halls filled with light.” The Bradbury building has a glass roof which baths the entire central portion of the interior in daylight. The railings, balconies and supporting columns are made of iron. The resulting effect is a suspended, floating illusion of interior elements.
It stands as one of the most distinctive and remarkable interiors of any office building ever constructed.
Images: Creative Commons
The Bradbury interiors inspired by a Utiopian future depicted in Looking Backward by Edward Belamy.
The building not only attracted the producers of Blade Runner. There have been dozens of other Film, Television, and Commercial productions that have used the Bradbury Building as a set.
Image: Dan Soderberg
Louis Bradbury died before his building was complete. His dedication to creating his lasting legacy notwithstanding, even he likely wouldn’t dare imagine how the building would continue to inspire and fascinate well into the 21st century.
The Bradbury Building is located on Broadway at 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA
Girard’s was located on the third floor of the building atÂ at 65 Ellis Street occupied on lower levels by the historic John’s Grill, established in 1908.Â Image Source: cable-car-guy.com. The only trace of Girard’s today are the retail-sold salad dressings.
1939 ad from the Golden Gate International Exposition Guidebook.
Thursday June 8, 1939. “Downtown with Zella Reilly. Bought drapes and rods for the living room. Lunch at Girards.”
“A drink at the Sky Room. Lots of window shopping. Nite: Sam and I walked in the the park.”
Friday June 9, 1939 “Got the drapes hung. Nite: met Marc, Bessie, and Streets at the Blue Fox Room for a couple of drinks. Then to see Ice Follies at Winterland. Swell show! After to Jacopetti’s, Cafe Diablo’s, and then home at 12:30. Rene over to see Jeanne.”
Saturday June 10, 1939. “Quiet day. Home mostly. Sam worked all day. Picked him up at 5:30. Home for dinner. Nite: read and to bed early. Fog.”
Sunday June 11, 1939. “Sam and I walked to the beach in the A.M. Seal Rocks were covered with seals. Marc, Palmer, Murphy, Doni over. We went to Doc’s Ranch at Walnut Creek. Stoped at Palmer’s place in Alameda. Got cat. Hot in the country. Fog in our distance.”
I tried digging for information about Doc’s Ranch. Not much there. Here’s a note from the Contra Costa County Historical Society:
Monday June 12, 1939. “M. stayed here last night. Lazy day. Felt the cold. Took kitten and Bijou to meet Jeanne after school. Little Jimmy called up – also F. this afternoon, surprise. Picked up Sam at 5. Bed early.”
Tuesday June 13, 1939. “Lovely afternoon. Nice walk in the park. Quiet evening.”
“Saw the baby Buffalo. Foggy. Nite: to the library. Half day at school for Jeanne. Took Sam down to do work at the plant. Home 12:30”
Thursday June 15, 1939. “Rather sleepy this A.M. Lazy day but cooked nice dinner. Tony and Phil over in early evening – slight rain tonite. Sam and I up late drinking Tom Collins.”
Â An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.
Wednesday April 5, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the RKO Golden Gate to see Rogers + Astaire in the Castle picture.”Â The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), would be their final RKO film together, although they would reunite in 1949 for MGM‘s The Barkleys of Broadway. The film was unique for Astaire and Rogers.Â The characters in it are more realistic than usual in an Astaire-Rogers film, it is the only Astaire-Rogers musical biography, the only one of their musicals with a tragic ending, and the only one in which Astaire’s character dies.
The RKO Golden Gate Theater.
Built in 1920, the Golden Gate Theatre was a movie theater for over 50 years until it closed in the 1970â€™s. By the time it was shuttered, the Golden Gate Theatre had already been converted into a two screen theater in the 1960â€™s, with the balcony theatre known as the Penthouse Theatre. With the twinning it suffered little permanent damage as it was restored to a single auditorium by the Shorenstein Hayes Nederlander group.
When it was finally renovated and reopened in 1979 into a performing arts center, the original detail and look of the theater was restored as well. Although the neighborhood has remained a little seedy, the theater is still very grand, with a marvelous Art Deco vertical sign that is nearly 4 stories high. Today, the Golden Gate Theatre is still a premier venue for travelling broadway shows and a visual journey into San Franciscoâ€™s gilded past. Contributed by Juan-Miguel Gallegos. Cinema Treasures. org
“Afternoon walk in the park. Jose over and took Jeanne for Tea at Japanese Tea Garden. Nite: Took Sam to the library. Wrote to Irene. It was a beautiful day.”
Mom took me for my first trip to San Francisco in 1967. I remember she made a point of visiting the Japanese Tea Garden. One other note.Â Sam Hussey never drove; Helen did all the driving.
Friday April 9, 1939. “Jeanne and I to the fair. We won telephone calls. Jeanne phoned Mercedes, but not home. I called Irene + talked to her. We went to listen to the marimba. Home about Ten P.M.”
Friday April 8, 1939. “Met Sam and we all went to the Fair. Saw many exhibits. Drank at Happy Valley. Saw Carlos and met most of the marimba players. Back to Izzy’s-fiesta, etc. Got a ride home with the Italians. Hazy ending to the day.”
Sunday April 9, 1939. “Easter Sunday. Went to Oakland for dinner with Gen and Jess. Drove to Berkeley and Alameda. Saw an interesting big house, also an old home on Central Avenue. Home about 6:30” Certainly similar interests through the generations in this family!
I’m not sure what my family’s connection with the house is. Whether it belonged to family or family friends. But Helen Martin was there in 1923 to take this picture for her scrapbook.
Surprisingly the house is still there with new infill all around. A large apartment built right up to the side.
The other building seen in the historic photo however are gone.
An ongoing series illustrating the diary of my grandmother Helen Hussey. Current entries: The San Francisco Sojourn 1939-1940.Â
Helen in Santa Rosa where she grew up. This photo was taken in 1923. Helen was then married to Val Martin (Jeanne’s father); they lived at 913 Cherry Street, Santa Rosa.Â Later that year they moved to Southern California to work in the film industry. Mom was born Jeanne Delano Martin on September 22, 1923 in Long Beach, CA.
Today Cherry Street is a Historic District in Santa Rosa.
“Also saw Healdsburg, Guernville, and Armstrong woods. It was a beautiful day, and the country was green and luscious. Arrived home in San Francisco about 5:30.”
Monday April 3, 1939. “First day of Jeanne’s vacation–slept until 8. At 1 P.M. we walked to the beach. Took the tram home. Went shopping on Clement Street. It was a foggy day.”
Tuesday April 4, 1939. “A lovely day and night. Jeanne and I went to the Fair. Went to the phone exhibit and saw kids there from Los Angeles.”
“Then went to El Salvidor. We met boys from Guatemala.”
“To Brazil for coffee. We were introduced to various people. Carlos and Jose drove us home.”